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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

For Consumers

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Safe disposal of needles and other medical sharps

FDA launched a new website, Needles and Other Sharps (Safe Disposal Outside of Health Care Settings), for patients and caregivers on the safe disposal of needles and other so-called “sharps” that are used at home, at work and while traveling.

Patients with HBV or HCV may receive injectable medications such as interferon or may use different injectable drugs for other medical reasons.

The website is intended to help people understand the public health risks created by improperly disposing of used sharps and how users should safely dispose of them.

Sharps is a term for medical devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut the skin. Such medical devices include hypodermic needles and syringes used to administer medication, such as Fuzeon; lancets or fingerstick devices to collect blood for testing, etc.

After being used, many sharps end up in home and public trash cans or flushed down toilets. This kind of improper disposal puts people, such as sanitation workers, sewage treatment workers, janitors, housekeepers, family members and children at risk for needle stick injuries or infection with viruses such as Hepatitis B and C and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

For the safe disposal of needles and other sharps used outside of the health care setting, the FDA recommends the following:

DO:

  • Immediately place used sharps in an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container to reduce the risk of needle-sticks, cuts or punctures from loose sharps. (A list of products and companies with FDA-cleared sharps disposal containers is available on the FDA website. Although the products on the list have received FDA clearance, all products may not be currently available on the market.)
  • If an FDA-cleared container is not available, some associations and community guidelines recommend using a heavy-duty plastic household container as an alternative. The container should be leak-resistant, remain upright during use and have a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid, such as a plastic laundry detergent container.
  • Keep sharps and sharps disposal containers out of reach of children and pets.
  • Call your local trash or public health department in your phone book to find out about sharps disposal programs in your area.
  • Follow your community guidelines for getting rid of your sharps disposal container.

DO NOT:

  • Throw loose sharps into the trash
  • Flush sharps down the toilet.
  • Put sharps in a recycling bin; they are not recyclable.
  • Try to remove, bend, break or recap sharps used by another person.
  • Attempt to remove a needle without a needle clipper device.

For additional information please see:
Improperly Discarded ‘Sharps’ Can Be Dangerous – Consumer Update

Richard Klein
Office of Special Health Issues
Food and Drug Administration

Kimberly Struble
Division of Antiviral Drug Products
Food and Drug Administration