Valley cities offer scant services for diabetics, at-home needle users

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The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality encourages at-home needle users to put medical sharps in a biohazard container before tossing them in the garbage to reduce the risk of accidental needle sticks. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality encourages at-home needle users to put medical sharps in a biohazard container before tossing them in the garbage to reduce the risk of accidental needle sticks. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
SafeNeedleDisposal.org calls Arizona’s guidelines “the least desirable way to dispose of used sharps.” (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) SafeNeedleDisposal.org calls Arizona’s guidelines “the least desirable way to dispose of used sharps.” (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 385,000 health care workers suffer sharps-related injuries each year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 385,000 health care workers suffer sharps-related injuries each year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Inside your neighbor’s trash bin, there could several weeks' worth of loose syringes, needles and other medical sharps that carry the potential of transferring life-altering diseases.

It may be frowned upon, but in Arizona, that’s not against the law.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality encourages at-home needle users to put medical sharps in a biohazard container before tossing them in the garbage to reduce the risk of accidental needle sticks. However, there is no legal requirement to do so and no penalties for violators.

“It’s scary,” said Catie Eckert, owner of the biohazard removal company Advanced Bio Solutions. “I think people in the community would be appalled to know that this is not something that’s regulated.”

Doctors’ offices, hospitals and other commercial medical facilities are required to adhere to strict techniques to ensure medical sharps are sterilized before disposal, but at-home users are exempt from the requirements.

If diabetics and other home needle users cannot afford a biohazard container and professional pickup services, the ADEQ suggests that people put medical sharps in an empty laundry detergent bottle, seal the top with duct tape, write “not recyclable” on the bottle with permanent marker and put the bottle in the trash. The department's full recommendations are available here.

SafeNeedleDisposal.org calls Arizona’s guidelines “the least desirable way to dispose of used sharps.” California and Oregon, for example, make it illegal to place home-generated medical sharps in the trash or recycling.

Caroline Oppleman of ADEQ said Arizonans have other safe disposal options, such as taking medical sharps to designated collection sites. However, there are only 12 such collection sites in the state, according to SafeNeedleDisposal.org.

The only collection site in Maricopa County is at Gilbert Police headquarters (75 E. Civic Center Drive).

City officials in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Scottsdale confirmed they do not offer any services for medical sharp collection, citing ADEQ regulations and the potential liability associated with handling the items. Many cities do offer drop-off sites for unused prescription drugs.

“Just one needle poke is all it takes,” Eckert said. “If it's not addressed, eventually somebody is going to get hurt and possibly die.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 385,000 health care workers suffer sharps-related injuries each year. That number does not include the housekeepers, janitors, trash collectors and children who are also at risk of needle sticks.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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