Alameda County sharps collection launches campaign2002-09-10
Mail Back Disposal Program to be Model for the Nation
OAKLAND, Calif., Sep 10, 2002 (BUSINESS WIRE) --
Improper disposal of used hypodermic needles and other "sharps" poses a potentially serious risk of infection or injury to Bay Area residents, according to a group of nine of the Bay Area's leading public health organizations and companies who have come together to form the Alameda County Sharps Coalition.
"Used, improperly discarded needles pose a serious risk of injury and even infection to unsuspecting workers, families and pets across the U.S. in their homes, workplaces and public areas," said Elizabeth Marlow, of the San Francisco Bay Area Association of Diabetes Educators, Coalition spokesperson. "It is our goal to implement a program in Alameda County that is user-friendly, ensures worker safety, allows for the greatest amount of sharps diversion from the landfills and is fiscally sound," she added. U.S. residents use needles and syringes to inject themselves more than 3 billion times each year.
One out of every 12 households includes someone who uses hypodermic needles and syringes. Most used needles end up in the solid waste system, where they pose a grave health risk to anyone encountering them through the course of their work, spills or other accidents. Used needles can transmit numerous blood-borne pathogens, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as well as hepatitis B and C.
To address this risk, ten organizations -- the San Francisco Bay Area Association of Diabetes Educators, Supervisor Keith Carson's Office of the County Board of Supervisors, Alameda County Diabetes Project, DHS - Environmental Management Branch, Alameda County Environmental Health Department, Alameda County Health Care for the Homeless, Sharps Compliance Inc., Waste Management Inc., BD, Walgreens, -- have joined efforts to work on implementing a safe needle disposal program for Alameda County. The group has identified mail back disposal as the best method for removing needles from the Bay Area and has begun to seek funding to support new safe needle disposal practices.
The Alameda County Sharps Coalition is building on the experience of the successful Sharps Compliance Inc./Waste Management Inc. pilot program which made mail back sharps disposal units available to consumers in retail pharmacies and for purchase through Waste Management Inc. Of those consumers participating in the pilot mail back program, 40 percent have reordered new disposal units. The mail back product will be available for purchase at Alameda County pharmacies in the next several weeks. For more information about the product, go to www.wastemd.com.
The goals of the Coalition's initial effort are to demonstrate that a mail back sharps disposal program is an efficient and safe solution to eliminate home-generated sharps from the solid waste stream and to ultimately develop a model that is reproducible by other counties and includes reimbursement from health plans and third-party payers.
"The Alameda County Sharps Coalition is dedicated to working with health care organizations to create new behaviors for home-generated sharps disposal," said Marlow. "Residents of Alameda County will benefit not only by increased diversion of sharps from the landfill but also by improving the quality of life of the community as a whole."
According to the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal, a national organization devoted to safe needle disposal, national statistics indicate that home needle use will continue to increase in coming years as diabetes and other chronic diseases that require self-administration of injectable medicines become more prevalent, as baby boomers age, as health care relies more heavily on out-patient procedures and as more people enter home health care:
-- There are 8 million in-home syringe users, approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population. --Of those 8 million, some 3.4 million people with diabetes require an estimated 1-2 billion
injections each year.
-- Each year injection drug users (IDUs) will administer approximately 1 billion injections of illicit drugs.
-- An unknown number of injections will be given for infertility, allergies, multiple sclerosis and other home health treatments, as well as to pets.
-- Needle stick injuries cost approximately $3,000 per injury for follow-up tests and care if no infection is incurred. Costs soar if there is a serious infection.
The Alameda County Sharps Coalition is dedicated finding a solution to this serious public health issue by creating new behaviors for home sharps disposal and developing and implementing a model program that can be reproduced in other counties and states. For more information about the Alameda County Sharps Coalition, please call 713/222-1600.