Pubdate: Tue, 06 Apr 2004
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2004 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Jana G. Pruden
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)


Dirty needles are popping up in yards, alleys and dumpsters around the 
city, and the fire department is warning the public to steer clear.

"This is definitely a public safety risk," said fire department 
spokesperson Angela Prawzick.

This year, firefighters have been called to pick up needles 133 times -- 
most of which happened in the last two weeks.

Dirty hypodermic needles, which are often used for intravenous drug use, 
can spread fatal diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV to someone who is stuck 

Last year, firefighters received more than 400 calls about dirty needles 
found in Regina, showing a dramatic increase in calls in the past few 
years. In 2000, the department received just over 100 calls.

"One response doesn't mean just one needle, sometimes it's a dozen, a 
couple of dozen, even 50 or 60 needles," Prawzick says.

About two-thirds of the needles are found in North Central, the Core Area 
and Al Ritchie, though the numbers in those areas are levelling off while 
they continue to rise in other areas of the city, including on the east end 
of Victoria Avenue and in Rochdale Boulevard.

"There is not one area of the city where needles are not being found," 
Prawzick says.

Lori Foster, public affairs consultant for the Regina Qu'Appelle Health 
District, said used needles are a concern, but that people seem to be 
getting the message.

"Obviously people are being careful if the fire department is getting a lot 
of calls," she said, adding there have been no recent cases of members of 
the public being poked accidentally with a discarded needle.

The safe disposal of needles is part of the mandate of the health 
district's needle exchange program, which works with the fire department 
and city on the issue, she said.

Firefighters will collect needles found in any public area, but won't go 
inside a private home to get them. Crews have gotten special training and 
use a piece of equipment to pick up the needles, which are then put into 
biohazard containers for safe disposal.

Prawzick says the department is especially concerned that young children 
know what a needle is, what dangers it can pose, and what to do if they 
find one -- which is tell an adult to call 9-1-1.

Needles have been included as part of a new neighborhood safety walk for 
kindergarten and pre-kindergarten children. For more information about the 
proper disposal of dirty needles call the Street Project at 766-7799.
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