The Syringe Tide was an environmental disaster during 1987-88 in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York where significant amounts of medical waste, including hypodermic syringes, and raw garbage washed up onto beaches on the Jersey Shore, in New York City, and on Long Island. This forced the closing of beaches on the Atlantic coast. Officials scrambled to identify the source of the material as some local economies struggled with diminished tourism.
Syringe Tide Wikipedia
Reports of medical waste and sewage spills drove away hundreds of thousands of vacationers, costing the $7.7-billion-a-year tourism industry on the Jersey Shore more than $1 billion in lost revenue that summer, tourism officials say. Later the losses were tallied between 15 and 40% of typical tourism revenue. It was a source of even greater turmoil due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.
It is thought that the Syringe Tide was the specific incident cited in Billy Joel's 1989 hit single "We Didn't Start the Fire" by the line "Hypodermics on the shores." It was also the basis for Barbara Ehrenreich’s The Great Syringe Tide.
In The Simpsons episode "The Old Man and the 'C' Student", when punishing the students Principal Skinner sends Milhouse to the beach to "pick up all this medical waste that's washed up on the shore." Milhouse accidentally pricks himself on a syringe, and Skinner replies "Well, just keep working. You'll prick yourself with the antidote sooner or later."
The 1988 Skinny Puppy song "Hospital Waste" was written about the incident.
In the episode "The Gang visits the Jersey Shore" from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Frank and Mac are on a beach covered in needles but blame it on New Jersey being the steroid capital of the world.