The Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue District made a plea today to the people of the community who drop off needles at local fire stations. Dropping off doesn't mean just leaving them outside the front door, said Linda Carter, a member of the fire district.
"What we are finding is that people just leave the needles out on the pavement or near the front door and if someone is not at the fire station, it is dangerous because a child could pick them up and it could cause severe problems because the needles are hazardous," Carter said.
Carter noted that most of the needs are from diabetics who are not supposed to use lancelets and needles over and over again because it can cause serious infection. She brought the subject up at last month's board of commissioners meeting.
Martin McDowell, an EMS coordinator with Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue, shows a container that the department provides for used needles, which can be taken to one of two fire stations.
But the fire district is the place to leave the "sharps" as they are called by EMT personnel.
Carter said they should be taken to Station 101 on Joel Boulevard or to Station 102 on Homestead Rd. The hours are usually from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week.
"But don't just drop them off. Go inside the fire station and tell them you have needles to dispose of and they will take them and give you a container to store your hazardous materials to bring back the next time.
"If the door is locked or if there is a buzzer on the door and nobody answers the door, don't leave the needles. Come back another time. Personnel in the two stations could be out on an emergency or at another fire station," Carter said.
In the case of prescription or over the counter medications, Carter said to take them to the Sheriff's Office. They often schedule times to receives old pills and dangerous drugs.
Martin McDowell, an EMS coordinator with the fire district, agrees with Carter.
"It is a safety issue that we're talking about," he said. "We don't want used needles or the drugs in syringes and the insulin flex pins to come in contact with others. Someone could try to put illegal drugs into the flex pins and there is often some residue of insulin left in them. It could prove fatal to mess with them," McDowell said. This includes Lantus SoloStar flex pens and any other brand of self-contained diabetic items. Even the alcohol patches or gauzes that many use after self-injections some often with blood, can be disposed of by depositing them into the containers provided by the fire district.
There are two types of containers. One is small and can hold many needles. The other is larger and has enough room for the entire flex pin after it has been used," McDowell said.
There is no cost for the containers. If you are throwing away your needles in the trash or throwing away the flex pins and lancelets, McDowell said you should stop the practice now.
"Those things are hazardous and end up in the landfill or stuck in an employee's hands. They are bio-hazardous materials," he said.
"You can even dispose of the diabetes test strips that have blood on them by putting them in the bio-hazardous containers that we provide," McDowell said.
What the two are saying is to "drop off" such materials by giving them to personnel at the two fire stations. If nobody is there, take them with you and come back another time. You can even call the fire district and ask when someone will be there if you want to and remember to ask for a free red container provided by the fire district for hazardous removal.
McDowell said the hazardous materials are destroyed by the fire departments in a proper manner.