Health risk of medical waste24 December 2022
Md. Zillur Rahaman :
In developing countries like Bangladesh, pollution from medical wastes due to unplanned hospitals and clinics resulting from urbanization has become a serious threat to the environment and public health. This situation is made serious due to poor management of medical waste and gross mismanagement in the sector. As a result, doctors, nurses, ward boys, lab technicians, cleaners and common visitors are suffering from various types of serious diseases and these pollutions are also spreading alarmingly in soil, water and air.
Most of the hospital wastes in our country are dumped everywhere, causing bad smell in the air of the hospital area. Tons of medical waste is strewn around many hospitals and in adjacent residential areas. As a result, the residents of the area, including the patients of the external and internal departments who come to the hospital for treatment, are suffering from various complex diseases due to the stench of medical waste and severe environmental pollution. The management of medical waste, especially in hospitals in remote areas, is very fragile and deplorable. In many hospitals, organs removed from patients after surgery are usually buried in the ground, but general waste, including gauze bandages, is thrown into the hospital dustbin. Accumulation of these wastes sometimes spread bad smell, which is very harmful to human body and environment. During the rainy season, these wastes mix with water and pollute canals, ponds and rivers. On the other hand, during the dry season, when these wastes are burnt unplanned, foul odor spreads in the surrounding air. Again, there are many wastes that are not normally burned and cause soil erosion due to prolonged contact with the soil.
Recently, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in a research report on the public health risk of medical waste titled 'Challenges of Good Governance in Medical Waste Management and Ways of Passage' mentioned that hospital waste is being sold outside a cycle without sterilization which is again in various hands taking place in various drug stores, hospitals and clinics. According to the research report, there are two types of hospital medical waste that are sold illegally, reusable waste and recyclable waste. A syndicate of hospital staff sells the recyclable waste such as used glass bottles, syringes, saline bags and rubber/plastic tubes to the recyclable waste collector without waste. Later, through this syndicate, the reusable waste is cleaned and packaged without proper sterilization and sold to drug stores, various hospitals and clinics. These materials are not properly sterilized. As a result, reuse of these materials carries the risk of serious infectious diseases including HIV.
Moreover, there are allegations of illegal trade of waste against the contractor. They sell the waste on the black market without wasting it. TIB has received allegations of illegal trading of plastic medical waste in the black market against a well-known contracting firm. TIB says there is a lack of capacity building in addition to a lack of transparency and coordination in waste management. On the other hand, in the past two or three years, the increase in infections due to the Corona epidemic, the increase in the use of surgical masks to protect against infection and the throwing of masks after use and the disposal of vaccines and the throwing of used needles have greatly increased the risk of public health and environmental pollution. Public health experts say that it is important to take appropriate steps by the authorities concerned to get rid of it.
(The writer is a Banker).