LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Needle disposal is a public health and safety issue. The City of La Crosse has taken and is continuing to take steps to eliminate sharps on the city’s streets and neighborhoods.
There are currently two sharps disposal containers downtown. One of the disposals is at the boat ramp behind Hardee’s at 1311 Rose Street; the other is at the alley of Doerflinger Walk. Since these sharps disposals have been successful, as the staff at the health department said, they are going to place four more around town by spring 2020.
Before the sharps disposal containers, the City of La Crosse Fire Department was mainly called out to pick up needles. In 2017, the department received 247 calls for needle pick up. Bob Ritger, the Regional Coordinator for the Western Wisconsin Health Care Readiness Coalition, said that same year is when the two sharps disposables were placed, and that they helped reduced calls to the fire department, the calls dropped down to 28 percent.
“Any loose needle is a dangerous needle no matter where it comes from,” said Ritger.
Ritger said the majority of the items found in the sharps disposals are from home use.
Laura Runchery, the Prevention Specialist for the AIDS Resource Center of La Crosse, said there is a significant risk to needles lying around.
“Needles have a point, they have a sharp edge so that could cause puncture wounds leading to bacterial infections, then we have also the biohazard component of it where there could be blood or other bodily fluids on or around the syringe,” said Runchery.
Runchery said another concern with loose needles is the potential spread of other viruses like HIV and forms of hepatitis.
Each sharps disposal holds a 30-gallon container inside. Between 2017-2018, there have been 1626 pounds of needles collected.
“What’s scariest to think you know of all all the sharps containers that we are seeing with household use, where those were going previous of these boxes and people using them,” said Ritger.
So far in April of 2019, 200 pounds of sharps have been collected.
“For every needle that’s in there is for one that is not out on the street,” said Ritger.
The FDA states that needles should never be thrown in the trash, flushed or put in a recycle bin. To get a complete list of do’s and don’ts about needle disposal, view this form: FDA: safe disposal of needles