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Safe Community Needle Disposal

LouisianaLouisiana's Public Health Laws and Regulations: Impact on the Safe Disposal of Used Syringes by Individuals in the Community

Content Verified on: May 5, 2003


Summary

Regulatory Environment

  • Individuals may dispose of used syringes in the trash so long as they are placed in a rigid, puncture-resistant container that is enclosed within another container.
  • Individuals also may take filled syringe containers to facilities that have permits to generate, handle, or dispose of large quantities of biomedical waste.

Identified Community-based Disposal Initiatives

  • No community disposal initiatives were identified but this does not mean that no programs operate in the state.

Introduction

Disposing of contaminated medical waste, including needles, syringes, and other “sharps,” has become an important issue in public health policy. Waste generated in the health care system is highly regulated at the state and federal level. Hospitals and other health care facilities must follow special procedures for handling, transporting, and disposing of medical waste, including used needles that may contain blood. Facilities also have instituted strict safeguards to protect health care workers, housekeeping staff, sanitation workers, and waste haulers from needlesticks because of the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other bloodborne infections.

Less attention has been paid to safe disposal of used syringes that come from individuals living in the community. However, as many as 3 billion syringes are used each year outside health care facilities: It is estimated that between 0.9 and 1.68 billion insulin injections and up to 1 billion illegal drug injections occur each year in the United States. After being used and discarded, most of these syringes end up in the public solid waste system. This presents a risk of needlestick injury and infection, mostly to solid waste workers. A much smaller number are discarded in public areas, such as parks, presenting a risk to the public.

This section of CDC’s Community Syringe Disposal, Laws and Regulations, and the Public Health web site looks at the public health dimensions of this problem. It describes this state’s solid and infectious waste laws and regulations as they relate to syringe disposal. It provides background information on several key disposal options currently used in the U.S. and describes the impact of this state’s laws and regulations on the way that individuals may use these options. It also includes brief descriptions of some safe disposal programs in the state and provides contact information for the state’s public health and environmental management agencies.

This web site is designed primarily for individuals and communities who are working to build safe syringe disposal programs and improve public understanding of this important issue. We hope that the information and tools provided here will help communities move closer to the ultimate goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or in public locations such as parks, buildings, or the streets.”


Current Published Guidance for Individuals

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality provides guidance on how individuals can safely dispose of syringes on its Health Care Waste from the Home website.

The guidance states:

While used needles, syringes, lancets and other sharp implements may be safely disposed with other solid wastes from the home, it is important to exercise care in packaging needles, syringes, and lancets for disposal. The safe packaging of these wastes may be accomplished very simply in the home.
  • Use a rigid plastic bottle with a tight fitting cap, such as an empty laundry detergent or fabric softener bottle, to store and dispose of sharps.
  • When the bottle is full, cap it tightly, and place it with your other solid waste for disposal.
  • Needles and syringes need not be recapped.
  • Do not put sharp objects in any container that will be recycled or returned to a store.

Solid and Infectious Waste Policies

1. Louisiana Medical Waste Law and Regulation

Summary
Sets requirements for generators – The law sets requirements for transporting, storing, treating, and disposing of potentially infectious biomedical waste generated by large and small health care and medical facilities as well as households and others who generate small quantities of biomedical waste.

Permits disposal in the trash – Household-generated sharps waste may be disposed of in the ordinary municipal waste system untreated, so long as the waste is securely placed in a package that will not lose its contents if the original package is violated (this means placing the sharps container in another rigid disposable container). No labels or symbols are required on these containers.

Permits individuals to transport biomedical waste to large-quantity generators – Patients, family members, and individuals who administer health care services may take filled sharps containers to an approved large-quantity generator, storage facility, or treatment facility for disposal.

Law
State of Louisiana Sanitary Code, Chapter XXVII [Management of Refuse, Infectious Waste, Medical Waste, and Potentially Infectious Biomedical Waste], Sections 27:001 - 029. [Ref 1]

Responsible Agency
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals

2. Louisiana Solid Waste Law and Regulations

Summary
Set limits on acceptance of infectious waste – The regulations limit infectious waste that can be accepted from hospitals or clinics at landfills and compost facilties.

Do not address household-generated syringes – The solid waste regulations do not address syringes from community sources, such as those used by individuals.

