How Many Needles Do Hospitals Use and How Do They Dispose of Them?

Clean needles in a pile

Every hospital in the world, on a daily basis, uses needles on a majority of the patients they see. However, not every hospital disposes of these needles correctly, especially in places with improper training.

That being said, how many needles do hospitals actually use daily? Is it an actual problem or just overblown to scare people? Let’s find out!

Let’s Talk Numbers

The World Health Organization estimates that 16 billion injections are administered world-wide, every single year. If we do some rough math, we can figure out how many of these needles are used in the USA.

The US accounts for 5% of the world’s population, so if you take 4% of the total needles used worldwide we still come to 800,000,000 needles used per year in the US, or just over 2 million needles a day!

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How Are They Disposed and Sterilized?

These two million needles have to be disposed of somehow. The first step before actual sharps disposal is collection, obviously.

Throwing needles in the regular garbage or even your biohazard bag is very, very unsafe. Doing this can result in sanitation workers being poked with infectious needles, the sharps will rip your bag and cause it to leak, and any leftover medications in the needle will make their way into your local water supply.

The proper and safe way to dispose of used or unwanted needles is to simply place them in a sharps container. These containers are specially made to be puncture and leak proof so they can safely store needles with or without medication in them.

Once they are collected, your favorite medical waste disposal company (MedPro, I’d hope!) picks up the container and brings it to a sterilization facility. At this facility the needles are either ran through a simple incineration process, or the more complicated but more environmentally friendly autoclave.

If you’re interested in the journey medical and sharps waste takes after being picked up, check out my other blog about “What Happens to Medical Waste After It’s Picked Up?”.

What’s Being Done to Combat Improper Sharps Disposal?

Thankfully we have made strides in terms of harm-reduction in hospital settings. OSHA regulations, technological advances, and more easily-accessible compliance training have all helped combat needle related in the injuries in the workplace and even in homes.

The American Journal of Infection Control released a study in 2012 about the reduction of “percutaneous injury” (needle pokes) in US hospitals over two time periods: 1993-1994 and 2006-2007. The result of the study was that we have seen a 53% reduction in sharps injuries in the past 20 years, which in my mind is incredible.

MedPro is proud to offer our assistance in reducing workplace needle injuries. Be it through our OSHA Compliance training, our sharps mailback, or our sharps disposal services, we are here for your safety.

Image source: Penn State

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