A worker uses a hemostat tool to pick up a needle, containing blood, from a site cleanup in Greater Victoria. B.C. Hazmat Management/Facebook

A worker uses a hemostat tool to pick up a needle, containing blood, from a site cleanup in Greater Victoria. B.C. Hazmat Management/Facebook

Needles far more prolific than public realizes, says Island biohazard company

Local company makes one to two calls per week to clean up needles, drug paraphernalia

Discarded needles in Greater Victoria are far more common than the general public might realize, says the spokesperson of a local biohazard company.

John Espley, the marketing and communications officer for B.C. Hazmat Management, says his company makes about one or two calls per week to remove needles and other suspected drug paraphernalia from businesses, parks and residential areas on the South Island.

Espley was one of many local businesses to speak up in response to Wednesday’s press conference about needle pricks by the Island Health’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick.

“A month ago we found 200 used needles in one garbage can, and the paraphernalia that goes with it,” Espley said. “I don’t want to scare the wits out of everyone, I just want them to be aware, and be careful.”

While B.C. Hazmat Mangement is often confused with being a provincial agency, it is not. However, they are the only provincially accredited company on Vancouver Island to deal with land-based spills. Dealing with sharps, needles and discarded drug paraphrenalia is a growing part of their business. They also train companies, such as hotel staff, to deal with handling the materials.

A recent call by a property management company led to a search of the immediate area behind a building where needles were spotted.

“What’s common for us is we then find other needles, we know where to look,” Espley said. “And it’s not that uncommon to find needles with blood in the syringe.”

Besides the obvious risk of being pricked by a needle is the risk of fentanyl exposure.

“We read about the emergency crews who have overdosed on the residue,” Espley said. “Anyone who isn’t trained to clean up [needles suspected of drug use] is putting themselves in the way of danger. A dust or liquid can be on the outside of the needle or syringe, you don’t need to be pricked.”

When working biohazard tasks the staff of Sidney-based B.C. Hazmat Management use medical hemostat pliers.

“We wear sharps gloves but still don’t pick up the needle,” said Espley, who is trained in everything the company does.

“Fentanyl and carfentanil, these don’t just risk your own life they risk other people’s lives, you have to be careful. Sometimes needles can be quite hidden, whether it’s on purpose or accident, we have learned to search thoroughly and, it’s not uncommon [to find them in a dangerous place] where someone would have easily been poked.”

What to do if pricked by a needed? Allow the wound to bleed freely, quickly wash the area with soap and warm water, do not squeeze or bleach the injured area and call the Island Health communicable disease program at 1-866-665-6626. Visit the emergency ward within two hours for treatment and followup.

reporter@saanichnews.com