EPA Changes Options for Safe At-Home Needle Disposal

HOUSTON, Texas -- New at-home sharps disposal options introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are bringing the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal closer to its goal of removing sharps from the main wastestream. An estimated 9 million people across the country use more than 3 billion needles, syringes and lancets each year to manage medical conditions at home. The majority of these needles are being disposed of in household trash, posing a danger to waste and janitorial workers.

Based on the recommendations of the Coalition, the EPA is now undertaking a wholesale revision of its at-home sharps disposal recommendations. In the meantime, it has added to its current recommendations additional details offering new options for disposal of medical sharps outside the healthcare setting. The information - posted on the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/other/medical/sharps.htm - has also been added to the existing EPA brochures that are distributed to the public upon request.

"This is a huge leap forward for the Coalition," said Jenny Schumann, executive director of the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal. "The EPA is obviously committed to offering safe needle-disposal options for people injecting their medication at home. This addendum will offer safe solutions for patients until the new brochures are complete by fall 2004."

In 2002, the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal was created out of a need to focus on the growing public health threat posed by used needles, lancets and other sharps in our waste streams. It became quite clear that there was a national need to not only educate the public and healthcare professionals across the country about this growing problem, but also to offer practical and affordable disposal options to recommend in an effort to protect waste workers and the general public from injury and potentially infectious diseases.

In its efforts to educate the public regarding safe needle disposal, the Coalition first met with states and municipalities. It quickly became evident a barrier was the current brochure offered by the EPA, as most states had adopted the EPA's recommendation as their own. The brochure recommends that self-injectors dispose of their used needles in a household container and throw it in the trash when full. Contaminated needles have been showing up in public wastebaskets, in household garbage, even at recycling centers, putting waste workers and janitorial workers at risk. The Coalition approached the EPA and requested that it review its current guidelines and offer safer solutions to needle disposal.

"The Coalition just scored its first victory," said Schumann. "The EPA is rewriting its safe needle disposal guidelines and is partnering with the Coalition to suggest the safest disposal options for the public. "

The Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal is a collaboration of businesses, community groups, not-for-profit organizations and local, state and federal government entities that promotes public awareness and solutions for the safe disposal of needles, syringes and other sharps in the community.

Source: Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal

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