“It’s raining needles”: Drug crisis creates danger to public, environment

Activist Rocky Morrison, founder of the “Clean River Project” in Lowell, Massachusetts, holds up a fish bowl filled with used hypodermic needles found in 2016. Morrison leads a clean-up effort along the Merrimack River, which winds through Lowell.


They hide in weeds along hiking trails and in playground grass. They wash into rivers and float downstream to land on beaches. They pepper baseball dugouts, sidewalks and streets. Syringes left by drug users amid the heroin crisis are turning up everywhere.

In Portland, Maine, officials have collected more than 700 needles so far this year, putting them on track to handily exceed the nearly 900 gathered in all of 2016. In March alone, San Francisco collected more than 13,000 syringes, compared with only about 2,900 the same month in 2016.

People, often children, risk getting stuck by discarded needles, raising the prospect they could contract blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis or HIV or be exposed to remnants of heroin or other drugs.

It’s unclear whether anyone has gotten sick, but the reports of children finding the needles can be sickening in their own right. One 6-year-old girl in California mistook a discarded syringe for a thermometer and put it in her mouth; she was unharmed.

“I just want more awareness that this is happening,” said Nancy Holmes, whose 11-year-old daughter stepped on a needle in Santa Cruz, California, while swimming. “You would hear stories about finding needles at the beach or being poked at the beach. But you think that it wouldn’t happen to you. Sure enough.”

They are a growing problem in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, two states that have seen many overdose deaths in recent years.

“We would certainly characterize this as a health hazard,” said Tim Soucy, health director in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, which collected 570 needles in 2016, the first year it began tracking the problem. It has found 247 needles so far this year.

Needles turn up in places like parks, baseball diamonds, trails and beaches – isolated spots where drug users can gather and attract little attention, and often the same spots used by the public for recreation. The needles are tossed out of carelessness or the fear of being prosecuted for possessing them.

One child was poked by a needle left on the grounds of a Utah elementary school. Another youngster stepped on one while playing on a beach in New Hampshire.

Even if adults or children don’t get sick, they still must endure an unsettling battery of tests to make sure they didn’t catch anything. The girl who put a syringe in her mouth was not poked but had to be tested for hepatitis B and C, her mother said.

Some community advocates are trying to sweep up the pollution.

Rocky Morrison leads a cleanup effort along the Merrimack River, which winds through the old milling city of Lowell, Massachusetts, and has recovered hundreds of needles in abandoned homeless camps that dot the banks, as well as in piles of debris that collect in floating booms he recently started setting.

He has a collection of several hundred needles in a fishbowl, a prop he uses to illustrate that the problem is real and that towns must do more to combat it.

“We started seeing it last year here and there. But now, it’s just raining needles everywhere we go,” said Morrison, a burly, tattooed construction worker whose Clean River Project has six boats working parts of the 117-mile (188-kilometer) river.

In Santa Cruz, California, the community group Take Back Santa Cruz has reported finding more than 14,500 needles in the county over the past 4 1/2 years. It says it has received reports of 12 people getting stuck, half of them children.

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“It’s become pretty commonplace to find them. We call it a rite of passage for a child to find their first needle,” said Gabrielle Korte, a member of the group’s needle team. “It’s very depressing. It’s infuriating. It’s just gross.”

Some experts say the problem will ease only when more users get treatment and more funding is directed to treatment programs.

Others are counting on needle exchange programs, now present in more than 30 states, or the creation of safe spaces to shoot up – already introduced in Canada and proposed by U.S. state and city officials from New York to Seattle.

Studies have found that needle exchange programs can reduce pollution, said Don Des Jarlais, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York.

But Morrison and Korte complain poor supervision at needle exchanges will simply put more syringes in the hands of people who may not dispose of them properly.

After complaints of discarded needles, Santa Cruz County took over its exchange from a nonprofit in 2013 and implemented changes. It did away with mobile exchanges and stopped allowing drug users to get needles without turning in an equal number of used ones, said Jason Hoppin, a spokesman for the Santa Cruz County.

Along the Merrimack, nearly three dozen riverfront towns are debating how to stem the flow of needles. Two regional planning commissions are drafting a request for proposals for a cleanup plan. They hope to have it ready by the end of July.

“We are all trying to get a grip on the problem,” said Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini. “The stuff comes from somewhere. If we can work together to stop it at the source, I am all for it.”

