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Biomedical waste: An impending danger

Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020 10:45 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020 05:15 [IST]

Biomedical waste: An impending danger

SAIKAT KUMAR BASU
The COVID 19 pandemic has negatively impacted the ecology and economy all over the planet and India is a victim in the process too. The overwhelming pressure on our resources and with limited medical facilities, the pressure on Indian healthcare system has been monumental. We all have to acknowledge the splendid services provided by the doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff members at the forefront while risking their own lives, health and putting their families at danger to save others. However, it is also important to note that the pandemic has disrupted our conventional daily life, professional life and the societal work flow. Repeated lockdowns and other protective measures have negatively impacted our minds, behaviour and work ethics too. One of the most worrying aspect of this has been proper processing and disposal of solid wastes with particular reference to biomedical wastes.



The COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted the work culture and our conventional life styles at every level. This has also seriously impacted the management of high risk solid wastes in hospitals and nursing homes as well as medical dispensaries. The overwhelming number of patients have been putting huge stress on the healthcare system; and has multiplied the amount of biomedical wastes generated per day over 3-4 folds in various medical institutions across the country.

It is quite important therefore to make changes to current policies, protocols and processing steps to solid waste management with particular reference to biomedical wastes. Else this could lead to another potential source of infection for the mass and could cross-contaminate a number of individuals within a very short span of time.  This is not just an isolated problem for a densely populated developing country like India only. The pandemic has impacted developed, developing as well as under developed nations in the most devastating ways estimable. Hence this piling of huge loads of biomedical wastes in hospitals and nursing homes  Is a cruel realty of our time!

Accumulation of huge amount of processed and/or unprocessed medical wastes generated every day unless properly and timely disposed could turn out to be detrimental for the health of our society and it’s members. Hence we need a massive change to our attitude and existing system and has to become more efficient in processing biomedical wastes with highest priority. The callous and casual attitude in handling biomedical wastes could prove to be a serious threat to public life and personnel handling and processing them unprofessionally. This is a care of solid waste management practise in India that needs serious attention.

It is not difficult to achieve this at all. But just needs an extra care and attention at all levels in terms of local, state and central governments. We need a multi-prong system that registers and calculates the amount of biomedical wastes generated in a particular hospital everyday across the country and how much if that is processed for detoxification and  decontamination in the form of sterilization. The biomedical wastes can be best disposed by incineration at an elevated temperature and high heat generated in the incinerators.
The incinerators used for disposing biomedical wastes needs revamp, refusing and regular maintenance. All records must be properly documented at multiple levels. People involved in handling, processing and disposal of biomedical wastes must be properly trained and dressed according to the guidelines. If we all take an extra step toward this serious issue of regular disposal of biomedical wastes generated in the country we could keep several contagious diseases under control.

One important loophole that needs to be specifically mentioned from an Indian perspective is the lack of education and awareness regarding the dangers of biomedical waste among general public. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed with special attention both in risk and urban areas. Most people outside the medical fraternity has very little or absolutely no knowledge or idea regarding the handling of unprocessed biomedical wastes and the dangers it carries. Most of the general public in both rural as well as urban areas have no idea how to identify a biomedical waste carrying bag and where to report in case they find it outside a medical facility. Hence, it is important that both governments (central, state and union territories) as well as no -government organizations take active part in educating and setting public about the dangers of biomedical wastes and about its scientific dispersal. Not just general public.

But even several stakeholders involved in the medical industry like those involved in handling, storage, transportation, destruction and disposal needs proper training and education in handling and managing biomedical waste properly and following appropriate procedures and protocols. It is quite alarming to note that many of such individuals neither have any access or knowledge regarding use of protective gears while handling dangerous biomedical wastes.

Some corporations and municipalities have done impressive work in handling and disposal of biomedical wastes for sure in India. However, lack of proper awareness, training and gross negligence is observed in numerous municipalities and corporations across the country in both states and u ion territories.  In densely populated cities the crisis of proper disposal of huge amount of biomedical wastes generated everyday is a critical issue that is mostly ignored and/or not dealt with serious attention and care that it deserves. Thus one must be aware under this COVID 19 pandemic that this kind of negligence, mistreatment or lack of proper processing and disposal of biomedical  wasted could lead to serious health crisis in a densely populated country like India that may be extremely challenging to control in the not so distant future.

A little cooperation, coordination and communication (three Cs) between government and private hospitals and nursing homes and corresponding municipalities and corporations could bring a significant change in proper disposal of biomedical wastes.  Mass education and awareness among public regarding the dangers of biomedical wastes is another important factor that can help critically in reducing possibilities of cross-contamination. Furthermore, it is important that such biomedical wastes, tools and kits are properly disinfected and disposed off in every municipality and corporation areas of the entire nation. Else there are high chances of the used medical supplies being reused by a group of dishonest business personnel to add to their profits at the serious cost of public health. The disturbing news of circulation of used syringes, cotton, sanitary pads, condoms, razors, dippers, discarded medication in some parts of India is undoubtedly alarming! Such practices need to be stopped completely and individuals and groups associated with such criminal activities apprehended and must face criminal charges. Any medical institute (government or private) found negligent in collection, storage, destruction, transportation and disposal of biomedical wastes should be fined or penalized by promulgation of suitable laws and orders to curb any such activities in the future.

(Photo credit: Author. Email: saikat.basu@alumni.uleth.ca)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi