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The Global Challenge

Health-care activities protect and restore health and save lives. But what about the waste and by-products they generate? Medical sharps waste (syringes, needles, disposable scalpels and blades, etc.) pose enormous health and environmental risks after their use.

The Public Health Risk

  • Worldwide, an estimated 16 billion injections are administered every year. Not all needles and syringes are disposed of safely, creating a risk of injury and infection and opportunities for reuse.
  • Health-care waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms, which can infect hospital patients, health workers and the general public.
  • Injections with contaminated needles and syringes in low- and middle-income countries have reduced substantially in recent years, partly due to efforts to reduce reuse of injection devices. Despite this progress, in 2010, unsafe injections were still responsible for as many as 33,800 new HIV infections, 1.7 million hepatitis B infections and 315,000 hepatitis C infections.
  • A person who experiences one needle stick injury from a needle used on an infected source patient has risks of becoming infected with hepatitis B (30%), hepatitis C (1.8%), and HIV (0.3%).

 (Source: World Health Organization)

The Life Changing Pick of a Needle

With the billions of injections administered each year, many of those will carry dangerous pathogens after use on infected patients.  Those sharps now become a health threat to anyone that gets picked by it, thus transferring the blood-borne pathogens to you.  Avoiding a medical sharp injury becomes imperative, not just immediately after its use, but also as long as the sharp remains intact and able puncture through containers, packaging, trash, and ground cover, making life-changing contact with people.

Hazards in the Waste Management Process

Waste management hazards cause workers to come into contact with used medical sharps.

  • Additional hazards occur from scavenging at waste disposal sites and during the manual sorting of hazardous waste from health-care facilities. These practices are common in many regions of the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The waste handlers are at immediate risk of needle-stick injuries and exposure to toxic or infectious materials.
  • Lack of awareness about the health hazards related to health-care waste, inadequate training in proper waste management, absence of waste management and disposal systems, insufficient financial and human resources and the low priority given to the topic are the most common problems connected with health-care waste. Many countries either do not have appropriate regulations, or do not enforce them.

(Source: World Health Organization)

Hazards In Our Environment

If medical sharps waste is accidentally added to normal trash, the results could be disastrous for the environment. They will release pathogens into the soil and eventually into groundwater. There have been many cases of medical sharps – needles and syringes – washing up on the shore and public beaches along the ocean coastline (also known as “syringe tides”), and syringes littering the landscape of inner cities.

With illegal drug use, there is widespread sharing and re-use of hypodermic needles, discarding used needles in public areas (street, sidewalk, public trashcans). Needle exchange programs in inner cities attempt to bring syringes off the street, to reduce the re-use and spread of life-threatening pathogens. The collected syringes pose an enormous health and life-threatening risk in those collection locations.

The Cost of a Medical Sharps Injury

The cost of a medical sharps injury can cause a number of direct and indirect costs, including:

  • Loss of employment time.
  • Cost of investigating an injury.
  • Expense of lab tests.
  • Cost of immediate medical treatment.
  • Cost of long term medical treatment, including all of the follow-on health complications of Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
  • Potential loss of life.

In addition to costs incurred by the injured patient, the stress on the affected patient and the patient’s family can be enormous. In addition to the initial concern, testing for blood-borne pathogens can last for months, producing feelings of anxiety and distress for an extended period of time.

The Goal – Destroy Harmful Pathogens and Dissolve The Medical Sharps After Use

SafeSharp’s mission is to eliminate the spread of life-threatening pathogens, by immediately destroying harmful pathogens and dissolving medical sharps after their use. This eliminates all downstream personal health and environmental risks and hazards regularly caused by the medical sharps.  Learn more about the SafeSharp Dissolver.