Infectious Waste Details

Every year an estimated 16 billion injections are administered worldwide, but not all needles are properly disposed of. In some cases, the medical waste generated is openly burned, resulting in dioxins, furans, and other particulate matter. Waste management personnel must dispose of the waste from all clinical activities properly.

According to the World Health Organization, up to 15% of all clinical waste is considered to contain hazardous materials that may be infectious, toxic, or radioactive. Health-care waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms that can infect health workers, patients, and the general public.

The various health effects associated with infectious wastes include sharps-inflicted injuries, toxic exposure to pharmaceutical products. This waste can cause chemical burns and thermal injuries. The release of particulate matter during chemical waste incineration can be a major contributor to air pollution.

Real-World Example of Infectious Waste

The syringe tide was an environmental disaster during 1987-88. It affected parts of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Large amounts of medical waste, including infectious syringes, washed up on New York City and Long Island beaches. This environmental disaster led to the closure of several beaches on the Atlantic coast.

Reports of infectious medical wastes drove away hundreds and thousands of tourists. It caused a huge impact on the tourist industry revenue during that period. Officials were able to trace the source of the waste to the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. New York City paid over one million dollars for the cleanup and the pollution damages.

The response to this disaster was the creation of a short-term floatables action plan. This plan has been in place since 1989 and has been successful in curtailing floatable debris wash-ups. This plan's key elements were surveillance, regular cleanups, and the establishment of critical communication networks.

Types of Infectious Waste

Any organization that produces infectious waste needs to follow certain practices. Proper segregation of waste material creates better waste management. Each department should have four color-coded waste bins:

  • Red waste bins are for infectious materials.
  • Black bins are for general waste.
  • Yellow bins are for sharps.
  • White safety boxes are for injection safety.

Proper labeling makes sure health workers and patients are well aware of the process. Proper equipment must be in place when collecting infection waste. Sanitary workers need personal protective equipment such as gloves, long rubber boots, aprons, and masks. The final disposal of the collected waste must be done cautiously.

  • Blood: Blood and included products such as plasma, serum are one of the major types of infectious waste. Several infectious and harmful substances might be present in the bloodstream and should be properly disposed of.
  • Pathological Waste: This is another type of infectious waste. It includes tissues or body parts removed from a human or animal body during a surgical process or during an autopsy, intended for disposal.
  • Sharps: It includes needles, blades, or any other sharp item used in medical procedures to provide drugs or draw blood. Improper disposal of these substances can be harmful.
  • Research Waste: Scientific and medical research can create by-products that can be harmful if exposed to humans. Research involving animals is another common source of infectious waste. Any part of an animal that has been exposed to hazardous or infectious agents can also cause harm to humans.