Drug cri­sis cre­ates pol­lu­tion threat

‘It’s rain­ing nee­dles’

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LOWELL, Mas­sachusetts, July 17, (AP): 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 blood­borne 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

but couldn’t. For­tu­nately help was close by. Some search and res­cue team mem­bers were al­ready near the swim­ming hole af­ter get­ting a call to help some­one who had suf­fered a bad al­ler­gic re­ac­tion, ac­cord­ing to De­tec­tive Sgt. David Hor­nung of the Gila County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment. 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, 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

When they ar­rived at the scene, “they heard some­one scream­ing for help and saw a man cling­ing to a rock,” said Hor­nung, who added that the man was safely res­cued. “Then they heard other peo­ple call­ing for help.” (AP) 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.

Among the old­est track­ing pro­grams is in Santa Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia, where 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 got­ten re­ports of 12 peo­ple get­ting stuck, half of them chil­dren. “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 US 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 hos­pi­tal in New York.

Mayor de­mands an­swers:

The mayor of Min­neapo­lis de­manded an­swers on Sun­day af­ter an Aus­tralian woman was shot and killed by a po­lice of­fi­cer in the city, hav­ing ap­par­ently re­ported a dis­tur­bance out­side her home.

Jus­tine Da­mond, from Syd­ney, died on Satur­day night. Po­lice said an of­fi­cer fa­tally shot a woman af­ter re­spond­ing to a 911 call re­ceived at around 11:30 pm.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said she was “heart­sick and deeply dis­turbed” by the shoot­ing, which was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

Hodges said the body cam­eras Min­neapo­lis po­lice are equipped with did not record the in­ci­dent, and that the state Bureau of Crim­i­nal Ap­pre­hen­sion (BCA) had said no dash­board cam­era footage was avail­able ei­ther. “I have a lot of ques­tions — ques­tions like why the body cam­eras weren’t on,” the mayor told a news con­fer­ence on Sun­day night. Da­mond, also known as Jus­tine Ruszczyk, had taken the name of her Amer­i­can fi­ance Don. US and Aus­tralian me­dia gave her age as 40.

In footage of a state­ment given to me­dia in Syd­ney, fam­ily friend Julie Reed said the cou­ple had been due to marry.

Her step­son, Zach Da­mond, told the Min­neapo­lis Star Tri­bune she had called po­lice be­cause she heard a sound in the al­ley out­side her house.

“Ba­si­cally, my mom’s dead be­cause a po­lice of­fi­cer shot her for rea­sons I don’t know,” the news­pa­per quoted him as say­ing. “I de­mand an­swers.” (RTRS)

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