Beach stroller finds medical waste on shore

Debris could have washed ashore from somewhere else

A visitor to the island was recently shocked to find medical supplies, including hypodermic needles, littering Cayman’s shoreline. 

There were multiple syringes, including exposed and capped needles. While strolling the beach, the visitor also found an unopened bottle of pills and medical vials near Sand Cay at South Sound.  

“He came across a lot more needles and syringes, too, but he discarded them,” said a friend who brought some of the items to the Caymanian Compass to be photographed, since the visitor had left the island. 

According to Tania Johnson, public education officer with the Department of Environmental Health, medical waste found on the beaches is usually washed up from the seas and not necessarily left there by residents. “As far as I am aware, DEH does not get requests for removal of medical waste from the beaches, and this may just be an isolated incident,” she said.  

The Compass contacted the Health Services Authority and showed EMS Manager Stephen Duval the items that were found. 

After examining the pills, syringes, needles and vial bottle, Mr. Duval said he could not conclusively say where the items came from until further research was done. 

As for the large bottle of pills with the missing label, Mr. Duval said he was not sure what the contents were but because they were medicinal-based they could potentially be harmful, whether they were expired or not. 

“Its contents are definitely not anything dispensed to a patient because of the large amount and the type of bottle with lettering on the top,” stated Mr. Duval, adding that the Health Services Authority does not label the bottles with numbers and it was something he did not recognize.  

“…It is non-labeled and probably weathered from the elements,” he said. “There is also a needle, which is always of concern. It is capped, but nonetheless, you don’t know whether it has been used or not. It is something that I would like to see discarded appropriately in a sharp [objects] disposable bin.”  

Mr. Duval suggests that people who find anything sharp or a medical type instruments should contact DEH for proper handling and disposal of the items.  

Ms Johnson said if the items found are hazardous (needles, broken glass), the department does not advise people to collect those items due to the risk of injury and infection. 

Those reporting hazardous materials need to provide the department with the location and type of waste found, their name and a contact number so that an environmental health officer can contact them if necessary.  

Once this is done, Ms Johnson said, DEH staff will take proper precautions when removing the waste.  

Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries official John Bothwell said as far as he knows, no one in his unit has reported finding medical items. He noted that they had found plenty of sea trash washed in from other islands, which he said was picked up and discarded appropriately. 

Anyone who finds hazardous or other medical items can make a report to the Department of Environmental Health by calling 949-6696.  

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This discarded medical trash was reportedly found on the beach by a visitor to Cayman. – Photo: Jewel Levy
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