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The importance of medical waste management
As the name suggests, medical waste is waste that is generated during the normal operations and treatment processes in the medical facilities. The combined waste generated from these facilities each year total to a whopping fifty-nine million tons. This is a large volume considering that medical waste has to be classified, and disposed of, with utmost care. Luckily, three-quarters of this waste is general waste which can be disposed of like any other waste generated in the home and office environment. The remaining fifteen percent require specialized handling. This article will deliberate on the importance of medical waste management.
When medical waste is not properly managed, it can damage the ecosystem, to the environment, cause air pollution and may harm people as well as animals that come into contact with the hazardous items. To understand why this is the case, a person has to start by appreciating the composition of medical waste. Medical waste is mainly categorized into infectious, sharp, radioactive, chemical, pathological, cytotoxic, pharmaceutical and non-hazardous wastes. This waste is generated from the treatment facilities, from nursing home care facilities, from research centers, from blood banks, from laboratories, from the X-ray rooms and mortuaries during an autopsy.
This type of wastes can cause physical injuries to animals and plants. Microorganism in the waste find their way into the environment and spread infectious and chronic diseases to people who get into contact with them. This includes the health workers, other patients, and the general public at large. This is true for persons who come into contact with body fluids and radioactive material. Similarly, if these clinical wastes are not properly managed they come into contact with water bodies and the soil and cause untold ecological damage which may be difficult to reverse or rectify.
Medical waste management requires collective responsibility. The relevant federal government and local government agencies should provide oversight when it comes to waste disposal. They should ensure that there are elaborate and clear regulations that govern the disposal of waste. The said regulations should be in line with international guidelines and standards. This regulations should give guidance on safe and eco-friendly mechanism of collecting, handling, treating, storing and disposing of the clinical waste. The medical fraternity and the general public at large should be made aware of the need to practice safe disposal practices. They should equally be enlightened on the potential hazards that medical waste can cause to the public, the waste handlers, the environment, and the ecosystem when it is not properly managed.
The medical waste should be passed through on-site and off-site treatment before being released into the environment. Waste can be managed through incineration and biological means. This is most suitable for infectious waste and pathological wastes. Harmful chemical wastes can also be neutralized by using different methods. This includes biological, chemical, microwaving and autoclaving methods. Autoclaving is the sterilization of specific type of waste to make it nonhazardous. Harmful chemicals can also be neutralized using other chemicals. Once the treatment has been effected, the waste should be disposed of in accordance with laid down procedures. This includes disposing of like any other solid waste or disposing of wastes in sealed containers.