Monday, August 4, 2008

My Syringe Collection

As you know, everyday since the middle of April, I've been giving myself daily injections of Lovenox, an anticogulant, to keep my blood flowing and my pregnancy running smoothly. While I gathered up the first month's empty syringes and took them with me to the doctor's office for disposal, it turns out they weren't able to take them off my hands. The office is required to remove the needle from each syringe before disposal, but since mine are close-capped syringes where the needle is fully encased in a plastic sheath after I administer the shot to myself, they can't take them. They kindly accepted that first batch since I had them with me, but they said I would need to dispose of the needles myself throughout the rest of the treatment.

When I asked the nurse how I should go about doing so, she suggested I find an old milk jug or soda bottle, fill it with syringes, write "Medical Waste" on the outside, tape it up at the top, and throw it in the garbage. That didn't sound too plausible to me, so at one of my next appointments, I asked a doctor. He said definitely don't use a milk jug. Instead, go to the drugstore, buy an orange medical waste container, fill it up, and then contact the county government to find out where and how I could dispose of them properly. The medical waste container sounded a little more reasonable, and it turned out the mail-order pharmacy I use was willing to provide the containers to me for free. As far actually disposing of them, though, I figured it would be a hassle to wrangle an answer from any government entity, and so I've just been storing up a nice little collection of used- syringes (albeit close capped) because I've been too lazy to figure out how to get rid of them. Until now.

Blame it on my nesting instinct or whatever it is, last week, I was fed up with the syringes. I wanted them out of the house, and I was ready to find out just how far I'd have to drive in order to dispose of these silly syringes at some medical waste facility in the middle of nowhere. So much for getting myself all worked up for nothing. I went online, typed in my county name and the words "medical waste", and here's what came up:

HOME-GENERATED MEDICAL WASTE

Steps for Disposal

  • Rigid Container: Use a container with a screw-on cap such as an empty laundry detergent bottle, bleach bottle, or 2-liter soda bottle. The bottles must be able to be marked with a warning label using a felt-tipped marking pen. Note that the heavier duty laundry detergent and bleach bottles are preferred to the soda bottle.
  • Label/Warning: Place a large label with a warning on the container. CAUTION! SYRINGES - NEEDLES. DO NOT RECYCLE!
  • Clip the needle, or recap discarded sharps: Clip the needle if you wish. You can purchase an inexpensive hand-held needle clipper at a pharmacy. After clipping the needle, carefully place each of the used needles and syringes into the plastic bottle with the screw-on lid. An alternative is to also recap or re-sheathe the needle.
  • Seal: After the container is full, seal the bottle with the original cap and wrap tape over the cap.
  • Disposal: Dispose of the sealed, full container with your household trash. DO NOT place the container in the recycling bin.
Not only was the nurse absolutely correct, I could have been throwing the syringes away in the trash all along! To make a long story short, today was trash day, and I don't have to tell you what they picked up in my trash can. Good riddance to bad (and sharp, pointy) rubbish!

Here's a little more on Home Medical Waste - all of which came from the handy-dandy website I found. I'll never underestimate my county government again...until the next time.

HOME MEDICAL WASTE

What is it? This is medical waste created through the administration of injectible medications and other invasive or non-invasive procedures. It includes, but is not limited to, syringes, needles with attached tubing, and other materials. The most common type of home-generated medical waste is needles and syringes. It DOES NOT include medical waste produced by home health care workers (physicians, nurses, home health aides, etc.)

Why is it a potential threat? First, the disposal of home-generated medical waste is not regulated. Second, there can be a significant potential hazard to many persons including family members, sanitation workers, and people in the community. Finally, home-generated waste can pose a threat to the environment. Sometimes people flush used syringes down their toilets. Because these syringes are light-weight and float, they are difficult to remove at the wastewater treatment plant. Often these "floatables" end up in rivers, along river banks, the ocean and on beaches. This was the case in 1987 and 1988, when numerous syringes were found on the beaches of Rhode Island.

2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you posted this! I, too have I don't even want to know how many syringes jammed into the one orange container the pharmacy gave me in the spring and more jammed into an empty box in our bathroom closet. My doctor's office wouldn't take them either, and they told me to check with our township ( nothing was on their website) or the EPA (typical government website that makes you even more confused than you were in the first place!). It's good to know how to dispose of them correctly and without too much hassle! Thanks Sara and Bun!

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  2. Glad I could help! We're quite a pair, you and I. We have the out-of-pocket prescription costs and the syringe market taken care of. Let's post THAT on Rivalry. :)

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