There is growing concern over the safety of parks and schoolyards after four children were taken to hospital in the span of a week after picking up discarded syringes they found.
One of those incidents occurred at Jesse Ketchum Early Learning & Child Care Centre near Bay Street and Davenport Road. The parents of a three year old boy say their son accidentally put a discarded syringe he found on the playground in his mouth, thinking it may have been a thermometer.
The child’s parents say he was rushed to Sick Kids hospital where they are awaiting the results of blood work.
“I’m praying to God it’s negative but it’s just very stressful going through this whole situation,” the child’s father tells CityNews. “Kids can pick up anything off the floor and if there’s syringes in schools or playgrounds, it’s really scary,”
Meanwhile, police said three other school children were sent for medical attention after they picked up discarded syringes found near St. Vincent de Paul catholic elementary school in the area of Roncesvalles Avenue and Dundas Street West.
They say the students might have pricked themselves, potentially exposing them to diseases.
In a statement to CityNews, the Toronto Catholic District School Board reiterated that the safety and security of students and staff is a top priority.
“Every year staff review with our students some important reminders for personal safety. A letter with safety tips was sent home with the group of children involved,” said the board.
“The school is sending home letters to parents notifying them of the incident and also taking this as an opportunity to remind all our students about school yard safety, including always immediately reporting suspicious behaviour or harmful items to a trusted adult.”
The board adds custodial staff conduct a daily inspection of the school grounds for discarded needles/syringes.
“The school caretaker makes every effort to patrol and clean up the school yard each morning and will continue to do so. Staff will continue to emphasize with students the importance of reporting any concerns to a trusted adult, and to refrain from handling any objects they may find either on or off school property.”
Toronto police say while they haven’t noticed an increase in the incidents of syringes found near schools or playgrounds, this is an opportunity for parents to educate their children.
“It’s very concerning for us,” said Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook. “It’s an opportunity to remind everyone to have that conversation with their children. Discuss it with them. Don’t touch it. Notify an adult immediately.”
Last week, police reported finding discarded syringes in public spaces in Pembroke, Ont.
Authorities say people finding sharps should not try to put the cap back on the needle, and should not bend of break any part of the sharp. They also suggest wearing gloves and using some kind of tongs to pick them up.
For storage, they recommend using a hard plastic container, such as an empty peanut butter jar, sealing it and then calling for pickup.