Ways Medical Waste Can Be Harmful to Us. When medical waste is improperly handled or disposed of, the public health and environment are put at risk. We need to know what we can do to prevent this from happening. Medical waste includes discarded items from hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, dental offices, veterinary clinics, and research facilities. Here are some things you should know about medical waste.
When medical waste isn’t handled or disposed of properly, it could potentially be a threat to our public health. Certain wastes, like bodily fluid or syringes, can spread dangerous bloodborne pathogen diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. People who come in contact with the contaminated waste could then infect others as well. If you work in a setting that exposes you to bloodborne pathogens, always use the proper personal protection equipment for the task at hand and immediately dispose of medical waste at the point of generation.
If you are a home user of sharps, never discard sharps in the regular trash or leave needles laying around (inside or outside) where they could potentially injure others.
Medical waste has a negative impact on the environment because of how people handle it. It can contaminate soil and water. Also, it can be harmful to the plants and animals that depend on those plants and animals for their survival.
There is a growing concern about the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in water bodies and in drinking water. Pharmaceuticals get into the water supply via human excretion and by drugs being flushed down the toilet. You might think wastewater treatment plants would take care of the situation, but pharmaceuticals pass through water treatment.
All individuals exposed to medical waste are potentially at risk, including those within health-care establishments that generate medical waste, and those outside these sources who either handle such waste or are exposed to it as a consequence of careless management.
Around 1997 public concerns about incinerator emissions, as well as the creation of federal regulations for medical waste incinerators, caused many health care facilities to rethink their choices in medical waste treatment. Healthcare after all should not be the source of health concerns.
As stated by Health Care Without Harm, non-incineration treatment technologies are a growing and developing field. Most medical waste used to be incinerated, a practice that today should only be used when required by law, because of environmental considerations.
The burning of solid and regulated medical waste generated by health care created many problems. The medical waste incinerators of the past emitted toxic air pollutants and toxic ash residues that are the major source of dioxins in the environment.
International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of WHO, acknowledged dioxins cancer causing potential and classified it as human carcinogen. Development of waste management policies, careful waste segregation and training programs, as well as attention to materials purchased, are essential in minimizing the environmental and health impacts.
Properly segregating, storing, handling, and treating medical waste is a must. In addition to understanding the regulations, you should also know about the policies for medical waste disposal in your facility. Medical waste management companies like Healthcare Waste Management will offer free consultations to help you understand what is required in your area.
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