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Medical waste danger to recycling plant employees

January 11, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

Valley Environmental Service issued a Valleywide special alert this week regarding medical waste contamination.

According to VES, the waste-collection company has been experiencing a significant contamination problem in its El Centro processing facility.

The company has faced problems with its curbside recycling program in that some residents have continued to place household waste and other non-recyclable items in their recycle bins.

Recently, the company has seen medical waste placed in the recycling containers, which has caused some concern.

"Medical waste such as needles, syringes, lancets and other sharp objects cannot be processed at our facility," said Bob Douthitt, VES El Centro plant manager.

Douthitt said his plant encountered more than 200 needles over the past weekend.

Douthitt said many residents who use hypodermic needles in their homes aren't placing them in the proper VES containers.

"People need to treat this as a real hazardous material," said Douthitt. "Any medical waste should be placed in the black containers."


To prevent incidents with medical waste, Douthitt suggested residents pack medical waste securely into a container marked "not recyclable" and then place it in the VES black container.

According to Douthitt, residents aren't aware of the danger such objects create for VES employees.

"A few employees have been poked by used needles that were enclosed in an unsecured container," Douthitt said.

The company said that the affected employees must have regular blood tests over the next year because of possible exposure to HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases.

Douthitt assured that the employees, so far, are in good health.

As a safety precaution, employees at the processing facility now wear two sets of gloves.

Staff Writer Anthony Longoria can be contacted at 337-3452.

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