This year’s spring snow melt brought 41 volunteers together on April 12 for Needle Safe Saskatoon’s (NSS) annual spring clean-up event. The volunteers recovered 338 needles in the community.

Needle Safe Saskatoon is a joint partnership between Saskatoon Health Region, City of Saskatoon, Saskatoon Fire Department, and a number of other community partners. Since 1999, its vision has been to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with improperly discarded needles found in the Saskatoon community, provide options for safe disposal, and increase knowledge about needle safety and safe needle disposal.

Captain Safety and Cathy Johnson, AIDS Saskatoon,

Captain Safety and Cathy Johnson of AIDS Saskatoon teach safe needle disposal to the participants who volunteered at this year’s annual spring clean-up event.

Last year, the overall number of needles found in the community decreased, while the number of needles collected from safe needle drop boxes increased. Drop boxes are located throughout the city at fire stations, Saskatoon Health Region sites and community centres.

Loose needles (not in a container) found outdoors or in a public location are considered high-risk due to the possibility of a needle-stick injury. In the past five years, these high-risk needles have represented about 50 per cent of all needles collected from the community. The majority of needles are recovered from prisons/jails/apprehensions (32.5 per cent); alleys/parking lots (18 per cent); front streets (12 per cent); yards/parking lots (26 per cent); parks (three per cent); and school yards (less than one per cent).

“When some people find loose needles, like at the bus stop or on the sidewalk near their house, they’re frightened but they shouldn’t be,” says Dr. Johnmark Opondo, Deputy Medical Health Officer with Saskatoon Health Region. “There is risk of trauma – and children definitely shouldn’t pick up needles – but an adult can safely pick up a needle from the blunt end, put it in an airtight container and dispose of it. But if you feel unsure, there are a number of options available, including an intake number to call.”

The number for the Needle Safety and Disposal Information Line is 306-655-4444. Saskatoon Fire Department can also be reached at 306-975-3030 if a needle is found on public property.

Adults can safely dispose of needles by following these steps:

  • Put on garden, work or medical gloves.
  • Use tweezers, pliers or tongs to pick up the needle by the end that is not the sharp end. Keep away from body. Do not recap the needle.
  • Place the needle, sharp end first, into a container (e.g., liquid laundry detergent). Mark container as “Used Needles.” NOTE: If you do not have these clean-up items, call 306-655-4664.
  • Fill the container no more than ¾ full.
  • Put the container lid on tight.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Store the container in a safe place until you can dispose of it in a needle drop box in your community. Call 306-655-4444 for needle drop locations. Do not place needles in city garbage or recycling bins.
  • Call Saskatoon Fire Department at 306-975-3030 if you have found a needle on public property and cannot follow the steps for safe pick up and disposal.

Needle Safety Clean-up Kits are also available upon request. The kits include a Needle Safety at Work video, one pair of metal tongs, two biohazard storage containers, 20 pairs of disposable vinyl gloves and one complete set of instructions.

For more information on how to dispose of needles safely, access a needle clean-up kit or obtain a complete list of drop box locations in Saskatoon, call 306-655-4444.Needle-Recovery-2015-Infographic-140416