If you don’t work in the healthcare industry, you’re likely not going to work every day with the concern of being exposed to potentially infectious materials. In the United States, there are over 18 million healthcare workers – and 80% of those people are women.
These citizens are exposed to dangers through the course of their work such as exposure to chemicals, drugs, and sharp injuries. In addition, they deal with other risks such as back injuries and stress from shift work and long hours.
The highest threat level in dealing with potentially hazardous medical waste is at the point of generation. This is why protecting the healthcare workers is a top priority, because they are the ones who face the highest risk. Healthcare workers can be exposed to things like HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, MRSA, and Tuberculosis.
Unfortunately though, the risk doesn’t end there. Although it tapers down after the initial generation, there continues to be a huge risk throughout storage, transportation, and disposal.
There are nearly 16 billion injections administered globally each year, and many of those are not disposed of properly. When this happens, the risk is passed on from the healthcare workers, to the patients, to the community, and the environment.
When medical facilities do not dispose of their medical waste properly, everyone is at risk. But one component of this is often overlooked – and that’s the environment.
When medical facilities neglect to dispose of their biohazardous waste properly, they are causing long-term and large-scale damage to the environment and entire planet.
There are many different reasons why this continues to happen. Sometimes, medical facilities will think they’re managing everything properly, but will later find out that the medical waste management service they hired wasn’t disposing of their waste the right way. Even when this happens, the medical facility is still at fault. It’s very important that you perform your due diligence when relying on a business to handle this for you, as it’s still your ultimate responsibility.
Risks of exposure to medical waste for the environment
When untreated biohazardous waste makes it way into our landfills and communities, everyone is at risk. The negative effects of infections spreading are far bigger than most of us can even imagine.
- If infectious medical waste makes its way to national parks, lakes, or wildlife habitats, we could see entire species wiped out due to infection.
- If prescription drugs and medications wind up in lakes or natural habitats, birds and fish are at risk. The animals are attracted to bright-colored pills, and could be poisoned.
- Medical waste that hasn’t been properly neutralized can easily contaminate groundwater. Landfills are designed to keep waste in, but there’s always a risk for it to seep out. If the waste is infectious, all animals and humans that drink or bathe in that water are at risk.
- If medical waste is not incinerated properly, some contaminants can become airborne through the incineration process. If the pollutants carry disease, any person or animal who breathes them in will be affected.
Whether it’s for the staff, the patients, or the environment, keeping our planet safe from potentially hazardous medical waste is the responsibility of everyone. Make sure you’ve selected the right partner to help you manage this!