FDA Launches Website on Safe Disposal of Used Needles

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that they have launched a new website (www.fda.gov/safesharpsdisposal) devoted to information and instruction for the safe disposal of needles and other “sharps” used by individuals at home, work, and while traveling. In addition to standard needles and syringes, other dangerous medical supplies for disposal include items such as lancets or finger-stick devices for blood testing; needle and tubing systems, plus connection needles for hemodialysis at home.

Many conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, cancer, allergies, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and others, are now treated outside of a doctor’s office. Additionally, pets and livestock are frequently treated at home or on the farm with medications and vaccinations that require needles. As a result, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 3 billion needles and other types of “sharps” are used outside of medical facilities each year within the United States.

Unfortunately, many of these used items are simply thrown away in trash cans – both at home and in public places – or flushed down the toilet. This poses great health risks to countless individuals who may come in contact with these used needles and sharps. At home, family members and children could mistakenly stick themselves and be vulnerable to infections and possibly the transmission of dangerous viruses (including Hepatitis and HIV). The same is true for a large population of people who work in the sanitation and sewage industries.

Proper disposal of needles and sharps is essential for everyone’s safety. In general, the FDA recommends placing used needles and sharps in an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container. If one is not available, a heavy-duty plastic household container may be used. These should be kept out of the reach of children and pets. Individuals need to check with their local trash or public health department about sharps disposal programs in their area.

Please visit the FDA’s new website at www.fda.gov/safesharpsdisposal for more information.

Written by Susan Wells Courtney, MSAA Senior Writer
Reviewed by Jack Burks, MD, MSAA Chief Medical Officer