At least a dozen syringes and other medical vials washed ashore Sunday afternoon along a 2-mile stretch of Orange County coastline, prompting officials to close beaches for several hours in Corona del Mar and Newport Beach, authorities said.
A hazardous-waste specialist with the Orange County Health Care Agency said the medical flotsam appeared harmless. The items may have been thrown off a private boat, given the small numbers and lack of identifying labels, he said. Some of the syringes, which were capped and empty, bore labels marked "insulin."
"This is pretty straightforward," said Fred Gaggioli, as he examined a plastic bag with syringes gathered by firefighters from the beach. "It's nothing like last November or when we could identify it as from the military."
There is apparently no connection between the syringes found on New Year's Day and about 70 vials found in November along beaches in Orange and San Diego counties, Gaggioli said. Those wastes were later identified as antiseptics used by the military for protection in chemical-biological warfare.
A passer-by found syringes at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on Corona del Mar State and City Beach, said Battalion Chief Jerry Strong of the Newport Beach Fire Department. A single syringe was later found about 2 miles north near the Newport Beach pier.
"They were generic sort of I.V. kind of needles, the type people would use to inject insulin," Strong said.
Lifeguards were notified of the syringes and asked to clear the beaches, he said.
Another firefighter said it appeared that the needles had washed ashore the night before from a storm.
The beaches reopened shortly before sunset after a final search for any other materials and a tiller had turned over the sand, police said late Sunday.