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Why Proper Medical Waste Disposal Matters

Why Proper Medical Waste Disposal Matters

The sheer volume of the current six million tons of hazardous medical waste should make everyone pause. While this amount may be staggering, it’s anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause a drastic increase in this waste. If left unchecked or even without complying with strict guidelines for medical waste disposal, the damage that could be done to people, animals, and the environment could quickly spiral out of control. The critical requirements for medical waste disposal address medical waste types, proper training and procedures, containers, and documentation. There are local, state, and federal laws established for every step of dealing with, treating, and final disposal so that the medical waste is no longer infectious and dangerous.

Medical Waste Facts

According to the World Health Organization:

Protecting Healthcare Providers, Staff, Patients

Medical waste can occur in any location or organization that is involved with human or animal tissues, body parts and fluid, and microorganisms. It’s important to have a set strategy of training combined with proper containers for each type of waste to avoid exposure. Containers should be sturdy, leak-proof, puncture-proof, and color-coded for each type of medical waste. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires staff training to protect employees and patients from spreading infection. Each organization should have an emergency contingency plan in place in case of biohazardous accidents.

Community and Environment

Containment and proper disposal of medical waste requires strict compliance with guidelines and laws on every level. There are local, state, and federal laws designed to address the specifics for every type of hazardous medical waste so that infectious and dangerous diseases, viruses and contagious agents don’t infiltrate into the community through standard waste disposal and landfills. A lot of biohazardous waste doesn’t break down quickly and can easily spread if not rendered harmless. When medical waste is improperly disposed of it can leach into the land and then the water system, causing devastation to animals, the ecosystem and the overall environment.  In locations where trash is burned outside of an approved incinerator, some hazardous waste can turn into toxic gasses that enter the atmosphere. These can include but are not limited to mercury, lead, cadmium, and acidic gases. Once the pollution of poisons from medical waste become prevalent they destroy the delicate balance and can lead to the destruction of wildlife and human life.

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