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July 11, 2014

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Fears over 1m syringes a day in city rubbish

MORE than 1 million syringes are used by Shanghai residents every day at home yet these hazardous items are simply discarded with domestic waste, experts said yesterday.

Used syringes and needles can harbor diseases including HIV/AIDs and provide breeding grounds for harmful insects, they warn.

This situation has also led to an illegal used-syringe trade, with plastic particles recycled to make toys and other goods.

Shanghai’s medical authorities should set up convenient collection points, said Shi Lili, an official with the state-owned Sinopharm Group, China’s biggest pharmaceutical company, and a political adviser.

Syringes could then be sent for incineration with medical waste from hospitals, Shi said in her proposal to the city government.

Most of the syringes and needles are used by Shanghai’s 1.8 million diabetics, of whom 30 percent need insulin injections at least twice a day, Shi said.

This means that more than a million syringes are disposed of daily, she added.

These can contain blood infected with diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS, so should be treated with special measures, said Shi.

A city resident, surnamed Zhang, who injects insulin twice a day, says he has no option but to wrap the syringes and dump them with other rubbish.

This poses a risk to anyone involved in processing rubbish, said Zhu Renyi, director of sterilization and infection control with the Shanghai Center for Disease Control.

“Used needles and syringes can spread germs through the respiratory system and broken skin if discarded with other waste,” said Zhu.

The quantity of bacteria found on these is hundreds of times that found in ordinary waste, added Zhu.

Shi said that blood on them attracts disease-carrying mosquitoes and flies.

And despite regulations prohibiting trade in medical waste, an illegal trade exists.

“Some criminals illegally recycle harmful medical waste, including syringes,” said Zhu.

This creates safety issues in transporting and processing these hazardous materials.

A rubbish collector at a waste disposal station in Hongkou District admitted selling used syringes for 2 yuan (30 US cents) per kilogram.

The collector said they went to factories where the plastic particles were recycled and made into toys and tools.

Shanghai’s rubbish is supposed to be divided by householders into four categories — wet, dry, recyclable and dangerous waste.

Dangerous waste includes battery, medicines, and florescent tubes and light bulbs.

However, used syringes are too hazardous to be included in that category, an official with the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

The official said sanitation staff do separate medical waste, sending it to a specialized company to process.

The public can take syringes to community medical service centers, but officials admit that few make use of the service.


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