People living with diabetes often need to monitor their blood sugar at home to stay healthy. Additionally, many people (7 million in the U.S.) with diabetes use insulin. Self-monitoring of blood sugar and insulin require pricking the skin with needles and lancets. These small sharp objects should be thrown away safely in special trash cans for medical waste. When they are put in the regular trash, people may be poked by them, posing a health risk. The number of used needles thrown away unsafely in household garbage nearly tripled from 2001 to 2011. When thrown away unsafely, needles can also be dangerous for waste industry workers. For example, people who sort recycled items may come in contact with needles and also blood that can carry disease. A recent report estimated that 1,484 needlestick injuries occur every year at recycling centers. These injuries result in $2.25 million in costs for treatment. Further, needles and lancets should only be used once, but in a recent survey of people with diabetes, researchers found that half reused a lancet two or more times, and 21% reused an insulin needle two or more times. One-third of patients unsafely threw away these sharp items. Unsafe disposal is a public health hazard. While it is important to teach patients how to safely throw away sharp items, a broader public health campaign to reach more people may be needed.


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