Used syringes: Over 30 found in swamp

Students at Kranji cleanup find syringes with needles attached in single largest haul
Kimberly Spykerman & Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 3 Jun 11;

STUDENT volunteers on a coastal cleanup of a Kranji mangrove swamp on May 24 found litter more sinister than the usual plastic bottles and food packaging - more than 30 used syringes, with needles still attached.

The National Parks Board (NParks) could not confirm whether the syringes were found clustered together or scattered across the area, but said this was the biggest number of syringes found in a single cleanup session.

NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah said it is usual to find a syringe or two in each cleanup, but small items such as food and drink packaging or large items like refrigerators are more typically part of the haul.

When contacted, the Singapore American School (SAS), whose students made the find, declined comment. It would say only that its students are briefed on the precautions to take on such cleanups and are under constant adult supervision.

It is understood the students did not touch the syringes, but had alerted an NParks duty officer.

Mr N. Sivasothi, coordinator of International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS), which has worked with SAS on such trips to the mangroves for the past 20 years, suggested that the syringes could have been washed up, rather than the result of a gathering of drug abusers in the swamp.

'The probability of recreational drug users going to the mangroves is very low. At night, it's very dark, and that part of the Singapore shoreline is not very hospitable,' said Mr Sivasothi, a researcher at the National University of Singapore whose area of interest is mangroves.

The ICCS, which organises coastal cleanups, finds between 30 and 150 syringes a year, most of them on the shores of what are known as 'recreational' beaches, such as East Coast Park and Changi, he added.

NParks said its officer-on-site during cleanups requires all volunteers to put on the rubber boots and gloves provided before each exercise.

Doctors The Straits Times spoke to said the possibility of infection is high if one is pierced with an infected needle.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital senior consultant Christopher Willis said: 'The most practical way to deal with this is to look around for an empty plastic bottle with a cap, then carefully deposit the needles into the bottle and close the cap.

'If you happen to be near a hospital or clinic, you can deliver the bottle to health-care staff, who will dispose of it.'

It is also safe to deposit the bottle in a rubbish bin, he added.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) advises members of the public not to handle syringes or needles that they suspect to have been used for drug abuse. The police should be alerted, it said.

Drug abusers here do not commonly 'shoot up' their fixes, but anyone caught with syringes intended for abusing drugs faces up to three years' jail or a $10,000 fine, or both.

The CNB said: 'We would like to warn the public that intravenous abuse of drugs can lead to potential medical complications such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, HIV infection and limb gangrene.'

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