Tips to Tackle the Growing Challenges in Hazardous Medical Waste Management

Incorrect management of untreated health waste will contaminate drinking and groundwater in landfill sites and leak hazardous chemical compounds into the setting.

Fremont, CA: Medical waste management is a real challenge for healthcare facilities worldwide; about 10-20 percent of the facility's budget is spent on waste disposal every year. According to the WHO, approximately 85 percent of the overall volume of waste produced is non-hazardous, but the remaining 15 percent is contagious, poisonous, or radioactive. Although there are fewer issues associated with non-hazardous medical waste, the risks and complexities of hazardous medical waste disposal should be addressed with the utmost care. Incineration or open incineration of hazardous medical waste will result in the emission of harmful contaminants such as dioxins and furans.

For this cause, adopting measures to ensure the safe disposal of dangerous medical waste to deter adverse environmental or biological risks become inevitable, especially in developed countries.

Health Risks

Biologically hazardous waste can be a source of infection due to infectious microorganisms; the most vulnerable are medical patients, hospital personnel, and health professionals. However, the situation is detrimental to the general population as well. Risks include chemical burns, air emissions, radiation burns, and hazardous exposure to hazardous pharmaceutical materials and substances such as mercury or dioxins, particularly during the incineration process.

Other risks can also emerge from the improper disposal of needles and syringes; it is estimated that about 16 billion illnesses are administered per year worldwide. Unfortunately, not all needles are safely discarded, raising the danger of contamination and the chance of accidental re-use. While this risk has declined in recent years, harmful infections are still responsible for many new HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C cases.

Environmental impact

Incorrect management of untreated health waste will contaminate drinking and groundwater in landfill sites and leak hazardous chemical compounds into the setting. Deficient waste incineration will also emit toxic contaminants into the environment and contain dioxins and furans, chemicals that have been associated to cancer and other harmful health conditions. Heavy metals, if incinerated, will allow radioactive metals to disperse to the environment.

Tips to Tackle the Growing Challenges associated with Medical Waste Disposal

There is still a long way to go to ensure the safe disposal of hazardous health waste. A joint WHO/UNICEF assessment conducted in 2016 revealed that just 58 percent of the facilities surveyed in 24 countries have adequate medical waste management programs in operation.

It is essential to boost awareness and promote self-practice in the workplace. Training in infection prevention and clinical waste management is necessary to ensure a sterile, safe environment for all patients and staff. Specialized industrial cleaning can also be useful in reducing the risk of infection.

It is also essential to implement safe approaches and technology for treating hazardous medical waste instead of incineration of debris, which has already been proven to be inefficient and unsafe. Alternatives to incineration, such as microwaving or autoclaving, substantially limit the release of harmful pollutants.

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