Issues

Used Drug Needles Causing Pollution Problems

heroin
A jug of used needles / AP

The country's opioid epidemic is posing pollution problems due to used needles.

The escalation of littered syringes across the United States is threatening children and others who risk being poked by the needles that can carry disease or remnants of drugs, the Associated Press reports.

The syringes, which are often discarded by drug users without being capped, can carry HIV, hepatitis, and other blood borne diseases.

Children have been stepping on discarded needles on beaches and playgrounds. One six-year-old girl in California had put a used needle in her mouth after she thought it was a thermometer; she tested negative for hepatitis B and C.

Needles are being found anywhere, from baseball dugouts to nature walks. The Clean River Project on the Merrimack River in Lowell, Mass. has collected needles floating down the river. The group's leader, Rocky Morrison, has put the hundreds of collected needles into a fishbowl to provide an example of how syringes are polluting the river.

"We started seeing it last year here and there," Morrison said. "But now, it's just raining needles everywhere we go."

Officials in Portland, Maine have already collected 700 needles this year, and expect to surpass the 900 needles found in the whole year of 2016. In San Francisco, more than 13,000 needles were collected in March alone, almost five times the amount found in March of last year, when 2,900 syringes were collected.