Published:  08:31 PM, 25 July 2020

Medical waste: How we can manage it properly?

Medical waste: How we can manage it properly?
At present waste management has become a great concern for us. The waste can be divided into different categories. Medical waste or health care waste is one of them. It generates a lot of hazardous waste or Bio-waste. Medical Waste is any kind of waste that contains potentially infectious materials whichis mostly generated during the testing, diagnosis or treatment of human being or animals.

Medical waste is so much harmful for human health and environment as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) is quoted as saying, Healthcare waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms which can infect hospital patients, healthcare workers and the general public. This wastes have been the reason of thousands of deaths around the world. According to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development 5.2 million people including 4 million children die due to medical waste diseases. Almost 85% sharp injuries are caused because of subsequent use and disposal of medical wastes.

In Bangladesh, According to Environmental Assessment and Action plan (MOHFW), with the assumption 8% increase of no. of patience/year, 5% increase of MWM, there will be 3% net increase in generation of medical waste. Consequently, it can cause a potential public health problem of large proportion. These waste components also pose a threat to all living organism affecting directly or indirectly to their health.

That's why we should dispose or manage it properly. For this we all should know about some practices which is helpful for handling health care waste.Firstly knowing about the healthcare waste laws is mostly essential. It is regulated by the DOT, OSHA, EPA and the DEA. It is vital to be aware of all guidelines from each agency when preparing, transferring and disposing of hazardous waste.

In this way most important things is identification and classification of health care waste by origin and type. Identifying the kind of waste we are dealing with is the first step in properly disposing of it. The other thing is separate the waste by type which is also include this category.Waste should be separated by the different categories including hazardous, non-hazardous, pathological, sharps, infectious, radioactive waste.Following that, highly infectious waste includes body fluids, syringes, needles, blades, surgical aids, personal protective equipment etc.

Thereafter must be using the right medical waste containers. The containers is classified by different color for different type of waste. Such as: Red, Yellow, Blue, Green and Black. The color coding system for waste segregation calls for all sharps to go in pierce resistant red biohazard containers. Biohazard waste goes in red bags and containers. Yellow containers are for trace chemo waste, while pharmaceutical waste goes into black containers for hazardous materials and blue for all others. Radioactive waste containers or bags should marked by radioactive symbol.

Meanwhile, we should prepare the containers properly for transportation and disposal. It is included, healthcare waste containers and bags must be taped for shipment, then packaged according to DOT weight restrictions. Containers should be stored in a secure, dry area before pickup or shipping. It's most essential to proper labelling all waste before transport as well. Some NGO, (mainly PRISM in Bangladesh) have developed expertise for imparting training and for final transport and disposal.

Specially, the important thing is the right documentation. Proper documentation of healthcare waste is crucial to protect both the provider and waste disposal company. The right paperwork should accompany each container and bag throughout the process.

Medical waste is ultimately treated by incineration, autoclaving, microwaving, chemical and biological treatment. In here, the important thing is on-site and off-site treatment. On-site treatment in extremely cost-prohibitive. On the other hand, off-site treatment is costly option for most small and mid-sized medical practices and facilities.

Incineration is the process of burning of waste. It is the most popular method as always. It is highly recommended procedure and normally used for infectious pathological and pharmaceutical waste. In many countries incineration is mandatory procedure for disposing of medical waste. The best thing of this procedure is that it kills 99% of microorganism. It also minimize the negative effects on the environment.

Autoclaving is most commonly utilized alternative to incineration. In this method, wastes are sterilized or disinfected prior to disposal in a landfill. Waste containers are placed in a chamber and steam is introduced for a determined period of time at a specified pressure and temperature. It is also assures the destruction of microorganisms. Approximately 90% of regulated medical wastes are suitable for autoclaving, particularly microbiological waste but it is not suitable for pathological or other toxic chemical waste.

Another way to render hazardous healthcare waste non-hazardous is to microwave it with high-powered equipment. As with autoclaving, this method opens up the waste to normal landfill disposal or incineration afterward.

Chemical disinfection process involves the use of chemical agents for disinfection. Some kinds of chemical waste may be neutralized by applying reactive chemicals that render it inert. This processes are most appropriate for liquid wastes. Another way of treating specific biomedical waste uses enzymes to neutralize certain infectious organisms is biological treatment. Although this process is rarely used.

In the developing countries landfill is the most popular off-site treatment for health care waste. It is typically used for waste which is properly excise, treated and decontaminated. It is also used for hazardous waste or other untreated waste that cannot be decontaminated. This process reduce the cost. Landfill sites also reduce the risk of environmental pollution, especially soil and water contamination.

In that case, improper waste disposal can lead to contamination of water, soil, affect bio-diversity, human health and the environment as a whole. Waste management should be monitored regularly. The management committee follow the instruction from decision makers. They identify the weak area and find how to improve. Health care authorities must design and follow appropriate waste management policies to reduce and minimize hazardous effect on human beings and environment.

The writer is a student, Department of Environmental Science & Engineering of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University. Trishal, Mymensingh.

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