Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jan 2006
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 The London Free Press
Author: John Miner


London's Central Library has installed a new feature to go along with
books, magazines and movies -- needle disposal bins in the public washrooms.

"We know the reality is that drugs are present in our society. The
last thing you want is a needle left on the floor and someone picking
it up," Anne Becker, chief executive officer of the London Public
Library, said yesterday.

The library installed the yellow disposal bins in all the washrooms in
the Central Library in Galleria London in December. The washrooms are
used by the public, including children.

The disposal bins are designed so that children cannot get a hand
inside and be accidentally injured, Becker said.

The decision to put in the disposal containers, which are mounted at
chest height in wheelchair accessible stalls, followed incidents in
which used needles were found on the floor, in sanitary napkin
disposals and toilets.

"We have to be proactive and protect the safety of our staff and the
public," Becker said.

In a visit to the library yesterday, a Free Press photographer and
reporter found needles in several bins, including one two-thirds full
with the lid partially open.

One man waited outside the washroom with a syringe and needle cupped
in his hand.

The bins are inspected daily by library security staff to ensure they
haven't been damaged and the containers are emptied if more than one
needle is found, said Becker. If a needle and syringe are found on the
library floor, security staff are called to remove it, she added.

By installing the disposal bins, the library isn't encouraging or
condoning drug use there, she said.

"We are just trying to protect people," Becker said.

The health risks for someone whose skin is punctured by a used needle
include contracting blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C and
AIDS, said Cathy Egan, Middlesex-London Health Unit's manager of
infectious disease control.

If people are finding needles in places such as public washrooms, the
health unit would recommend the disposal containers be installed, Egan

The health unit doesn't see the installation as encouraging drug use,
she said.

"Especially if you are finding the used needles in the washrooms, the
drug use is already occurring. This is a way of mitigating risk," Egan

London police regularly receive complaints from people finding used
needles, said Const. Amanda Pfeffer.

"Needle disposal is a major problem, especially in the downtown core,"
she said.

"For sanitation reasons and public safety reasons, any time an
institution decides to install one (a disposal bin), we are encouraged
that everyone is doing what they can," Pfeffer said.

Jim Watkin, an outreach worker for the AIDS Committee of London,
applauded the library's decision.

"I think it's great," he said.

Although people associate needles with drug use, there are
individuals, such as diabetics, who regularly use needles and need a
safe place to dispose them, Watkin said.

"Appropriate disposal is necessary for all types of syringes and that
sort of thing," he said.

The Central Library is the only library branch to run into a needle
disposal problem, Becker said. If another branch has the same
experience, containers could be installed there as well, she said.

The public library has been concentrating on improving safety at
branches, Becker said.

"I think our staff and security are on top of these issues. We are a
public space and we have millions of people that go through our public
libraries a year . . . we want to continue to be open to all."
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