Medical waste is a growing problem both nationally and around the world and a problem that organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) have started to take actions to address. Improper handling of medical waste exposes health care workers, patients and the larger community to a host of problems such as infection and pollution.
As much as 20 percent of this waste is infectious, toxic or radioactive. This could include waste from vaccines, needles and pharmaceuticals. These products can leak out of improper waste containers contaminating ground water or waste handlers.
Incinerating, another common method of medical waste disposal, can also cause harm by releasing these pollutants into the air through ash and ash residue or fumes.
Thankfully, hospitals can take simple steps to set up the correct disposal processes to both minimize medical waste and ensure any waste produced doesn’t cause harm.
Steps hospitals and other medical institutions can take to ensure the correct disposal of medical waste include:
- Using alternatives to incineration such as autoclaves or steam treatment;
- Creating an awareness of the hazards of medical waste among the medical profession;
- Selecting safe, reliable and proven services to handle the management of medical waste;
- Creating disposal protocols and processes for the handling of all hazardous medical waste;
- And better training for medical and janitorial staff;
- Hospitals and medical centers have a core mission to heal and protect. Waste generated in these places of healing shouldn’t later cause people to fall ill or get hurt. Proper medical waste processes and services can make us all a lot healthier and safer and address a core global environmental problem.