The other day I was at my friend Kagen’s house and my pump stopped working.
A few minutes after I bolused for lunch I saw a wet spot under my shirt, smelled it, and realized I was leaking insulin. (Sidenote: Is it me, or is insulin the most distinct smell in the world? Nothing else smells like it.) It wasn’t a huge deal–I generally have a replacement set on me at all times, so I went into the bathroom and changed. When I was done, I threw the needle into the toilet.
“What are you doing?” Kagen asked me. “Some fish is gonna get that caught in their throat.”
I shrugged. ” Do you have a sharps container?”
She shook her head no.
“A used coffee can or something?”
She shook her head again.
“Down she goes.” I flushed.
We went on eating lunch, but I spent time thinking about that for a while afterwords. At my apartment I have a sharps container, but anywhere else my needles get flushed down the toilet. Before that moment, I never took the time to think if there could be a problem in doing that. The needle has to wind up somewhere, right? Where? And how many other PWD’s do the same thing?
I talked about the cost of diabetes on this blog before–the turmoil this disease can reek on your health, and the billions of dollars that go into a bloated system of medication and treatment. But I’ve never thought of the possible environmental impact of the disease. Consider all the needles, test strips, lancets you can go through on a daily basis. If you’re a pump user, the infusion sets that you go through every three days. I refill my insulin cartrage using a plastic, disposable device every three days. Diabetics go through a tremendous amount of plastics each year in keeping up with their disease, and on top of that the needles we rely on for treatment are incredibly hard to get disposed of any way else. In 10 years, I’ve probably sent hundreds of needles down the toilet, and it’s foolish to believe that they won’t wind up anywhere harmful.
There haven’t been many studies done on the environmental cost of living with diabetes, but when you consider the amount of materials that go into the upkeep of millions of people, I imagine the numbers would be staggering.
The fallout of diabetes is mult-faceted and difficult to comprehend, both in health, money, and our effect on the world around us. More treatments are not the answer, and placing on our hope on the possiblity of an ideal cure that could take another century to create is also useless. The answer is a Practical Cure.
Until Next Time