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August 27, 2013

MADISON - A new series of publications to help the public properly dispose of medical sharps are available from the Department of Natural Resources.

Medical sharps, such as needles, syringes and lancets, pose an injury risk for anyone who comes into contact with them.

"These new publications will help people safely and properly dispose of medical sharps," said Barb Bickford, DNR medical waste coordinator. "Proper disposal will help protect public health, save money from improper disposal and keep sharps out of our environment."

The publications are available in three different languages, English, Hmong and Spanish by searching for medical sharps on the DNR website.

Safe disposal saves money and lowers injury risk

According to the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal, about 9 million syringe users nationwide annually administer at least three billion injections outside of health care facilities.

To reduce public health risks, Wisconsin laws require all residents to manage sharps safely. It is illegal to put sharps in the trash or with recyclables. Sharps must be packaged safely and treated either at a licensed medical waste incinerator or by methods that render the sharps non-infectious, broken and unable to be reused. The best way to ensure the proper management of medical sharps is to take them to a registered sharps collection station. These stations can be found at many pharmacies and clinics statewide.

However, state and local officials say medical sharps are often found in household garbage and recyclables or improperly flushed down the toilet.

"When these needles end up in the solid waste stream, they can injure waste haulers, landfill operators and recycling workers," said Bickford. "When they're flushed down toilets, they may cause problems in plumbing and wastewater treatment plants, or may end up on our beaches."

Bickford noted that needle stick injuries are one of the most common workers compensation injuries in Wisconsin's waste collection industry. Needle stick injuries demand costly testing, may cause emotional stress and increase the risk of exposure to infectious diseases such as hepatitis B.

Some of the suggestions mentioned in the publications include:

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Barb Bickford, 608-267-3548

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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