Biomedical waste hazardous and it adversely affects the town environments all across the world, most specifically in developing nations that have poor waste management schemes. In urban areas, healthcare facilities are planned as a place for treatment, diagnosis, and analysis for patients with various medical issues. Medical centers house quite a number of intricate doings that leads to the generation of unavoidable solid waste. The solid waste produced is known as “healthcare waste”, the waste includes both non-biological, and biological wastes that are thrown away never to be used again. There are three classifications of medical waste they include: domestic waste, medical waste, and infectious waste. Infectious waste may be defined as that waste that comes from a patient who suffers from an infectious illness, and it has the capability to produce infectious diseases.
Medical waste on the other hand are the minerals which accrue as a result of patient treatment, immunization, or diagnosis. It is important to know that majority of the cases of medical waste are well-thought-out to be infectious waste, if other wastes and medical wastes are not collected disjointedly. Out of all the waste produces by medical centers, eight percent of it is termed as infectious waste, while the remaining twenty percent is classified as hazardous substances that may be radioactive, infectious, or even toxic. The paper shall therefore go ahead and discuss the effects that medical waste have on the environment.
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When we talk about the environment, human beings and other living animals are inclusive this is because they are all constituents of the environment. According to research, hospital was pose as a threat both to the environment, the health of human beings and other life forms. With regard to the health staff, there are three most common infections that are usually transmitted as a result of medical wastes. We have hepatitis C (HVC) virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis B (HBV) virus. Likewise, the staff whose responsibility is to collect and treat medical waste are exposed to specific risks. As medical practitioners begin their shifts, one of their everyday concerns is about the biohazard waste discarding. There are specified protocols that must be followed so as to keep healthcare contaminants away from patients, their colleagues, and themselves. What most people fail to understand is that the issue of proper disposal of medical waste is crucial, also these wastes can have adverse and direct impacts on the environment if they are not handled with care. Some of the consequences of medical waste on the environment include:
Contamination of Ground water with Biohazards
The main reason why landfills are created is in order to keep waste within a controlled zone. These wastes are even lined with particular constituents, so that the nearby ground water and soil are not contaminated. The improper disposal of biometric wastes may compromise even the most perfect landfill scheme. For example, syringes disposed into regular landfills tear the lining with ease, and as it rains in the future those contaminants within the landfill slip into the soil and into the ground. This therefore causes the pollution of the ground water from medical waste.
Various devices and tools are usually used by most medical practitioners for analytical purposes. Some of these items are disposable and at the same time radioactive. So in case they are mishandled, there is a high possibility that radioactivity can find their way into the landfills and other regions. Radioactive substances emit particles which are dangerous to human beings. In fact, consistent exposure to radioactivity can cause an individual to develop chronic illnesses. Therefore, it is very key to observe the strict rules whenever it comes to dealing with medical waste which is radioactive.
Other than disposing medical waste in landfills, they may also be destroyed through the process of incineration. Though, if the ignition is done in an improper manner it might result to pollutants that move freely through the air. Incineration facilities, have to be able to device a way in which they destroy every single atom of these medical wastes. Burning of these waste is clearly a mismatch between the solution and the problem itself. Studies have proved that once medical wastes are burnt they produce more furan and dioxin per ton of the waste burnt. Due to the ability of airborne pollutants to move faster, they are more risky as compared to land pollutants. It is therefore crucial for all people who are near biomedical waste to be aware on how to handle it. Each and every person has the responsibility to protect the environment from the improper disposal of biohazard waste. The earth together with her resources would be protected if we all care for nature.
Wildlife and Pharmaceuticals
If biohazard wastes are handled improperly, they can easily end up close to the habitats of wild animals. Parks, lakes, as well as other regions of natural habitat for various fauna and birds. Leaked medicine either in liquid or pill form are very curious items to these wild animals. The animals might get attracted either by the smell or to the color, thus they end up consuming these drugs out of inquisitiveness. This condition may either kill or injure the animal severly.
Biomedical Waste Storage and Segregation
The issue of biometric waste segregation must be examined with extreme care and this is because the generalized operational procedures of biometric waste separation have an influence on the cost and the type of biometric waste treatment to be undertaken. The different forms of waste must be isolated and stored in a proper bag or container. These storage vessels must have certain properties which include: it must be able to accommodate a standard volume and withstand the weight of the waste without being damages, also it should be leak free. For containers, they must have lids, and must be preferably operated by foot. When the containers and bags filled up to three quarter of its capacity have to be labeled and appropriately sealed. Taking into consideration the National and European Legislation which states that enough symbols must be pictured for all the different forms of wastes. According to their code wastes that should be labeled include: pharmaceutical wastes, sharps, chemical wastes, genotoxic wastes, pathological wastes, infectious wastes, radioactive wastes, and also wastes with great composition of hefty alloys. For the purpose of separation within the storage areas, displays of different color codes have been designed according to the rules of the legislation. Color yellow is for the hazardous medical wastes, and color black is for the nonhazardous wastes.
Biomedical Waste Handling and Transportation
For this activity three chief components are incorporated. First is the collection of the various types of wastes from the waste containers or storage bags found in hospitals. The second step is transportation and intermediate storage of these medical wastes in premises awaiting treatment or disposal. Lastly, the biometric wastes have to be relocated to the disposal or treatment facilities in the safest manner. The motor vehicle used to carry these wastes must contain various specifications. The vehicle should be sealed and appropriately covered to secure against the accidental leakage or opening of the door.
