It’s somewhat ironic that the tools we use to save lives can become so dangerous, but that’s the reality of biohazardous medical waste management. 

Medical waste disposal has become one of the biggest day to day challenges encountered by administration and healthcare workers. It is often complicated by the concern of health professionals, policymakers and other stakeholders like HIPAA, epidemiology, plus state and local regulation. The need for effective handling of medical waste during the process of administering medical services is of paramount importance for the well-being of the workers and the patients, as well as the stability of the global environment.

What Exactly Is Medical Waste?

Medical waste can be defined as waste materials which are created or generated during operational processes at healthcare facilities, like hospitals, clinics, dental practices, veterinary clinics and blood banks, as well as medical research laboratories and facilities. 

Other terms used to refer to this include healthcare waste,  biohazardous waste, biomedical waste, clinical waste and infectious medical waste. Whatever you call it, it’s all referring to the same potentially hazardous materials. 

Risks Associated With The Poor Handling Of Medical Waste

As the world’s population continues to increase and age, the need for medical care services will continue to rise. Thus, the requirement to figure out the best way to manage the subsequent medical waste will continue to rise as well. In addition to worrying about the safety of staff and patients, as also need to ensure waste is managed in an environmentally friendly way. 

According to WHO statistics, at least 16 billion injections are administered annually around the world, most of which are not properly disposed of. There are varying effects of improper waste disposal on communities, depending on what was being disposed of and the mode of disposal. 

Some are affected by deep percolation of contaminated water into the groundwater table, which also finds its way to the larger bodies of water like lake shore or beaches being used by the people. This can occur from things like used and dirty syringes washing ashore, or through pathogens like a bacteria and virus. This can cause diseases like cholera or other water-transmitted infections. 

For example, in some developing countries, some healthcare centers dispose of their medical waste alongside with non-medical waste, which is then burned together in an incinerator. It may seem like progress to be burning the waste, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  This burning exposes the environment to carbon dioxide and other poisonous toxins that could be harmful to the environment. As well, respiratory infections are also common consequences of being close when these chemicals release into the atmosphere. 

The waste material which finds its way to landfill locations and garbage dumps also tends to expose the environment to health issues. If coupled with the risk posed by medical waste, the health impact is massive. Moreover, if there are no properly constructed landfills, the waste can end up contaminating drinking-water sources as a result of leaking toxins. It is extremely difficult, costly and time-consuming to stop and fix this once it starts.

In tackling this growing problem, experts recommend three main strategies which should be applied simultaneously. 

The first involves the health workers making sure to effectively minimize their medical waste which will, in turn, reduce the need for disposal. 

Secondly, the efforts of health professionals, policy-makers, and other relevant stakeholders have to be focused on creating awareness of proper medical waste disposal techniques and training, in addition to understanding the danger it poses to the environment if not done correctly.

Lastly, the same health stakeholders should select safe and environmentally friendly methods of medical waste management, to ensure that people who are directly involved with the medical equipment and waste management are properly protected and not exposed to any unnecessary risk.

Learn more about OSHA Compliance, Medical Waste management and services and more, by getting in touch with Enviromerica today.  We can ensure that you receive the best advice for optimizing your healthcare practice.

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