Large amounts of needles found in campus restrooms

Students have reported seeing large quantities of needles in the sharps-disposal bins in Portland State restrooms. 

Students have reported seeing large quantities of needles in the sharps-disposal bins in Portland State restrooms.  

The sharps-disposal containers were installed about 10 years ago, and have continued to be added to bathrooms as campus buildings are renovated, according to Director of Communication and University Relations Scott Gallagher. There are approximately 250 sharps containers located in 10 different university buildings, including Smith Memorial Student Union, Cramer Hall, Neuberger Hall and both Science Buildings. There are no containers in any campus residence halls. 

Gallagher said that prior to the installation of the sharps containers, Environmental Health Services (EHS) was often called to retrieve needles left lying on the floors and counters of campus bathrooms. A main reason that the containers were installed was to ensure the safety of those using or cleaning the restrooms.

“The containers promote the safety of students, staff and visitors on campus,” Gallagher said.  

However, in a women’s restroom in SMSU, one of the sharps disposal containers is beyond the “full” indicator line, and the flap to prohibit people from continuing to put needles in the bin is gone.

Gallagher said that the Aramark cleaning staff is responsible for notifying EHS when they notice that a container is damaged or full, and that there is no existing protocol for how frequently the containers need to be emptied or serviced. Any student or staff member that notices a full or damaged container can contact Facilities and Planning, which will submit a work order to EHS. 

“The containers provide a safe location for disposal of needles used by diabetics and others who use injectable medications,” Gallagher said. 

There are many legitimate medical purposes for which a needle is used, perhaps explaining the large volume found in restrooms. According to a registered nurse at the Student Health and Counseling Center, needles can be used to administer diabetic insulin, blood thinners, medication for the treatment of chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, as well as hormone replacement therapy for those students in the process of a sex transition. Needles can also be a method for using illicit drugs and steroids. 

Campus Public Safety Office’s annual crime log documented 29 drug or narcotics cases within the university district in 2010, a fairly low prevalence given the large student population of PSU.

Although the majority of the offenses were for the use or possession of marijuana, the second-most prevalent illegal drug used on campus was heroin, with 11 documented cases. According to, heroin can be taken in by injecting a vein with a needle.

In 2010, on-campus heroin offenders were most often apprehended in SMSU or Cramer Hall. ?