Medical Sharps and the Proper Way to Dispose of Them

Sharps is a term that refers to devices that have very sharp edges or points that they can cut through skin. The term can be used anywhere, but it is most usually heard in medical settings. Common examples of sharps found in medical clinics and hospitals include needles used for injecting drugs, syringes for body fluid extraction and lancets (two-edged blades used to obtain blood samples for testing), among many others. 

Proper Ways to Dispose of Sharps

Used sharps must be automatically placed in specially designed containers made of puncture and leak-resistant material and sold in pharmacies, medical supply shops, medical clinics, hospitals and on the Internet. On top of these containers at is an opening where the sharps are dropped into.

It is important not to push them down into the hole as this can damage the container at and cause injuries. Also, these special trash bins should never be filled beyond the indicated line (typically about 60% full). If there is no FDA-cleared container available, any heavy-duty household container can be used. 

Why Proper Sharps Disposal Is Important

Unless sharps are disposed of in a safe manner, they can pose threats to people. Sharps can cause accidental injuries and hence spread infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Whether sharps are used at home, in school, at work or while traveling, it is important to ensure that they are disposed of properly. Used needles and other sharps must never be placed in common trash cans or flushed down the toilet as they can cause harm to janitors, sewage workers, housekeepers and household members, especially children. The same safety precautions must be taken by pet owners who use sharps to administer medicines to their pets.

How to Deal with a Sharps Accident

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, around nine million Americans use sharps at home as part of managing their medical conditions. That means over three billion of these hazardous devices have to be thrown away each year, excluding those which are used in health care settings. If you've been stuck with a used needle or any other sharp, wash the affected area immediately with soap and water or any skin disinfectant, such as rubbing alcohol, and go to the nearest hospital right away. To read more on the importance of proper medical waste disposal, check out .

Sharps disposal methods are different from one country to another, but in the U.S., this is usually done by truck service or through the mail. Either way, personnel collecting sharps are trained for the job, which includes hauling off the hazardous trash by truck to a destruction facility. Mail-back sharps disposal, on the other hand, involves shipping these waste devices to the disposal facility in special shipping containers.