The Importance of Proper Biomedical Waste Disposal on the Environment
Hazardous waste, whether it is from chemical processes, medical facilities, or industrial production, has a deleterious effect on both human health and the health of diverse ecosystems. Appropriate biomedical waste disposal not only helps to ensure the safety of hospital staff and patients, but also the community and the environment as a whole.
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On average, we generate approximately 0.5 kgs of hospital waste per bed, per day in the developed world (underdeveloped regions are believed to generate 0.2 kg per bed per day). While much of this waste is general (non-risk), the rest can be classified as biomedical waste, sharps waste, cytotoxic waste, pharmaceutical waste, and hazardous chemical waste. Understanding each stream and its environmental impact is crucial to ensuring biomedical waste is treated sustainably.
Biohazardous biomedical waste, improperly handled and discarded, can compromise the quality of life of every living thing in the environment. It can contaminate the water supply, poison wildlife, and threaten the health of people living in communities in proximity to the medical refuse. The effects can be insidious and sometimes take years to identify – or they can be immediate, as with improperly handled and discarded sharps that injure people through cuts or needlesticks.
We tend to think of the possibility of pathogenic infection as the biggest risk from improperly handled biomedical waste, and while that is a significant danger, there are other potentials for harm – some of them quite significant and long-term.
Hazardous biomedical waste and human health
Hazardous biomedical waste can affect human health in a variety of ways. From pharmaceutical waste that enters the water supply to radioactive waste that emits particulates that cause a wide range of illnesses, poorly managed biomedical wastes can turn into a public health disaster.
People exposed to biohazardous waste can develop a wide range of symptoms and illnesses. Radioactive biomedical waste is particularly destructive, and has been known to cause the following urgent medical concerns:
- Degradation of living tissue
DNA damage that can potentially lead to cancers
Pharmaceutical waste – waste from unused drugs and vaccines – can poison people who inadvertently ingest it.
Poorly handled and discarded sharps – needles, scalpels, used glass plates – can cause serious injury and spread pathogens, including potentially serious infections such as:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
Antibiotic-resistant and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Although direct and indirect contact with hazardous biomedical waste can cause serious health issues to the human population, environmental contamination can create conditions that lead to ecological damage that ultimately has a significant impact on our ability to access natural resources that are essential to survival.
Hazardous biomedical waste and the environment
Environmental contamination affects the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the biological diversity that allows ecosystems to thrive. This can have a catastrophic effect on agricultural systems and compromise our food supplies.
The accumulation of toxins and contaminants is a major concern. Pathogenic waste can spread fungi and parasites to animals and plants in the wild, causing disease that destroys ecosystems over time. Radioactive waste can lead to mutations in living organisms and dramatically change wildlife behaviors. This threat to the ecological stability in our forests won’t happen overnight, but could take years and possibly generations to manifest themselves into recognizable aberrations.
The importance of safe biomedical waste disposal and management
Daniels Health is committed to giving healthcare providers and all services that generate biohazardous waste the tools and support they need to handle and dispose of their biomedical waste safely and effectively. Through effective staff training, access to exceptional disposal products and solutions, and a comprehensive understanding of biomedical waste disposal compliance, Daniels Health can support your waste management objectives. For more information about our services or to request a proposal, please contact us today.