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Am J Infect Control. 2012 May;40(4):354-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2011.04.328. Epub 2011 Aug 6.

Disposal of sharps medical waste in the United States: impact of recommendations and regulations, 1987-2007.

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  • 1International Healthcare Worker Safety Center, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, USA. janeperry@virginia.edu



To gauge the impact of regulatory-driven improvements in sharps disposal practices in the United States over the last 2 decades, we analyzed percutaneous injury (PI) data from a national surveillance network from 2 periods, 1993-1994 and 2006-2007, to see whether changes in disposal-related injury patterns could be detected.


Data were derived from the EPINet Sharps Injury Surveillance Research Group, established in 1993 and coordinated by the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia. For the period 1993-1994, 69 hospitals contributed data; the combined average daily census for the 2 years was 24,495, and the total number of PIs reported was 7,854. For the period 2006-2007, 33 hospitals contributed data; the combined average daily census was 6,800, and the total number of PIs reported was 1901.


In 1992-1993, 36.8% of PIs reported were related to disposal of sharp devices. In 2006-2007, this proportion was 19.3%, a 53% decline.


This comparison provides evidence that implementation of point-of-use, puncture-resistant sharps disposal containers, combined with large-scale use of safety-engineered sharp devices, has resulted in a marked decline in sharps disposal-related injury rates in the United States. The protocol for removing and replacing full sharps disposal containers remains a critical part of disposal safety.

Copyright © 2012 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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