NEW DELHI, India — New Delhi police raided warehouses full of used syringes over the weekend after receiving a tip that small, illegal sweatshops are recycling needles for resale.
The Indian Supreme Court ordered in 1996 that all hospitals with more than 50 beds must install incinerators to dispose of sharp and infectious materials, as well as other hazardous medical waste. But police say the rules are often flouted, according to the Times of India.
Scarier still, a 10-year-old study by New Delhi-based non-profit Vatavaran found that two-thirds of the 40,000 syringes used every day in Delhi are washed, packaged and resold. More recent information is not available.
"Inputs suggest that small illegal units have come up across southwest Delhi where used syringes are washed and repacked,'' the Times quoted a police source as saying, though "it is too early to comment on the modus operandi.''
It's not the first time the black market in used syringes has come to the attention of police. In 2009, police busted the alleged head of a ring dealing in recycled needles after an epidemic of hepatitis B claimed 48 lives in western India.
Along with deadly diseases like hep B, approximately 2.4 million people are living with HIV in India, according to the India HIV/AIDS Alliance. India’s epidemic is concentrated in high-risk groups, where HIV prevalence is about 15-30 times higher than in the general population.
In that context, the possibility of recycled needles making their way into the supply at local clinics and dispensaries is particularly disturbing — as it would increase the risk of the disease spreading among ordinary patients.
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