Unsafe collection of medical waste a major threat to environment: Experts

ISLAMABAD: Unsafe collection and throwing health care medical waste at community waste site is a threat to the healthcare workers, community and the environment.

A report aired by a private news channel, the disposal of healthcare waste is not safe as it was observed that most of the healthcare waste generated by health facilities was not properly disposed off.

It also observed that healthcare waste was either dumped at community waste sites kuchra kundis’ or sold directly to the dealers of the junk “kabaris”.

Scavengers driven by extreme poverty and ignorant of risks were, involved in sorting and handling the infected materials at community: waste sites; picked up anything worth.

Resale, Syringes, infusion and blood bags were their favorite items.

Scavenger boys and sweepers of healthcare facilities sell these goods to junk dealers. It found that there is potential market of healthcare waste in recycling business.

Any person exposed to this kind of waste, can acquire infections, an environmentalist and retired professor of Department of Environmental Sciences Rahman Amir, talking to private news channel said.

He says that such unregulated dumping of medical waste not only pollutes the environment, but also contributes to the spread of certain diseases by exposing health care workers, waste handlers, patients and the community at large to toxins and infections such as hepatitis, diarrhea, food-borne illnesses and skin infections.

Besides, medical incinerators bring with them a different set of problems, said, adding, it also shown that burning medical waste can cause air pollution as incinerators emit dioxins, mercury, metals, and other pollutants including residual ash that are harmful to the environment and to public health.

Due to lack of awareness, people frequently handle the waste with bare hands, raising the likelihood of spreading communicable and environmental diseases, says Senior Environmental Specialist Dr Huma Bajwa.

She also mentioned municipal workers and waste handlers, especially, are at risk of exposure to infectious materials and of being injured by discarded needles.

“Some 20 to 25 per cent of the total waste generated by health-care establishments is regarded as hazardous and may create a variety of health and environmental risks if not managed and disposed of in an appropriate manner,” she highlighted.

Moreover, it was also revealed that government as well as privately-run hospitals and dispensaries are throwing their waste either in open places or in filth depots of local councils, she concluded.