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Safe Community Needle Disposal

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

Content Verified on: September 6, 2003


Summary

Regulatory Environment

  • The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulates the storage, treatment, and disposal of solid waste.
  • The DEQ classifies sharps (hypodermic needles and syringes) as a form of infectious medical waste.
  • Infectious medical wastes are regulated under Mississippi solid waste laws and regulations. However, these laws only address commercial medical waste management facilities.
  • The Mississippi Department of Health provides guidelines for the management of infectious medical waste, but only for licensed health care facilities that operate within the state.

Identified Community-based Disposal Initiatives

  • No syringe container collection programs were identified in Mississippi. However, 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 Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has developed a brochure entitled Guide to Handling and Disposal of Household Medical Waste.Link to a non-CDC site

The brochure provides the following recommendations and warnings for safely disposing of used syringes at home:

  • Persons receiving health care from a home health agency are advised to determine whether these services provide a means of disposal for syringes or information on proper disposal methods.
  • Persons are also advised to contact their local pharmacy or physician for syringe collection services or sharps disposal containers.

If the services or persons listed above cannot provide assistance in the disposal of syringes, individuals are encouraged to manage household medical waste in the following manner:

  • Place sharps in hard plastic, puncture-resistant containers such as bleach, fabric softener and liquid soap bottles or metal containers with securely fitting lids.
  • Soak sharps in a bleach solution that is one part bleach and ten parts water.
  • Do not place sharps in containers that will be recycled or returned to a store.
  • Do not place sharps in clear plastic or glass containers.
  • Do not label the containers as “Medical Waste” or “Infectious Waste.” If the sharps container already has a label, place the container in a plastic bag that is securely fastened.

To obtain a copy of the Guide to Handling and Disposal of Household Medical WasteLink to a non-CDC site brochure or information on the disposal of household medical waste, contact:

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
Solid Waste Poicy, Planning & Grants Branch
PO Box 10385
Jackson, MS 39289
Tel: (601) 961-5171
Fax: (601) 961-5785


Solid and Infectious Waste Policies

1. Solid Waste Statute

Summary
Establishes rule making authority – The Commission on Environmental Quality and the Department of Environmental Quality have the authority to administer, enforce, and adopt rules and regulations regulating the storage, treatment, and disposal of solid waste.

Law
Section 17-17-1 et. seq. of the Mississippi Code, Annotated [Ref 1]

Responsible Agency
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Solid Waste Branch

2. Nonhazardous Solid Waste Management Regulations

Summary
Establishes requirements for nonhazardous solid waste – The regulations establish permit procedures and siting criteria for solid waste management facilities as well as requirements for storing, collecting, and transporting of solid wastes.

Regulation
Nonhazardous Solid Waste Management Regulations and Criteria [Ref 2]

Responsible Agency
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Solid Waste Branch

3. Medical Waste Policy

Summary
Establishes requirements for commercial medical waste facilities — The Medical Waste Fact Sheet contains information on the transporting, managing, and disposing,of medical waste based on Mississippi Solid Waste Law and the Mississippi Nonhazardous Waste Management Regulations. This fact sheet provides summary guidance to commercial facilities that operate in Mississippi to store, transfer, treat, or process infectious medical waste.

Policy
Medical Waste Fact Sheet -Medical Waste Management in Mississippi as regulated by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Solid Waste Management Branch [Ref 3]

Responsible Agency
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Solid Waste Branch

4. Adopted Standards for the Regulation of Medical Waste

Summary
Establishes regulations for health care facilities — “Adopted Standards for the Regulation of Medical Waste” was established by the Mississippi Department of Health for health care facilities licensed and operating within the state.

Establishes a definition — “Sharps” (hypodermic needles and syringes) are classified as a form of infectious medical waste.

Establishes segregation and storage requirements — The standards require infectious medical wastes to be segregated from other wastes at the point of origin, separately contained from other wastes, and stored in a protected and secure location.

