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Syringe drop-off program used to cut costs?

February 22, 2010 12:19:08 AM PST
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's syringe drop-off program has been suspiciously successful, and officials said on Monday, medical professionals may be using the boxes as a way to save money.There are three boxes in front of 20 Sheriff's stations - one for prescription medications, another for illegal drugs and a third for other materials, including syringes. The third box is clearly labeled "not for commercial use."

L.A. County Sheriff's Sgt. Ken Davidson said he never knows what he'll find when he opens up one of the converted mailboxes. Usually, it's dozens of syringes dropped off by citizens as part of a program to promote safe disposal of drugs and medical waste.

The five-month-old program has been very successful.

"Over 1,200 pounds of prescription medications have been turned in, and then we go to the syringes, the needles, sharps, as they're called, 32,000 and counting," said Steve Whitmore of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

However, the medical industry may be taking advantage of the program, dumping their waste at Sheriff's stations instead of paying for their own disposal service.

The Sheriff's Department said it is not going to go after companies dropping off their waste, but officials want them to stop.

"This is not for commercial use. These are for residents," Whitmore said.

Some of the waste includes exposed needles, so narcotics officers will be using a grabber device starting this week to protect themselves when they collect the syringes for disposal.

"When you're disposing of your needles, cap them, make sure they're properly self-contained. We've had about four deputies, so far, that have been accidentally poked," Whitmore said. He said the deputies are OK.