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Medical waste management is a challenge for healthcare facilities all over the world; trash disposal accounts for 10-20 percent of a facility's annual budget. According to the WHO, around 85 percent of all waste generated is non-hazardous, while the remaining 15 percent is infectious, poisonous, or radioactive.
Fremont, CA: While non-hazardous medical waste poses fewer issues, the risks and challenges of hazardous medical waste management must be carefully considered, as incineration or open burning of dangerous medical waste can result in hazardous pollutants such as dioxins and furans being released into the atmosphere.
As a result, steps must be taken to ensure the proper disposal of hazardous medical waste, particularly in developing countries, to avoid harmful environmental or biological consequences.
Because of the toxic bacteria, biologically hazardous waste can be a source of illness; those most at risk are hospital patients, hospital employees, and health workers. The scenario, however, has the potential to be damaging to the broader public. Chemical burns, air pollution, radiation burns, and toxic exposure to dangerous pharmaceutical products and compounds, such as mercury or dioxins, are all possible hazards, particularly during the trash incineration process.
Inadequate disposal of untreated medical waste in landfills can contaminate drinking and groundwater and release hazardous chemical substances into the environment. Bad garbage incineration can also discharge harmful chemicals into the air and produce dioxins and furans, which have been related to cancer and other health problems. In addition, the incineration of heavy metals can result in the release of harmful metals into the environment.
The Road Ahead
There is still a long way to go before hazardous healthcare waste can be safely disposed of. Only 58 percent of studied institutions in 24 countries have suitable medical waste disposal systems, according to a joint WHO/UNICEF study done in 2015.
It is critical to develop awareness and promote self-practices in the workplace. Infection control and clinical waste management training are essential to maintain a clean, safe workplace for both patients and employees. Industrial cleaning using specialized equipment can also help to reduce the risk of infection.
It's also critical to create safe ways and technologies for treating hazardous medical waste, rather than relying on ineffective and risky medical waste incineration. For example, microwaving or autoclaving are two alternatives to cremation that considerably limit the production of dangerous pollutants.
Another critical step is to build worldwide strategies and mechanisms to improve healthcare waste segregation.