Legislators Take Action

Congress Addresses Medical Sharps

In California alone more than 355 million home-generated medical sharps are discarded annually, posing serious health risks to children, sanitation workers, and the general public. In 2008, recognizing the costs and dangers of used needles in the municipal waste stream (MSW), California passed the nation's first laws restricting sharps disposal in household trash and recycling. Soon other states followed suit, and in June 2010 Massachussets became the first state to make knowingly allowing used sharps to enter the MSW a criminal offense.

Recognizing that unfunded mandates have little chance of success, initiatives are afoot in the U.S. Congress to secure funding for safe sharps disposal nationwide. In June 2009, bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that propose federal funding for safe disposal of sharps containers, used needle destruction devices and mail-back sharps programs through the Medicare Part D bill.

The Medicare Safe Needle Disposal Coverage Act 2010 would secure funding for safe sharps disposal through an amendment to Section 2, effective January 1, 2010:

(d) IN GENERAL.-Section 1860D-2(e)(1)(B) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395w-102(e)(1)(B)) is amended by inserting after ''regulations of the Secretary'' the following: ''and including devices approved for home use by the Food and Drug Administration for the safe and effective removal, through a a sharps container, decontamination and disposal of needles, a sharps-by-mail or similar program''.

This bill has the support of various organizations advocating safe sharps disposal, including various diabetes support organizations and the Project Stewardship Institute. Currently, many communities are exploring the development of Medicare reimbursement plans for implementing the community-based medical sharps kiosk disposal solution.