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Medical Waste Disposal Poses Health Risk

Biomedical wastes are a serious health hazard as they unleash harmful viruses, bacteria and parasites in the air but many health-care facilities do not follow the rules for their disposal, public health experts and officials of the environment department said. Fourteen packets found on a Haridevpur plot on Sunday morning were initially thought to contain fetuses and decomposed stillborn but were later found to contain adult diapers. A professor in community medicine said used diapers exposed to the elements could trigger diarrhea and dysentery. “A used diaper is rich in saprophytic bacteria, which seep through the ground easily, especially during the monsoon, and contaminate the underground water. If the bacteria enter the human body, they can cause infections in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to diarrhea or dysentery,” he said.

The Biomedical Waste Rules 2016 stipulate that wastes generated in hospitals have to be segregated and handed over to government-approved agencies for disposal in a scientific manner. However, in contravention of the rules, blood-stained cotton, used surgical gloves and syringes and even human fetuses are often found in vats and on vacant plots in the city and its adjoining areas. Viruses, bacteria and parasites that escape into the environment from these articles contaminate the air and seep into the soil and mix with underground water. Such contamination can lead to hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, skin or soft tissue infections, according to doctors. The West Bengal Pollution Control Board has appointed waste management companies to collect biomedical wastes from hospitals, treat them and dispose them of scientifically.

The hospitals are supposed to keep the wastes in color-coded containers. Body parts, placenta and cotton waste are to be dumped in yellow containers. Sharp instruments such as blades and scalpels are to be thrown into white containers. The items in the yellow and white containers are burnt. Plastic and rubber IV tubes, gloves and aprons are to be kept in red containers, while metallic implants, glass equipment and slides are to go into blue containers. The objects in the red and blue containers are treated under high pressure in autoclave chambers and recycled to an extent. Employees of a few waste disposal companies say some nursing homes, especially in districts, throw away medical wastes unscientifically. “Once you cross Sarsuna or Amtala, in South 24-Parganas, while travelling from the city, you will see untreated medical wastes lying in the open in several places. There is no supervision in those areas,” said the general manager (operations) of a company that collects wastes from government and private hospitals in the city.

An official in the environment department conceded that unregistered nursing homes violated waste management rules. The number of such establishments, however, is coming down, he said. As for houses that generate biomedical wastes through home care, he said: “Ideally, they should deposit biomedical wastes in a hospital or a nursing home nearby. Mixing them with regular wastes is dangerous.” Many small clinics and doctors’ chambers that generate medical wastes do not adhere to the rules related to segregation and disposal, the official said. – Telegraph India

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