While a bill to reduce sharps-caused injuries wasn’t passed this year, its presence did stimulate action on the issue at the state level.
Rite Aid and sharps manufacturing company Becton, Dickinson and Co. worked with the Department of Environmental Protection to launch a public education campaign in September.
At the campaign launch, the manufacturing company’s director, Karl Schumann, said the company is committed to helping patients dispose of sharps in a way that will minimize the risk of injuries. He cited surveys that show patients “often are unaware of or lack access to a convenient means” to dispose of needles properly.
At the launch, department Commissioner Patricia Aho said the department receives dozens of calls each month from consumers who want to know how to dispose of their needles safely.
“While the callers’ circumstances are different — from an elderly man needing daily insulin injections to a young couple overcoming infertility through hormone shots — their care and concern for doing the right thing is consistent,” Aho said.
Throughout the course of the campaign, the department will distribute 40,000 brochures and 3,000 needle clipping devices to Mainers using sharps through pharmacies, grocery stores and community groups.
The campaign is targeted at the 95 percent of sharps users who don’t take any significant precautions before tossing their needles into the trash.
It encourages Mainers to put sharps into laundry detergent bottles and to take advantage of the needle clipping devices. The devices, which are also manufactured by the company, retail for about $6 and hold up to 1,500 needle tips.
Experts said that the laundry bottle solution is an improvement over doing nothing.
“That’s the best we’ve got,” said state Rep. Melissa Walsh Innes, D-Yarmouth, who sponsored legislation related to the issue.
But she said it doesn’t completely eliminate the danger.
“The whole thing just blows open in a compactor,” Innes said.
Still, if consumers follow the advice of the campaign, the number of needles threatening public safety would be dramatically reduced.
The program uses Rite Aid stores throughout the state as a place to distribute information to sharps users. The devices can be requested through the department at www.maine.gov/dep/sharps.