The year: 2010
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board issued notices to 72 hospitals and nursing homes in Mumbai on charges of inadequate biomedical waste management.
Chief medical superintendent at Kanpur’s Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital taken to task for ‘dumping’ biomedical waste – burning it in the open and within the hospital’s premises.
Gujarat Pollution Control Board issues 500 notices to hospitals and nursing homes over non-renewal of authorisation for disposal of medical waste for the last three years.
Are Indian hospitals and health institutions grappling with the issue of medical waste disposal or are they simply ignoring it? As hospitals, nursing homes and clinics spring up by the dozen, the amount of medical waste generated is on an all time high. In fact, veterinary hospitals, dentist clinics, laboratories and even homes are sources of biomedical waste. Did you know, when this waste is incinerated, the remains are also labelled as biomedical waste?
TREATMENT OF MEDICAL WASTE
Biomedical waste (BMW) is of various types – human or animal body parts and bodily wastes; laboratory cultures used for research; live or non-live vaccines; needles; syringes; scalpels; blood-stained materials; and discarded medicines.
SEGREGATION: This is the most important (and crucial) part of disposal. Hospitals usually divide their waste into solid waste (human, animal), microbial and biotechnological waste and waste sharps. The separated waste is then put into colour coded boxes. They use special machines to destroy syringes.
COLLECTION: Clean up agencies collect the waste from hospitals and nursing homes and bring it to their sites. There are a few other ways of treating BMW as well. These include deep burial, autoclaving (steam sterilisation) and disinfection by chemicals.
Norms of treating medical waste
Delhi Pollution Control Board has defined various categories of waste and the methods by which they must be treated. For example, human anatomical waste must either be buried or incinerated and waste sharps like syringes and needles should be disinfected and then sent for autoclaving. In case of any violation of the norms, they have to pay a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. In case of an extreme violation, their license can also be cancelled.
Effects of biomedical waste
A recent news report revealed that several health workers, including doctors in Delhi hospitals are exposed to HIV and other deadly infections such as Hepatitis A, B and C – due to negligence while handling medical waste and not taking the requisite precautions during clinical procedures. It is essential that health workers are made aware of the occupational hazards of their job.
Sometimes, medical waste is disposed along with municipal waste or thrown into rivers or worse still, just left out in the open, attracting festering bacteria. Currently, there are three BMW treatment plants in Delhi and here is some good news. The government has decided that new BMW treatment plants will soon be set up in Haldwani, Chandigarh and Jammu and Kashmir. But is this enough? What about other states, much more backward, in need of dire help? It is time we addressed the dangers of biomedical waste and came up with a foolproof disposal mechanism.
1. 10.125 tonnes of biomedical waste are generated and treated in Delhi alone in a day.
2. For more information on agencies for collection of mercury from hospitals, as well as Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facilities, visit http://dpcc.delhigovt.nic.in/bio-medical-waste.html