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#57 Medical Waste

#57 Medical Waste

Are you aware that medical facilities produce over 5.9 million tons of medical waste per year? Or that 15% of all medical waste is considered hazardous waste? Medical care facilities are important resources for our communities, but what can be done to reduce the amount of waste they are currently producing? Let’s learn more about medical biohazardous waste.    

Medical Madness:

Biohazardous waste is any waste that contains infectious materials or potentially infectious substances such as blood. Of particular concern are sharp objects such as scalpel blades, needles, glass pipettes, or any other waste material that may cause an injury during handling. In order to accurately diagnose patients, doctors must sometimes use radioactive material that must be disposed of properly to prevent contamination. There are many forms of medical waste, each requiring a different method of disposal. Numerous protocols are in place to process medical waste, but they do not fully prevent contamination of our soil, air, and water.  

Medical Waste Facts:

  • Every year, an estimated 16 billion injections are administered worldwide – but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterwards.
  • Open burning and incineration of health care wastes can, under some circumstances, result in the emission of dioxins, furans, and particulate matter.
  • Health care waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms that can infect hospital patients, health workers and the general public. 
  • The disposal of untreated health care wastes in landfills can lead to the contamination of drinking, surface and ground waters if those landfills are not properly constructed.
  • The treatment of health care wastes with chemical disinfectants release harmful chemical substances into the environment.
Medical Waste Container

How can I make an impact:

Action 1: Global Goodness

  • When you are going to the doctor, be mindful of the tools they are using. Do we need a bunch of paper towels to hold an instrument, or the paper on the seat if you are clothed and not excreting fluids? Ask what ways you can cut down on the consumption for your visit.  
  • Look up your local hospitals and medical facilities and ask if they have waste management protocols in place. Are they recycling? Do they have the right bins for separating different materials?

Action 2: Planet Protector

  • All of Action 1
  • Lobby the hospitals to find cleaner ways of disposal. For instance knowing that incineration causing air pollution, what alternatives exist.  
  • Share this information with friends and family. Education is key.

Action 3: Earth Angel

  • All of Action 1 & 2
  • State governments regulate medical waste. Ask for a push for more eco-friendly alternatives and an increase in regulating the disposal of hazardous waste.  
  • Education is the key. Are you skeptical of climate change? Well if so, I challenge you to be an educated skeptic. Go to https://static.berkeleyearth.org/pdf/skeptics-guide-to-climate-change.pdf to learn more about the facts about the health of our planet.

Facts References: 

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/health-care-waste
https://www.epa.gov/rcra/medical-waste
https://www.epa.gov/rcra/medical-waste#who%20regulates%20medical%20waste

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