Here’s what to do if you find a needle:

  • Don’t pick it up. You could get infected.
  • Call the proper authorities to come pick it up. Call a drug hotline or your local health department. Don’t call 911 unless there is a health risk, imminent danger, or an emergency.
  • If you opt to discard of it yourself (which is not advised), minimize hand contact. Use sturdy gloves, disposable tongs, a shovel or dustpan, and put needles in a puncture-proof container.
  • If you get poked, don’t suck the wound. Go immediately to your doctor, emergency room, or urgent care and ask about medical tests and immunizations.
  • Tell your kids about needle stick risks. Show them what a syringe looks like and use age-appropriate language to describe why they should stay away from it. Tell them if they see any needles to find an adult, who should follow the steps described above.



too much folate in pregnant women increases danger for autism, examine suggests

ladies who plan on turning into pregnant are informed they need sufficient of the nutrient folate to make sureright neurodevelopment in their babies, however new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg faculty of Public fitness suggests there can be critical risks in having far an excessive amount of of the equalnutrient.

The researchers determined that if a brand new mom has a totally high stage of folate proper after givingbirthmore than four times what’s taken into consideration adequate — the threat that her toddler willexpand an autism spectrum sickness doubles. Very excessive vitamin B12 stages in new moms are alsopotentially harmful, tripling the hazard that her offspring will increase an autism spectrum ailment. If eachranges are extraordinarily high, the threat that a infant develops the disorder will increase 17.6 instances. Folate, a B vitamin, is determined certainly in fruits and vegetables, at the same time as the syntheticversion, folic acid, is used to support cereals and breads in the united states and in diet dietary supplements.

The findings can be presented may additionally 13 at the 2016 worldwide meeting for Autism studies in Baltimore.

adequate supplementation is shielding: that’s nonetheless the story with folic acid,” says one of the have a look at‘s senior authors M. Daniele Fallin, PhD, director of the Bloomberg college‘s Wendy Klag middle for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. “we’ve lengthy regarded that a folate deficiency in pregnant moms isunfavourable to her infant‘s improvement. however what this tells us is that immoderate quantities may additionally purpose damage. We ought to goal for greatest stages of this crucial nutrient.”

Folate is important in cellular growth and promotes neurodevelopmental increase. Deficiencies early inpregnancy were connected to beginning defects and to an elevated danger of growing an autism spectrumsickness. And no matter this push to ensure women get good enough folate, a few ladies still don’t getenough or their bodies are not properly absorbing it, main to deficiencies. The facilities for sickness manageand Prevention says that one in four ladies of reproductive age within the U.S. have insufficient folate levels.tiers aren’t robotically monitored in the course of being pregnant.

Autism spectrum ailment is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by way of social impairment,bizarre conversation and repetitive or unusual conduct. One in sixty eight kids in the U.S. have thesickness, with boys five instances much more likely than women to have it. The reasons remain unclearhowever studies shows the factors are a combination of genes and the environment.

For the take a look at, researchers analyzed records from 1,391 momchild pairs inside the Bostonbeginning Cohort, a predominantly low-income minority populace.

The mothers were recruited on the time in their child‘s start between 1998 and 2013 and accompanied fornumerous years, with the mother‘s blood folate levels checked as soon as inside the first one to three days of shipping. The researchers determined that one in 10 of the women had what is taken into considerationan extra amount of folate (more than fifty nine nanomoles per liter) and six percent had an extra amount ofvitamin B12 (more than six hundred picomoles consistent with liter).

the sector health employer says that between 13.5 and 45.3 nanomoles consistent with liter is an good enough quantity of folate for a woman in her first trimester of pregnancy. in contrast to with folate, there are not wellestablished thresholds for adequate vitamin B12 tiers.

A big majority of the mothers in the observe stated having taken multivitamins — which might encompass folic acid and nutrition B12 — at some point of pregnancy. however the researchers say they do not knowprecisely why a number of the girls had such excessive tiers of their blood. it could be that they ate up too many folic acid-fortified ingredients or took too many supplements. Or, they say, it can be that a few ladiesare genetically predisposed to absorbing more portions of folate or metabolizing it slower, main to the excess. Or it is able to be a mixture of the two.

more research is wanted, the scientists say, so one can decide just how a whole lot folic acid a girl must eatin the course of being pregnant to have the first-rate hazard that she can have optimum blood folate stagesto ensure her offspring’s fitness.

With many styles of nutrition dietary supplements, the traditional know-how has been that too much isn’t always dangerous, that the body will flush out the extra. That might not be the case with folic acid and dietB12.

“This research indicates that this can be the case of an excessive amount of of a very good aspect,” sayshave a look at lead writer Ramkripa Raghavan, MPH, MSc, a DrPH candidate within the branch ofpopulation, family and Reproductive health at the Bloomberg college. “We inform girls to make sure to get folate early in being pregnant. What we need to parent out now could be whether there ought to be extra tipsabout simply what an premier dose is for the duration of pregnancy.”