Establishes packaging requirements for sharps — Sharps must be packaged in containers that are rigid, leak-proof, puncture-resistant, taped closed or securely lidded, and labeled. These sharps containers must not be compacted unless the compaction occurs in the institution itself.

Establishes treatment requirements — The standards establish treatment methods for infectious medical wastes, including incineration, sterilization by heat, or sterilization by approved chemicals.

Regulation
“Adopted Standards for the Regulation of Medical Waste” in Health Care Facilities Licensed by the Mississippi State Department of Health [Ref 4]

Responsible Agency
Mississippi State Department of Health


Bloodborne Pathogen Standards

Summary
Federal bloodborne pathogen rule applies – Mississippi 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 5]

Responsible Agency
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Regional Office (Responsible for administrative activities in Region 4)
Area Office (Responsible for OSHA compliance in Mississippi)


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 Mississippi’s Laws and Regulations on Container Collection Sites
Mississippi laws and regulations do not specifically address sharps container collection sites. According to representatives at the Solid Waste Branch of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, collection site programs that accepted sharps generated from private residences could be conducted with minimal regulation and collection sites would not be required to obtain a permit. Such programs may be required to obtain approval from local governments.

Collection site operators may also be subject to meeting bloodborne pathogen standards, depending on how the sharps containers are collected and handled.

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 Mississippi’s Laws and Regulations on Container Mailback Programs
Sharps container mailback programs are not specifically addressed by Mississippi’s laws and regulations. However, sharps container collection programs are regulated under the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) when syringes are mailed [Ref 6]. 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 6].
  • 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 Mississippi’s Laws and Regulations on Disposal in the Trash
Currently Mississippi has no laws or regulations prohibiting individuals from disposing of their used syringes in the trash.


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

The state legislature and individual communities may wish to 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 Mississippi move toward the goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or public locations.”

In addition, the Department of Envirmental Quality provides solid waste Assistance Grants to local governments. There grants can be used to support collection programs for special wastes such as household medical wastes.


Current Identified Community Syringe Disposal Programs in Mississippi Go to Top

No community syringe disposal programs were identified in Mississippi. However, that does not mean that no programs operate in the state.


Responsible Agencies in Mississippi

Links below will open in a new browser window.

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality,Link to a non-CDC site Solid Waste Branch
P.O. Box 10385
Jackson, MS 39289-0385
Contact: Mark Williams
Administrator, Solid Waste Branch
Tel: (601) 961-5171
Fax: (601) 961-5785

Mississippi Department of HealthLink to a non-CDC site
Licensure & Certification Division
P.O. Box 1700
Jackson, MS 39215
Contact: Ms. Sammy Rea
Tel: (601) 576-7400

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)Link to a non-CDC site
Regional Office
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Tel: (404) 562-2300
Fax: (404) 562-2295

Jackson Area Office
3780 I-55 North, Suite 210
Jackson, Mississippi 39211-6323
Tel: (601) 965-4606
Fax: (601) 965-4610


References

Links below will open in a new browser window.

1. Mississippi Code Title 17Link to a non-CDC site [Local Government Provisions Common to Counties and Municipalities], Chapter 17 [Solid Wastes Disposal]

2. Nonhazardous Solid Waste Management Regulations and Criteria, Mississippi Commission on Environmental QualityLink to a non-CDC site (Scroll to and click on “MDEQ Regulations”, then click on “Regulation by Title”, and then scroll to and click on “SW-2”)

3. “Adopted Standards for the Regulation of Medical Waste” in Health Care Facilities Licensed by the Mississippi State Department of HealthLink to a non-CDC site (Search for “Medical Waste” and then scroll to and click on “Medical Waste Regulations”)

4. Medical Waste Fact Sheet - Medical Waste Management in Mississippi as regulated by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Solid Waste Management BranchLink to a non-CDC site (See - Special Waste Guidance – Medical Waste Fact Sheet)

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

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

7. 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.



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