When Cathy Lewis dug her hands into a wall planter outside Twisted Scissor Lounge one morning earlier this month, the last thing she expected to find buried among the petunias was a syringe.
“It kind of freaked me out because I went to pull the plants out and just kind of missed it,” she said. “I didn’t even think about it because I always just stick my hands in soil – it’s just what you do.”
The owner of the business at the corner of First Avenue and Kitchener Street last re-potted the flower planter in May and it’s impossible to know for sure when the syringe was left behind because it would have been hidden.
“That’s what kind of worries me because there is little planters at everybody’s business here and there,” she said.
Not wanting anyone else to go through a similar experience, Lewis immediately alerted her staff and made a call to the town to let the public works personnel know about what she’d found.
An average of about two to three syringes are found in Ladysmith parks each year.
Parks, Recreation and Culture director Clayton Postings said staff are trained to know what to do if they come across one.
“It’s not something we get a lot of but our (parks and facilities) staff are all trained on how to dispose of, and handle sharpies, and within all of their trucks carry sharpie disposal containers.”
The town’s summer day camp staff also do an inspection of the site around the park and playground when out with children.
In Duncan, discarded syringes are such a growing concern that a review of policies and procedures was done prior to the BC Summer Games this past summer.
Needles were being found in the vicinity of the sport venues and organizers wanted to ensure best practices were in place to limit the exposure to athletes, coaches, officials and spectators.
Ladysmith also reviewed its own policies at that time and found them to be up-to-date with the lower risk level that exists here.
“We did a quick review with our staff and determined we didn’t need to change any of our policies,” Postings said. “They did down there (in Duncan) because of the volume but we didn’t.”
According to a document put out by the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s in the summer of 2017 called the Barefoot in the Park: Safe Needle Disposal Toolkit, “most people will not get sick by picking up or by being poked by a used needle. When viruses in needles are exposed to the open air, viruses usually die.”
Risks do include Tetanus or Staphylococcus Aureus infection, but there is negligible risk of Hepatitis B or C and a “very unlikely” risk of contracting HIV because of the air exposure.
In the case of the needle found outside Twisted Scissor Lounge, Lewis also wasn’t sure who to call and where to possibly take the dirty needle.
Luckily, Ladysmith Animal Hospital next door was able to assist with the resources they have available on site.
“I think it’s good for everybody just to be a little more aware that it can be laying around,” Lewis said. “Pets and kids and parks … I think we all just have to be more physically aware of this stuff.”
Postings also encourages people finding needles to call the town so they can document the information and continue discussions with RCMP around the issue.
“If someone needed one disposed we’d certainly make arrangements to do that,” he said.
Needle disposal kits are available at the Frank Jameson Community Centre and syringes can also be disposed of at the Peerless Road Recycling Depot as well as most pharmacies.
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