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The consequences of blue lights in public washrooms

March 19, 2019

Blue lights are sometimes installed in publicly-accessible washrooms to discourage injecting drug use but have several unintended consequences.

Recommendation

Fraser Health recommends against placing blue lights in publicly-accessible
washrooms.

Blue lights are unlikely to deter injecting drug use and may increase associated
harms including blood borne virus transmission, injecting related injury and
disease, and overdose. They may also reduce health and safety among the broader
community.


Discussion

  • Blue lights are unlikely to prevent injecting drug use in publicly-accessible
    washrooms. While the lights reduce vein visibility, evidence indicates people
    will attempt to inject under blue lights when they feel confident in their
    injecting ability and where there are no suitable alternatives.
  • Blue lights increase risks associated with injecting drug use. They promote
    unsafe practices such as deep vein injecting, which can be done without
    visual identification of the vein. People attempting to inject under blue lights
    may accidently inject into an artery or into surrounding tissue. They may
    have trouble measuring and monitoring the amount they are injecting,
    thereby increasing overdose risk. Poor visibility increases the risk of blood
    borne virus transmission as it is harder to see and clean up any blood or
    bodily fluids.
  • The installation of blue lights in publicly-accessible washrooms may lead to
    increased drug use in public places including nearby stairwells, alleys and
    parks. This affects perceptions of public safety, and compounds the shame
    experienced by many people who inject drugs.
  • Blue lights compromise health and safety for all washroom users as they
    reduce visibility, increase risk of trips and falls, make it harder to see and
    clean up hazardous waste, and prevent community members from carrying
    out basic personal hygiene, such as identifying changes in eye or skin tone,
    or the presence of blood or discoloration in bodily fluids.

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