In hospital settings nurses, doctors, and technicians must be very careful about what they put in their medical waste bins. Anything that could rip or puncture their bio bag has to be put into a sharps container in order to stop any possible leakage or contamination.
At home, however, people are generally not as careful because they just don’t know the rules. A house-parent is not going to get fined by OSHA for not securing their sharps well enough!
That doesn’t mean bad things can’t happen because somebody improperly disposed of some possibly-infected sharps materials, though.
EpiPens and Other Auto-Injectors
Medications such as EpiPens, Humira, Enbrel and others often come in pre-filled syringes that you press on your body (usually into some fat or directly in your muscle) and press a button to inject the medicine. The benefit to these pens is the needle retracts directly back into the plastic casing to protect you from stabbing yourself.
Sadly, this also gives people a false confidence that they can just throw the pen in their garbage can. In reality, throwing away retracted sharps is still dangerous. Not only can someone still hurt themselves if they stick their hand in the garbage, but pets and children may get ahold of them.
Lancets and Connection Tubing
Diabetics sometimes use what’s called a lancet to prick their finger so they can test their blood sugar.
These lancets can often be re-capped to hide the needle, but the caps are not secure. If the cap detaches it will stab through your garbage bag and possibly rip it open, exposing the contents which may actually be more lancets!
Some people choose to have a machine that is semi-permanently connected to their body that automatically checks their blood sugar and can be set to inject Insulin at certain times, too. While the technology is awesome, these little devices have a tube that runs from the actual machine into your body, and these tubes generally have a connection needle at the end.
By now I’m sure you know that these tubes also can’t be thrown into the garbage can, but I’ll say it anyway just to be safe.
The Most Important Reason You Shouldn’t Throw Sharps Away…
Now, with some of these items I’m sure you’re thinking “just properly cap it and it won’t be a problem!”
Well, the injury risk isn’t the biggest problem when it comes to improperly disposed of sharps. The real risk is that these items will have medications or communicable diseases that will leak into the local water supply after disposal.
Harvard reports that in 2000 139 public water sources were tested for the amount of trace medication they had in them, and 80% of them tested positive.
If you have sharps that you want to safely and responsibly get rid of, check out our sharps mailback program for some cost effective sharps disposal.
Photo source: Flickr