Needle and syringe finds raise questions in Fort Smith

Last modified: August 15, 2018 at 9:34am

Two people claim to have found needles and syringes discarded on Fort Smith’s Calder Avenue.

Shari Murphy McArthur shared on Facebook her discovery of a syringe while walking to work on August 8, while Laura Hunter posted her daughter had found a needle the day prior.

“She knew not to touch it,” Hunter said of her nine-year-old. “It’s very scary and it’s the first time we have seen or heard of any needles laying around Smith.”


A spokesperson for Fort Smith RCMP said they “have not received any reports of needles/syringes found or request for assistance.” Unless a needle was being used in a threatening manner, RCMP said, the issue is a public health matter outside of their jurisdiction.

Lisa Giovanetto, spokesperson for the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA), said authority staff in Fort Smith had “not encountered or been informed of concerns with needles and syringes found in the general community area.”

If people come into contact with a needle, said Giovanetto, they should immediately wash the injury with soap and water and go to their community health centre for assessment.

Safe disposal

According to Giovanetto, needle stick injuries can be tracked if patients enter the healthcare system and if the injury is formally coded as such.

“These injuries are not notifiable and are quite rare,” she said in an email, meaning people are not required by law to report them to the health authority.


“Should adults come across needles in public places, they should immediately report it to their municipality or local government for safe removal,” Giovanetto continued, adding children should be warned to stay away from needles and tell an adult if they find one.

If no one from the municipality is available to respond, the department suggests wearing gloves and using tongs, a shovel, or a broom and dustpan to discard the needle into a two-litre pop bottle.

The bottle should be taped shut, labelled “sharps, do not recycle,” and dropped off for safe disposal at a local healthcare centre.

Following Cabin Radio’s questions regarding drug paraphernalia disposal protocol, Giovanetto said: “NTHSSA Fort Smith will be reviewing protocols for management of syringes to assist in limiting the risk to the community from improper disposal of syringes.”


Correction: August 15 2018, 9:34 MT. An earlier version of this article said Lisa Giovanetto represented the Department of Health and Social Services. She is, in fact, a spokesperson for the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.