The disposal of veterinary sharps is a complex but somewhat overlooked matter.
Sharps generated by veterinary staff are rather straightforward and all vets should have access to sharps boxes and a licensed contractor for disposal. But that is not the end of the story, as so many more sharps are used with little done to ensure safe disposal.
Stockmen and farmers administer vaccine products and a range of pharmaceuticals to animal herds and flocks without the direct involvement of a vet and disposal then becomes something of a hit and miss affair.
Does it matter? After all, the risk of Hep B and HIV is non-existent and that is taken by some as the end of the matter. But live vaccine products and other pharmaceuticals can cause severe and complex problems for susceptible individuals in addition to straightforward septic wounds. Moreover, the inappropriate disposal of these used sharps can create alarm and distress to those who come across them, and with a risk of needlestick or sharps injury it is not impossible to imagine that this may set in motion the preventative post-exposure management of potential HIV exposure since it will be impossible to identify the needle source.
And a question yesterday, from a concerned cat owner, adds to the level of concern. Referred by her vet to seek advice on disposal, the lady was accumulating used syringes and needles from daily insulin injections she was giving to her moggy. The vet tells me that he has about 10 cats and dogs receiving insulin; nationwide this must be a substantial amount of sharps. The obvious solution was to obtain a sharps bin from the vet and return it there for disposal. The only problem was concern about the cost.