Hypodermics on the Shore

Editors Note: We're blogging through We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.

‘Syringe Tide’ is when medical waste is dumped into the sea. Hypodermics are part of that.

Between 1987 and 1988, both New Jersey and New York were finding tons of medical waste on their shores. Many beaches closed because of the risk of people stepping on the medical waste and injuring themselves. This also discouraged tourists to come to the states, and local economies struggled with the loss.

Finally, officials found the cause of the large amounts of medical waste in Staten Island, New York. The area’s biggest landfill was not properly disposing of medical waste and some garbage. Instead, the workers at the landfill were sending it out to sae. New York City was fined one billion dollars to pay for the pollution damage and cleanup.

The syringe tide inspired a book by Barbara Ehrenreich, and a song by Skinny Puppy. Also, a Simpsons’ episode featured a beach covered with syringes, and ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ also showed two characters on a beach with medical waste.

Today, medical waste can be taken care of by the use of sharps containers. When the sharps get collected, they can be sterilized by steam or chemically disinfected. Sharps used to be incinerated, but the process let loose some noxious pollutants, and other ways had to be invented. Once the sharps have been collected and made safer to dump, they are put in landfills along a regular city solid waste.

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