properly dispose of sharps at home

How To Properly Dispose of Sharps at Home

To properly dispose of sharps at home isn’t as simple as one might think. You can’t just toss them into the trash or recycling bin. And no, not even if they’re inside a flimsy plastic bottle.

The danger in disposing of sharps as any other item of trash poses a potential harm to not only your local waste handlers, but also to children, pets, and others that might come in contact. In fact, some states actually ban the disposal of syringes and needles in this way.

If you are an at home patient or use sharps on a regular basis, here are some do’s, don’ts, tips, and tricks to properly dispose of sharps:

DON’T throw away sharps directly in the trash

Never dispose of needles, syringes, or other sharps straight into the household trash. This can cause a world of harmful possibilities.

Instead, dispose of sharps in an FDA approved sharps container. For information on what passes FDA guidelines, visit this article on FDA-Cleared Sharps Containers.

DON’T dispose of sharps containers in the recycling bin

Similarly to the point made above, don’t throw away sharps containers in the recycling bin. This cause several issues, as your recyclables must be sorted through and any sharps containers could potentially put waste handlers at risk, as well as making the entire collection of recycled materials unusable.

DO follow the guidelines of your state or local government

As mentioned before, some states (and local governments) make it illegal to dispose of sharps in the common household trash, even if in proper FDA-cleared sharps containers.

Instead, consult your local guidelines or follow some of these tips to get rid of sharps containers:

  • Drop boxes or supervised collection sites. Drop off your sharps disposal containers at collections sites, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments, medical waste facilities, and police or fire stations.
  • Mail-back programs. You may be able to mail a FDA-cleared disposal container to a collection site. Consult the manufacture’s instructions included with the sharps containers, as they might offer the mail-back option or have specific requirements.

DON’T dispose of sharps in a water bottle if a FDA container is not readily available

Sometimes you run out of containers. It’s understandable. But under no circumstances should you dispose of needles in weak packaging, such as water bottles or empty cereal boxes.

Follow these guidelines for DIY sharps containers:

  • choose a sturdy, non-see-through container, such as an empty bleach or laundry detergent bottle, or empty coffee can
  • CLEARLY label the container “DO NOT RECYCLE:” with “syringes,” “needles,” or “sharps” added
  • make sure the lid is able to be completely tightened
  • store in an upright position at all times
  • when container is full and ready to be disposed of, seal and reinforce the lid with Duct tape or other heavy-duty tapes

DO make sure your sharps container meets FDA standards

All sharps containers should be:

  • made of a heavy-duty plastic
  • able to close with a tight-fitting, puncture-proof lid, without sharps being able to come out
  • upright and stable during use
  • leak-resistant
  • properly labeled

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zika virus

Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

By now, everyone has heard of the Zika virus rapidly taking over the Americas. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern” in the face of a rapid spread across Central and South America and the Caribbean. Though it’s been around for over six decades, the virus has spread like wild fired across the globe in the last several weeks.

To keep you up to date, here are some common questions you might have about Zika:

What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus, originally discovered in 1947 in a monkey from the Zika forest of Uganda, is in the same disease family as Yellow fever, Dengue, and West Nile. The virus is spread through mosquito bites, blood transfusions, and sexual transmission.

zika_virus_cycleWhat are the symptoms?

Zika virus brings upon symptoms of severe fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, spotted rash, joint pain, muscle pain and even pain in the back of the eyes. However, roughly 80% people infected are asymptomatic and are unaware they even carry the virus.

So, how serious is it for women?

While Zika is not as serious an issue for most of the non-pregnant population, it is very serious for pregnant women living in or visiting affected countries. Zika has become increasingly frightening for pregnant women, with links to microcephaly and numerous brain defects for unborn babies.

Currently, Brazil has recorded over 4,700 suspected cases of microcephaly.  Additionally, Zika is now circulating in at least 28 countries, including many island nations in the tropical Atlantic (update: now Australia and a few countries in Europe). Researchers suspect Zika could infect 3-4 million people by the end of 2016 and spread to all but two countries across the Americas.

WHO and the CDC have warned that whether you’re living in an affected area or traveling abroad, you should be aware of the symptoms and transmission cycle of the virus, though they have yet to warn against traveling altogether.

What exactly is microcephaly?

Microcephaly, which literally means “small head,” is a condition where the head size of newborns in abnormally small, usually as low as the bottom one percent. According to Dr. Ganeshwaran Mochida, a pediatric neurologist and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, “Microcephaly is almost always due to insufficient growth of the brain.”  The condition currently affects roughly 25,000 children in the U.S., making it fairly uncommon.

Mochida believes we have yet to understand the full spectrum of congenital Zika virus infection and “there could be subtle developmental issues or other organs that are affected.”

What about Zika spreading in the U.S.?

In short, there’s not a huge threat here. Thankfully, the U.S. is equipped to prevent an outbreak simply because of our modern amenities, including air conditioning and insulated homes. However, in the last several months, there have been over 48 patients in at least 12 states and Washington, D.C., all of which come from people traveling abroad recently (except for two in Dallas).

This week, here in Dallas, two cases were reported and appeared to have been sexually transmitted from one person to the other. This is the only known instance of the virus being transmitted this way in the States, but officials believe it could become a more serious concern moving forward.

Additionally, Florida Governor Rick Scott recently declared a health emergency in four counties throughout the state in an attempt to stop the virus in it’s tracks. There’s no record yet that the virus has entered the mosquito population in Florida, but it could move through someone coming into Florida from Brazil or another affected country.

Finally, the biggest concern for officials though are our territories, namely Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both of these territories are right in the heart of the affected areas and have already seen a number of cases.