What is the risk?

While we understand there is fear around syringes found in public, it is important to avoid hysteria and look at the evidence:

There has never been an HIV transmission reported via a community found syringe accidental needle stick (CFSASN). -Journal of Public Health 2013

The risk of Hepatitis B and C transmission from a CFSANS is “practically negligible.”  -British Medical Journal 2015

“Needlestick injuries in non-healthcare settings are uncommon and the risk from any needlestick resulting in chronic disease is very small.” -Commission on Health and Safety and Workers Compensation 2015

The real public health risk comes when people who inject drugs don’t have access to sterile syringes. Lack of access to sterile supplies is directly linked to tens of thousands of HIV and HCV cases, caused the worst HIV outbreak in history in 2015, and is the cause of our national Hepatitis C epidemic. Syringe service programs like ours help to decrease HIV and HCV transmission by over 70%.

What do I do if I find a syringe?

Do not
  • Force needles or sharps into container
  • Put fingers inside the container
  • Bend, break, recap or remove the needle leave the needle unattended. If you must leave to get disposal supplies, ask another person to keep watch to avoid an accidental stick


  • Stay calm
  • Make sure that you can clearly see and move around the needle
  • Bring your sharps container or alternative to the needle, not the other way around

Take Action

1. Put on gloves
2. Place the container on the ground beside the syringe
3. Pick up the syringe by the middle of the barrel using tongs or gloved hands, whichever provides the most control
4. Place the syringe into the sharps container sharp end first
5. Secure the lid of the sharps container
6. Remove gloves and wash your hands

AS A LAST RESORT you can dispose of the used syringes/sharps in a heavy duty plastic bottle such as a laundry detergent bottle and tape the lid shut. (Do not use coffee cans – they are not puncture resistant) On the outside of the bottle, where it can be easily seen, write “WARNING: SYRINGES – DO NOT RECYCLE” on the outside and then place in the household trash.”