Medical facilities are historically places where we invest our trust. They’re the places we go when we’re sick, when we’re expecting new life, and when we’re dying. As such, we often associate these places with words like “healing” and “relief.” This for the most part is true. On the other hand, medical facilities could also be associated with the words: “hazardous” and “toxic.”
Why? The answer lies within the waste. According to PracticeGreenHealth.org, hospitals in the U.S. produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste annually. This waste includes infectious disease-ridden materials, medical sharps, body organs, and bio-hazardous chemicals.
If improperly disposed of, hospital employees and the general public become incredibly at risk of coming in contact with the waste and contracting a disease or injuring themselves. To promote general awareness, here are 5 facts about hospital waste management that will make you think twice about where you choose to receive treatment:
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Are Easily Contracted
20% of the waste produced by hospitals is reported to be hazardous and infectious. This can include everything from needles to organs. Needless to say, this waste can be contaminated with bodily fluids that contain pathogens causing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Examples of highly contagious STIs include: herpes, human papilloma virus, and syphilis.
The Re-Use Of Disposable Medical Sharps Is A Fairly Common Practice
In 2000, The World Health Organization estimates that injections with contaminated syringes caused 21 million hepatitis B infections, two million hepatitis C infections and over two hundred thousand HIV infections worldwide. Many of these infections could have been avoided if the sharps were disinfected professionally by a medical waste company.
Improper Biomedical Waste Management Directly Impacts The Spread of Epidemics
As seen with the recent Ebola outbreaks, hospitals that are not careful with their hospital waste management ultimately run the risk of exposing their employees and patients to highly dangerous diseases that are not native to their area, state, or even country. This in turn leaves the door open for further spread of the disease once individuals leave the hospital.
Serious, Life-Threatening Injuries Received From Exposed Medical Waste Are Common. They Include:
- Radiation Burns
- Sharps-Inflicted Injuries (cuts, lacerations, loss of limbs or extremities)
- Poisoning Through The Exposure Of Pharmaceutical Products And Waste Water
- Poisoning And Pollution By Biohazard Disposal (exposure to Mercury or other dioxins that may be released during incineration)
Improper Disposal of Vaccines/Vaccine Containers Cause The Spread Of Disease
Many vaccines contain pathogens that possess the potential to cause disease. Examples include: vaccines used to prevent measles, mumps, influenza, and polio. If disposed improperly, anyone who comes in contact with the vaccine or its containers can be easily infected with the disease.
Though alarming, these facts are not meant to deter you from ever visiting a hospital. In actuality, many hospitals do choose to participate in hospital waste management programs conducted through professionally-trained medical waste companies to ensure these 5 worst case scenarios are kept at bay.
You can also ask or check your local hospital’s website for details on their specific hospital waste management program for extra reassurance.