Rule
Solid Waste Regulations, Louisiana Administrative Code Title 33, Part VII, Chapter 13. [Ref 2]

Responsible Agency
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality


Bloodborne Pathogen Standards

Summary
Federal bloodborne pathogen rule applies – Louisiana has not established its own state plan for regulating bloodborne pathogens. Therefore, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards apply.

Sets requirements for collection sites when employees handle the sharps containers – Operators of sharps container collection sites in which employees physically accept and handle filled sharps containers from customers are required to meet the OSHA bloodborne pathogen standards. This involves developing a written Exposure Control Plan that identifies the frequency of exposure and the tasks and procedures in which exposure may occur. The Plan also must address methods of compliance, hepatitis B vaccination, hazard communication to employees, recordkeeping, and methods to evaluate exposure incidents.

Sets requirements for collection sites when employees do not handle the sharps containers – Operators of sharps container collection sites in which customers place filled sharps containers into a collection container are not subject to the bloodborne pathogen standard. In this situation, employees must not handle the sharps containers. Those involved with removing the sharps containers from the collection container must meet the standard.

Law
29 CFR Part 1910.1030 [Ref 3]

Responsible Agency
US Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Regional Office (Responsible for administrative activities in Region 6)
Area Office (Responsible for OSHA compliance in Louisiana)


Selected Community Syringe Disposal Options

Container Collection Sites

Background

How This Option Works
An individual brings filled sharps containers to a collection site such as a pharmacy, medical facility (for example, a hospital or public health clinic), or non-medical facility (for example, a fire station) for safe disposal. Other sites have sharps collection drop boxes (a kiosk, mailbox-type receptacle, or other secured collection bin). This is a viable option that can capture many of the syringes generated in the community. Successful syringe container collection programs feature:

  • minimal regulatory constraints placed on collection sites;
  • easy access provided through numerous and well-publicized collection locations; and
  • minimal costs to users through subsidized costs of containers and disposal.

Even if a community does not have collection site programs, an individual may be able to develop an informal relationship with a local pharmacy or other facility that will accept and safely dispose of filled syringe containers.

Advantages and Disadvantages
Sharps container collection programs have two key advantages:

  • Used syringes are kept out of the regular solid waste stream, which reduces the risk of needlestick injuries to waste and recycling workers (see Disposal in the Trash for more information).
  • Syringes collected through these programs are disposed of safely as medical waste. This involves special disinfection to destroy germs and destruction or burial to ensure that the needle points cannot injure anyone.

Facilities and individuals may perceive some disadvantages:

  • Individuals may feel that bringing sharps containers to a collection site is inconvenient and reduces their privacy because it identifies them as a syringe user.
  • Collection sites may have to comply with state bloodborne pathogen standards and medical waste disposal requirements, and they must carefully maintain the collection bins or kiosks.

Effect of Louisiana’s Laws and Regulations
Community collection sites, such as pharmacies or fire stations, must comply with state regulations on the proper treatment of potentially infectious biomedical waste. This includes following proposed guidelines and obtaining appropriate permits.

Louisiana law allows individuals to transport small quantities (1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds) of properly packaged used syringes to an approved storage or treatment facility without having to meet the requirements of the state’s transportation and treatment regulations. Individuals, such as home health care providers, who transport potentially infectious biomedical waste for others must obtain a permit from the State Health Officer.

Container Mailback Programs

Background

How This Option Works
Sharps containers are distributed to customers and, when full, are mailed back to a syringe disposal company for safe disposal. This is a viable option that can capture some of the used syringes generated in the community.

Advantages and Disadvantages
Syringe mailback programs have the same advantages as syringe container collection sites:

  • Used syringes are kept out of the regular solid waste stream, which reduces the risk of needlestick injuries to waste and recycling workers (see Disposal in the Trash for more information).
  • Syringes collected through these programs are disposed of safely as medical waste. This involves special disinfection to destroy germs and destruction or burial to ensure that the needle points cannot injure anyone.

The cost of mailing the container to the disposal company varies. The cost may be too high for some individuals, and may be considered a disadvantage.