Biomedical Waste Treatment and Disposal
Various methods have been designed for rendering medical waste to be appealingly acceptable and environmentally harmless. The biomedical waste law has clearly explained the most appropriate waste treatment and disposal techniques, and this is done so in accordance to the different type of waste generated in health centers. Correspondingly, there has been the development of diverse treatment technologies and methods beginning from the hazardous traits, and the chemical components of medical wastes. These technologies and methods include: General waste, microwave treatment, autoclave treatment, sanitary and secured land filling, hydroclave treatment, incineration, and lastly chemical disinfection. Below we shall discuss the above listed methods in details.
This is the use of a high temperature warm air procedure that involves the burning of the wastes under regulated conditions so as to convert them to gases and inert materials. There are three types of incinerators, those that are powered by electricity, others by oil, while others use the combination of the two. Broadly described the three types of incinerators used for treating biomedical waste are; controlled air types, multiple hearth type, and rotary kiln. All of the three incinerators contain both secondary and primary compartments, so as to ensure finest incineration. In the multiple hearth, the solid is combusted in the primary compartment, while the gas is combusted in the secondary compartment. Both of the chambers are also referred to as “excess air incinerators” and this is because there is excess air in both the secondary and primary compartments.
Rotary kiln on the other hand is a tube-shaped intractable lined shell which is mounted in a tilted position in order to facilitate the mixing of the waste as it moves in the tube. There is a provision of air circulation, hence the kiln acts as a main solid phase cubicle which is trailed by the secondary chamber for the gas combustion. In the final type of incinerator, the prime compartment is functioned low air levels trailed by a superfluous air compartment. Owing to the low oxygen levels in the first chamber, it becomes easier to control the matter in the gas chamber. Lastly, incineration is proposed for discarded medicine, solid waste, animal waste, and cytotoxic drugs.
The process involves serialization through the use of steam while subjected to pressure. In general, it is a process of low heat where the medical waste are brought into contact with steam for a period adequate enough to disinfect these materials. There are also three categories of autoclave treatment devices namely; retort type, magnitude type, and pre-vacuum type. For the first one gravity type, air is removed through the use of magnitude. This therefore makes the structure to function at temperatures of up to 121 degree Celsius, and at a steam pressure of 20psi for an hour or an hour and thirty minutes. Similarly in pre-vacuum type, vacuity deflates are used to remove air from the autoclave. This assists the interval sequence to be condensed to thirty minutes or an hour. It works at 132 degrees Celsius. Lastly the retro type, is designed to hold large volumes of wastes, and it is also modified to operate under more pressure and at high temperatures.
An innovative equipment used for sterilization process in this case is the Hydroclave. It is a dual enclosed ampoule where vapor is inoculated into its external sheathing in order to warm the inside compartments encompassing the biomedical wastes. Water from the wastes vaporizes as vapor and it forms up the vapor compression. The paddles swapped by a heavy-duty tube within the chamber flip-flops the discarded onto the searing walls of the compartment mixing the waste well and fragmenting it. In case there is no additional moisture, more steam is injected in the chambers. The maximum time for sterilization is fifty minutes, and the treated materials can be shredded before disposal. The expected reductions in weight and volume is up to 70% and 80% respectively. On interesting fact about the hydroclave is that it can treat the same form of medical waste just as the autoclave, in addition to the waste sharps which are also fragmented. The benefits of this technology is that there is absence of liquid discharge, absence of destructive air pollutants, reduction in the volume and weight of the states, and to finish there is no need of chemicals in the above described process.
This technology involves wet thermal disinfection, unlike thermal systems of treatment which heat the waste outwardly. The heat from the microwave the targeted audience from inside out, thus providing a high degree of cleansing. Some of the benefits of microwave technology are: no need for chemicals, no harmful gas emissions, and the reduction in the volume of waste. Nonetheless, the costs of investments are very high currently.
It is a treatment technique recommended for solid, liquid, sharp wastes, and also for chemical wastes. The process of chemical treatment entails the use of one percent hypochlorite solution, with contact periods of thirty minutes. Other chemical proxies such as iodine- alcohol, and phenolic compounds may be used as agents of sterilization.
Sanitary and Secured Landfilling
This process is necessary only under certain conditions like; the burial of medical wastes whenever there is no facility that will provide efficient incineration services. Alike, it may be done for the disposal of animal waste, and for the disposal of hydroclave, microwaved, and autoclaved wastes. Also for the discarding of sharps and incineration ashes.
It comprises of the waste materials generated from store, garden, office, kitchen, and other various places. These wastes are non-toxic and non-hazardous. General waste may therefore be treated through the composting of green waste, and through the reusing of packaging materials.
In conclusion, medical waste have diverse effects on the environment. The Government and responsible bodies should ensure that they have devised various solutions to this matter. They should ensure that there is proper collection, storage, transportation, and treatment of medical wastes. Similarly, it is the responsibility of medical staff those who generate these medical wastes to make sure that they dispose the tools which they use to treat patients with. If medical wastes are not controlled, they will poison our land, ground water, wildlife, and even some of the wastes will be deposited in large water masses hence killing aquatic life. As a final point, those medical institutions and people found guilty of improper disposal of biomedical waste should be arrested, and convicted.