One of the causes for the increase in infectious diseases is improper waste management. Blood, body fluids and body secretions which are constituents of bio-medical waste harbour most of the viruses, bacteria and parasites that cause infection.
This passes via a number of human contacts, all of whom are potential ‘recipients’ of the infection. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and hepatitis viruses spearhead an extensive list of infections and diseases documented to have spread through bio-medical waste. Tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhoea, tetanus, whooping cough etc. are other common diseases spread due to improper waste management.
Occupational health hazards
The health hazards due to improper waste management can affect
- The occupants in institutions and spread in the vicinity of the institutions
- People happened to be in contact with the institution like laundry workers, nurses, emergency medical personnel, and refuse workers.
- Risks of infections outside hospital for waste handlers, scavengers and (eventually) the general public
- Risks associated with hazardous chemicals, drugs, being handled by persons handling wastes at all levels
- Injuries from sharps and exposure to harmful chemical waste and radioactive waste also cause health hazards to employees.
Hazards to the general public
The general public’s health can also be adversely affected by bio-medical waste.
- Improper practices such as dumping of bio-medical waste in municipal dustbins, open spaces, water bodies etc. leads to the spread of diseases.
- Emissions from incinerators and open burning also lead to exposure to harmful gases which can cause cancer and respiratory diseases.
- Exposure to radioactive waste in the waste stream can also cause serious health hazards.
- An often-ignored area is the increase of in-home healthcare activities. An increase in the number of diabetics who inject themselves with insulin, home nurses taking care of terminally ill patients etc. all generate bio-medical waste, which can cause health hazards.
Hazards to animals and birds
- Plastic waste can choke animals, which scavenge on open dumps.
- Injuries from sharps are common feature affecting animals.
- Harmful chemicals such as dioxins and furans can cause serious health hazards to animals and birds.
- Heavy metals can even affect the reproductive health of the animals
- Change in microbial ecology, spread of antibiotic resistance.
What you can do?
- Use only disposable syringes. After use throw the syringes after breaking them.
- Bandages, cotton and other blood stained materials should not be thrown with general garbage.
- Use black plastic bags to dispose biomedical wastes.
- Keep trash out of reach of small children and infants.
- Diapers, Sanitary napkins etc. should also be disposed separately.
- Drugs that are past date of expiry must never be used.
Dos and Don’ts
- That the used product is mutilated.
- That the used product is treated prior to disposal.
- That the used product is segregated.
- Reuse plastic equipment.
- Mix plastic equipment with other wastes.
- Burn plastic waste.
Source : CPR Environmental Education Centre, Chennai
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