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California: Santa Cruz OKs Needle Disposal Boxes

May 22, 2002

Santa Cruz, Calif., has decided to install needle disposal boxes in a dozen public restrooms to promote safety after several city employees were pricked by dirty needles. On May 14, the City Council voted unanimously to install the padlocked steel boxes at popular sites such as the beach and wharf areas. The syringes will be picked up by workers from the Santa Cruz Needle Exchange, then sterilized and destroyed at a licensed facility.

Santa Cruz is among only a handful of places nationwide that rely on bathroom boxes to protect workers from getting pricked. Rhode Island has a state program; several Nevada casinos use them; and they are installed at airports in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and San Jose.

Opponents argue the needle boxes will send a bad message to visitors and families. "Would it make you comfortable to send your kid into a public bathroom at the beach? This is about making the city comfortable for drug addicts, not about making a clean and healthy city," said John Robinson, spokesperson for the Seaside Co., which owns the popular Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Supporters say the drop boxes will not be used only by addicts. Syringes also are used for a variety of prescribed medications, including insulin for diabetes. Some vitamins also are injected. Seven city employees have been stuck by improperly disposed needles since 1997, but the city said no infections occurred as a result.


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Adapted from:
Associated Press

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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