Understanding Medical Sharps and Safe Disposal Options

(Family Features) If you’re among the millions of people in the United States who suffer from a chronic illness, you may use “sharps” to manage your medical condition at home or on the go. For example, many people with diabetes self-inject at least two insulin shots every day, and conditions including allergies, arthritis, cancer, infertility, migraines and psoriasis, among others, may also require the use of a sharp to administer medication.

A medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin, sharps may be used at home, at work and while traveling to manage medical conditions. Examples of sharps include:

  • Needles – fine, slender, hollow pieces of metal used to inject medication under the skin
  • Syringes – devices to which needles are attached in order to inject medication into or withdraw fluid from the body
  • Lancets, also called “fingersticks” – instruments with a short, two-edged blade used to get drops of blood for testing
  • Auto injectors, including epinephrine pens – syringes pre-filled with fluid medication designed to be self-injected into the body
  • Infusion sets – tubing system with a needle used to deliver drugs to the body
  • Connection needles – needles that connect to a tube used to transfer fluids in and out of the body

However, disposing of those medical sharps safely may be a concern. In fact, in interviews conducted by SafeNeedleDisposal.org with sharps users, people who use needles and lancets to manage their medical conditions believe it is their responsibility to dispose of sharps safely, but lack clear, factual information on how to do so. Existing information does not always personalize disposal guidelines for people in every state or locality.

SafeNeedleDisposal.org helps people in the United States make sense of safe sharps disposal options nearest to their home, work or wherever is convenient,” said Larry Ellingson, vice president of the National Diabetes Volunteer Leadership Council. “This resource is much needed for people who regularly use needles to manage health conditions like diabetes and want to do the right thing with their used sharps.”  

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sharps not disposed of properly may cause injury. Consider these three steps for safe and proper sharps disposal:
1. Place used sharps in an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container or a strong plastic container such as an empty laundry detergent or bleach bottle.
2. Seal the container with duct tape and label it “do not recycle.”
3. For most sharps users, place the sealed container in the household trash, never the recycling. A resource like SafeNeedleDisposal.org can be used to look up local disposal guidelines by ZIP code. For states that do not allow household disposal, the website provides ZIP code-specific information on convenient drop-off locations that will accept used sharps.

For more information on safe disposal of sharps, visit SafeNeedleDisposal.org.


Photos courtesy of Getty Images