URBANA — Most people would probably agree that having to give yourself a shot is bad enough. But many who take injectable medications at home face an additional challenge of what to do with their used needles.
Simply tossing used needles, syringes and lancets — also called sharps — loosely into the trash is considered a hazardous practice, and public disposal sites for sharps can be hard to find.
Carle Foundation Hospital has had two public disposal bins for sharps on its main hospital campus for the past couple years, and starting this week has added eight more sites in Champaign, Urbana, Danville, Hoopeston and Watseka.
The new sites, all Carle facilities, include the South Clinic across from the hospital; the clinics at 1701 W. Curtis Road, C, and 1818 E. Windsor Road, U; the Carle Surgi-Center in Champaign; the Danville sites at 311 W. Fairchild St. and 2300 N. Vermilion St.; Carle Hoopeston Regional Health Center; and Carle at Watseka.
At the South Clinic, the disposal site will be on the first floor near the entrance. At all other Carle locations, the disposal containers will be in restrooms and behind reception desks, according to Carle Foundation Hospital Safety Specialist Mike Molloy.
The disposal sites will be open to everyone without restriction.
Some 8 million people in the United States use sharps for home medical treatments of such conditions as allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and psoriasis, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Home disposal of sharps isn't regulated, but unsafe disposal methods such as flushing needles or throwing them loosely into the trash leaves sanitation workers, kids, pets and others at risk of cuts and infection.
Presence Covenant Medical Center and Christie Clinic don't have public drop-off sites for sharps. Champaign and Urbana police both offer drop-off containers for unwanted medications, but used sharps aren't accepted there, either.
It doesn't take long for used sharps to pile up at home, according to Carle spokeswoman Jamie Mullin. A diabetic getting several home injections a day, for example, can run through more than 1,000 needles a year.
Molloy said extending drop-off sites means more sharps will be disposed of according to EPA guidelines, because Carle has a medical waste disposal company pick them up.
Another option for home disposal is mail-back services, but Molloy said he doubts most people want to pay for disposal.
Still another home disposal method — sealing sharps inside plastic milk jugs or coffee cans before tossing them into the trash — isn't entirely safe either, he contended.
These containers end up being crushed at landfills, Molloy said, and "you've got people who work at landfills."