In the U.S., we produce 13 lb of medical waste per person per year!
Without proper medical waste disposal, this hazardous material has the potential to do harm. It can spread disease, impact the water supply, wildlife, and your reputation.
Reinforcing the importance of medical waste disposal with your staff helps you create a worker-safe, patient-safe and environmentally-safe workplace.
But the impact reaches far beyond your medical facility.
Let’s look at 9 compelling reasons not to take medical waste disposal lightly.
Medical Waste Is Dangerous
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies medical waste in the following categories:
- Infectious – Blood, bodily fluids, cultures and stocks of infectious agents used for research, laboratory animal waste. This also includes bandages and disposable equipment from patients in isolation.
- Pathological – Human tissue and contaminated lab animal carcasses
- Sharps– Needles, syringes, broken glass and blades that could injure someone or expose someone to infection
- Chemicals – Solvents and disinfectants, batteries and heavy metals from medical devices, mercury from thermometers or compact fluorescents
- Pharmaceuticals– Expired, unused or contaminated medications
- Genotoxic – Mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic substances such as those used in cancer treatment
- Radioactive – Mostly diagnostic materials and radiotherapy materials
- General – Other waste generated in the medical setting that isn’t inherently hazardous
WHO estimates that as much as 15% of medical waste falls into a non-general category. That’s a lot of harmful waste. It has the potential to significantly impact the environment.
Risks to Staff
Even before you dispose of medical waste, staff could be harmed. Sharps or infectious materials don’t go into standard waste receptacles for a reason. They can harm those picking up and transporting what they believe to be general waste.
This puts medical workers and support staff alike at risk of contracting devastating diseases like:
Some of these diseases can have life-long impacts and even represent a death sentence for the infected.
Risks To Community
You must also consider the risk to the community at large.
Traditionally transported medical waste ends up in landfills. It poses an immediate risk to those in the area. But it also leaches harmful substances into the air, land, and water.
Many of these substances have a long half life, so they take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down.
During this time more waste is added. The potency of the contamination goes up.
Without proper medical waste disposal, medical waste works its way into the water supply. It soaks through the soil to enter the groundwater.
This groundwater then flows into nearby springs, streams, and rivers. But it doesn’t stop there. Medical waste can spread far beyond the original dump site.
This water is the same water that will — at some point — become human drinking water. Traditional means can’t decontaminate it. It poses a risk to humans who use water for drinking and food preparation.
Wildlife & Human Population
Without proper medical waste disposal, medical waste eventually reaches our oceans. There, plants and other sea life absorb them.
As you move up the food chain, many of these toxins continue to grow more potent. Eventually, a fish that is near the top of the food chain like tuna becomes dangerous to those who consume it.
Medical waste in the water supply exposes wildlife to the toxic effects of medical waste substances which can, in both wildlife and human, cause:
- birth defects
- Increased cancer risk
- General health maladies
- Exposure to potentially deadly diseases
This area needs further research. But initial studies demonstrate that even relatively “harmless” medical waste like ibuprofen can impact plant growth.
It can weaken root systems, but beyond that, little is known of far-reaching these effects could be. This emerging area of concern is still under study.
The CDC warns that improper medical waste disposal could put the nation at significant risk.
In the event of a terrorist devised biological warfare attack, poor waste disposal practices could amplify an attack.
Putting proper controls in place not only protects our public health. It also protects our national security.
Patient Perception/Hospital Brand
This may seem unimportant after we’ve discussed the harm to animals and people. But another point to consider is your hospital or clinic’s reputation.
No one knows whether or not you have proper medical waste disposal practices in place, do they?
But today’s society has an increased focus on protecting the environment. Add to this the increases in investigative reporting. Chances are if you’re not properly managing medical waste, they’ll find you out.
With increased choice in the medical industry, medical providers need their reputation intact to compete in the industry.
Patients care about whether you care about their well-being and safety, as well as the environment.
Compliance With Guidelines And Laws
According to the CDC, medical waste requires careful disposal and containment before it’s collected.
For initial disposal, the CDC recommends the standards of OSHA, the agency responsible for the health and safety of workers.
OSHA states that medical waste is to be disposed of in puncture proof containers. These should be put in a 2nd puncture proof container if somehow damaged. All medical waste containers should be labeled to comply with federal law.
Federal law states that medical waste is to be disposed of regularly so that it doesn’t accumulate within a facility.
It also requires that a clearly defined medical waste processing plan be in place for any facility that produces regulated waste.
Regulated medical waste is then transported to an approved autoclave treatment facility for sterilization before it is taken to a landfill. Other substances that are not destroyed by steam sterilization are transported to an approved incineration plant for complete destruction.
Failure to properly manage regulated waste could result in hefty fines and penalties from the Health Department.
Medical Waste Disposal You Can Trust
You’re busy taking care of patients and managing your practice. You need a regulated waste disposal service that you can trust to make disposal easy and seamless.
We’ve been serving Florida for over 15 years with a 99% customer retention rate and 0 fines. We achieve this by getting it right. In Florida, we’re the #1 most trusted brand.
With the lowest rates and top-notch service, see what we can do to help you manage hazardous waste.
Contact us today to tell us about your practice and get a free quote.