Effect of Louisiana’ Laws and Regulations
Sharps container mailback programs are not addressed by Louisina’s infectious waste rule. However, sharps container collection programs are regulated under the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) when syringes are mailed [Ref 4]. The USPS regulations establish specific packaging, labeling, and tracking requirements for these syringes.

Disposal in the Trash

Background

How This Option Works
Individuals place their used syringes in the household trash, either loose or in a puncture-resistant container. Some individuals remove the needle from the syringe and put it in a container using a special device. The syringe and contained needle are then disposed of in the household trash.

Advantages and Disadvantages
The main advantages of this option are convenience and low cost.

This option has one important disadvantage – it places people at risk of being stuck by a needle and increases their chances of contracting a bloodborne infection:

  • Placing unprotected syringes into the household trash puts waste collectors at risk [Ref 5].
  • Placing used needles in a puncture-resistant container may help protect trash collectors from being stuck. Even so, most containers disposed of in the trash shatter in the garbage truck and release their contents. This places other waste workers at risk.
  • Bottles or cans used as puncture-resistant containers may be recycled by mistake. This puts waste recyclers at risk.

Effect of Louisiana’s Laws and Regulations
Louisiana allows individuals to dispose of used syringes in the trash so long as they are security packaged. They may also be placed in a sharps container or other rigid, puncture-resistant container approved by the State Health Officer. The original container must be placed in a second rigid container that contains other non-infectious waste.


How Might Louisiana Ensure Safe Syringe Disposal by Individuals in the Community?

The state legislature and individual communities may wish to more actively encourage individuals to safely dispose of used syringes and make it easier for them to do so. Many options for state and local action exist. They range from gathering data, to developing community collection site programs and education efforts, to creating partnerships with interested groups, to considering amending laws and regulations. All will help Louisiana move toward the goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or public locations.”


Current Identified Community Syringe Disposal Programs in Louisiana Go to Top

No community disposal initiatives were identified but this does not mean that no programs operate in the state.


Responsible Agencies in Louisiana

Links below will open in a new browser window.

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHHS)Link to a non-CDC site
1201 Capitol Access Road
PO Box 629
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70821-0629
Telephone: (225) 342-9500

DHHS Infectious Waste ProgramLink to a non-CDC site
Contact: Al Mancuso
Tel: (225) 763-5555
Fax: (225) 763-5552
Email: infwweb@dhh.state.la.us

Louisiana Department of Environmental QualityLink to a non-CDC site
7290 Bluebonnet Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70810
Telephone: (888) 763-5424
Contact: Mia Townsel
Tel: (225) 765-2768
Email: miat@ldeq.org

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)Link to a non-CDC site
Regional Office (Region 6)
525 Griffin Street, Room 602
Dallas, Texas 75202
Tel: (214) 767-4731
(214) 767-4693 FAX

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Area Office
9100 Bluebonnet Center Boulevard
Suite 201
Baton Rouge, LA 70809
Telephone: (225) 389-0474
Fax: (225) 389-0463


References

Links below will open in a new browser window.

1. State of Louisiana Sanitary Code, Chapter XXVIIPDF IconLink to a non-CDC site [Management of Refuse, Infectious Waste, Medical Waste, and Potentially Infectious Biomedical Waste], Sections 27:001 - 029.

2. Solid Waste Regulations, Louisiana Administrative Code Title 33, Part VII, Chapter 13.Link to a non-CDC site

3. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen StandardsLink to a non-CDC site – 29 CFR Part 1910.1030.

4. USPS Domestic Mail ManualLink to a non-CDC site [Click on “DMM Subject Index” then scroll to and click on “Sharps, CO23.85”]

5. Turnberg WL, Frost F. Survey of occupational exposure of waste industry workers to infectious waste in Washington State.Link to a non-CDC site American Journal of Public Health 1990;80(10):1262-1264.



Disclaimer

The materials provided on this web site are for general information purposes only. They do not constitute legal or policy advice or opinion. Access to these materials, their transmission, or receipt is not privileged and does not create any relationship with the provider.

CDC has attempted to make the information in this website accurate. However, CDC makes no guarantees about the accuracy, currency, or completeness of the information provided. We are not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for results obtained from the use of the information. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a professional should be sought.

This CDC Web site is no longer being reviewed or updated and thus is no longer kept current. This site remains to assist researchers or others needing historical content.

   
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