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Syringes pose beach danger

"Photo: John Auburn checks the beach in front of his home while his son plays in the sand. Auburn said his two children found two syringes washed up on the beach in recent months.Matt Johnson/staff photoIt's spring. The flowers are blooming, the air is warm, and used syringes are turning up on area beaches and in other unexpected places.John Auburn, a Deer Lake resident, has not enjoyed the worry this spring has brought him. A few weeks ago, his 3-year-old son found a syringe on the beach in front of the family's home. He picked it up, but quickly had it taken from him by his 6-year-old sister, who knew it was not something kids should play with. She carried it from the beach and gave it to Auburn, who was both proud of his daughter and fearful for his children's safety.She knows it's a bad thing, Auburn said. That was the second time this year that a syringe has showed up on the Auburns' beach. Possibly castoffs from people using illegal drugs nearby, Auburn said the syringes are probably washing in from the public access across the lake. While those people may not think about the harm they could cause by casually tossing their used devices on the ground or in the lake, Auburn said they are a health hazard waiting to happen.My hope is they would dispose of them elsewhere, he said.Russ Linder, a detective with the Island County Sheriff's Office, said used syringes can hold small traces of human blood, which can in turn harbor diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV. Just one prick from a syringe used by a person infected with one of these diseases can ruin another person's life.You don't know what's on it, Linder said.The sheriff's office does periodically receive complaints from South Whidbey residents who come across syringes in their homes, yards, on the road, or at beaches. Calling the sheriff's office is the best course of action, Linder said. All deputies carry needle disposal kits with them and are trained to handle them safely. That is how common the problem has become.Needles have become so much of a problem that the state crime lab doesn't even take them anymore, he said.Linder recommended that citizens who find used syringes leave them where they are if possible, then report their location to the sheriff's office. If a needle is in a place where it cannot stay until a deputy arrives, Linder said it should be disposed of with caution. It is a good idea to wear rubber gloves when handling syringes, and to avoid the tip of the needle. Store a syringe in a closed container, such as a glass jar, until a deputy can pick it up.To reach the sheriff's office to report a found syringe, call 911."

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