A North Tonawanda chemical company would like to equip America's two million insulin-dependent diabetics with a safe, clean way to dispose of their needles.
The Safetec Advisory Group Inc., a division of Zambora Ltd., has introduced a new way to disinfect and dispose of needles and syringes used in the home, primarily by diabetics, said Scott A. Weinstein, president of Safetec.
"Syringes are the most dangerous way of passing on infections there is," Weinstein said. The product will be attractive to diabetics and others who use syringes at home because it provides a ready-to-use disposal system that complies with recommendations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
The product, called the Right Way Disposal System, is a packet of crystals called "Red Z," along with some labels, sealers and a plastic bag used to dispose of the needles.
The needles are placed in a large, hard container, such as a two-liter soft drink bottle, a bleach bottle or fabric softener container. Once the container is three-fourths full, about half the crystals are poured in. The bottle then is filled with water and the rest of the crystals are added. The crystals solidify and disinfect the syringes, cementing them into the bottle so they are harmless to others, Weinstein said.
The package also contains tape for the lids and a label that marks it as hazardous material.
"We are following (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) recommendations for the disposal of syringes," Weinstein said. "They say syringes should go into a hard plastic bottle that is leak proof and puncture resistant. This product also disinfects the needles," he said.
"I think the concept is great," said Mary M. Dietch, director of the Western New York Chapter of the American Diabetes Association. "It's something that needed to be addressed. I believe this is the only one that I'm familiar with for diabetics. There currently are no federal regulations with regard to waste of this nature."
Without endorsing the product, state health and environmental officials said the Right Way Disposal System can be useful. They also said existing disposal methods adequately protect people and the environment.
R.W. Groneman, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said federal and state government regulations for disposing of medical wastes such as used needles apply to hospitals and other institutions that use at least 50 pounds of needles a month. Sources that generate no more than 50 pounds, such as dentists and private doctors, also must comply with disposal regulations.
But home users are exempt from regulations and only need to follow the department's recommendations by placing the needles in a tightly sealed hard plastic or metal container and throwing it out with the household trash, Groneman said.
The Right Way product complies with recommendations, he said. Additionally, its chlorine content, which disinfects the needles, is relatively harmless to the environment in small household quantities.
However, he said, "it's just another way of rendering them harmless." Similar results can be obtained by washing the needles in bleach before sealing them in a can or hard plastic bottle, said Faith L. Schottenfeld, spokeswoman for the state Health Department.
Safetec was formed a year ago to market the Right Way System, which is Zambora's first commercial product, Weinstein said.
Red-Z, the crystals found in the Right Way System, had been made for hospital use by Zambora, a four-year-old chemical manufacturing company. The crystals are spread over blood spills and other similar substances for easy cleanup.
The marketing for the Right Way Disposal System began in Western New York in May by the Ellicott Drug Co. of Cheektowaga, Weinstein said.
The product sells for $4.79. Thirty-five cents from each kit sold goes to diabetes research, Weinstein said.
Sales of the Right Way System throughout New York and portions of Pennsylvania will start when the Fay's Drug Store chain begins selling the product in July.
The company expects to make Right Way available nationally in the fall, Weinstein said.