On August 16, 2017

Properly disposing of household medical waste

By Julia Gosselin

If you have diabetes, you most likely have insulin needles in your home. Leaving these syringes around your home could not only look bad, but it could pass on possible diseases. Diseases like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV can all be passed through a used syringe. Let’s not forgot the possible prick factor. Along with needles, there is other home generated medical waste like bloody bandages, medical tubes such as a catheters, used gloves and old prescription medication. Medical waste classifies as any item that comes into contact with body fluids. It is very important to dispose of these wastes properly to limit the risk of injury or diseases.

There are companies who accept large quantities of medical waste produced by businesses for a charge. For smaller quantities of medical waste, there are simple and cheap ways to properly dispose of it. For syringes, you could use a laundry detergent bottle and label it “sharps, no not open.” Laundry detergent bottles are great for sharps because of the type of plastic they are made out of. It is much stronger and more durable than say a regular plastic water bottle. Make sure the bottle is kept out of reach and sight of children and pets. Place the syringe in the bottle immediately after use to prevent needle sticks. When your bottle is just under 3/4ths full, make sure the lid is on tight and tape it shut for extra measures. This is to prevent needle sticks. Call your local doctor hospital, pharmacies or fire department to see if they accept small quantities of sharps.

Bloody bandages also includes gauze, medical tubes, gloves, linen and cleaning pads that have blood or other body fluids on them. Soiled diapers without blood are considered regular trash, if the diaper contains blood then it is medical waste. Say you scrape your knee and the bandage has a little amount of blood in it, that is fine to put into the trash. If you have bandages or gauze that have a lot of blood on it, put the items in a plastic bag, double bag it, and then dispose of it in your regular trash.

When you get the flu you usually get prescription antibiotics, but what if you don’t take them all and there’s still some left in the bottle? The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) hosts National Prescription Take-Back events on a periodical basis. Collection sites are set up and you can bring your unused or unwanted medicines to be disposed of. There are also other ways like mixing the medicines as a capsule with an unpalatable substance like dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds in a container that has no holes and a sealable lid. You can also use a plastic bag as long as it is tied tight. Throw the container in with your household trash. Certain medicines are better to flush down the toilet than others. Fentanyl patches, for example, have high amounts of pain relievers and if anyone accidentally ingested the patch or reused the patch it could end very badly.

A few medicines that are safe to flush down the toilet are:
Abstral (tablets)
Actiq (oral)
Arymo ER (tablets)
Avinza (capsules)
Belbuca (soluble film)
Demoral (tablets or oral solution)
Embeda (capsules)
Fentora (tablets)
Kadian (capsules)
Methadose (tablets)
Morphine Sulfate (tablets or oral gel)
Suboxone (film)
For a complete list visit fda.gov/drugs/.

It is very important to properly dispose of medical waste to prevent injury and diseases. Hepatitis B and C are to blame for 2.7 percent of all deaths. 1.4 million people in the United States have chronic Hepatitis B and 3 million have Hepatitis C. When medical waste is not properly disposed of, a few things could happen. Poison and pollution can be released from medications and even pollute the waterways. Needles could injure someone or transmit a blood borne disease like Hepatitis B or C. Take the time to properly dispose of medical waste to prevent anyone from being injured.

Julia Gosselin is an intern with Rutland County Solid Waste.

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