Biomedical waste is that waste which is generated by the diagnosis and treatment of human beings or animals or by the medical research activities conducted or during the production of medical equipment.
Biomedical waste can be hazardous and infectious by nature. So it needs to be handled properly to ensure it doesn’t deteriorate peoples’ health when it’s discarded.
Any inadequacy in the management of biomedical waste can result in the following issues:
The waste can become a breeding ground for flies
Can result in high risk of infections to medical staff
Increased hazardous risk for the person handling the chemicals and other waste including the sharps
Poor infection control can also lead to spread of infections to patients from the medical centres
If such waste is reused, it can result in diseases like cholera, plague, tuberculosis, AIDS etc.
Also, studies have shown that one-third of the total waste generated in the medical establishment is hazardous and toxic in nature.
Since the mismanagement of biomedical waste can be dangerous to the public, the government (Ministry of Environment and Forests) has provided uniform guidelines and code of practice for the whole nation regarding the management handling of biomedical waste in the ‘Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules,1998.
For this project, I visited the medical centre in Symbiosis Viman Nagar Campus (SVC) for information and interviewed the doctor in charge of the centre “Dr. Kiran Mahajan”.
Though he stated that the medical centre of SVC was not performing advanced medical treatments and thus the composition of their centre’s biomedical waste would differ a lot from that of a hospital, still he had the knowledge of the waste generated in hospitals and how is it managed. So we could rely on his information.
So the most important source of information for this project was the interview with Dr. Kiran Mahajan and secondly, I also looked up the internet for some additional information and facts to enrich my knowledge about biomedical waste.
Some of the important questions I asked Dr. Kiran Mahajan were:
Q- What are the items included in (or composition of) biomedical waste?
Q- How can it become dangerous if not managed well?
Q- What is the process of managing biomedical waste?
Q- Is this process different from the management of other waste?
Q- What is the present condition of biomedical waste management in the medical institutions?
Q- Can you find out any inefficiencies in the waste management process?
Q- Can you quantify the amount of biomedical waste generated?
Q- How is the generated waste treated/disposed off?
I was enlightened with the following information by Dr. Kiran Mahajan and the internet.
First of all, biomedical waste includes:
Human anatomical waste (tissues, organs, body parts etc.)
Animal waste (as above, generated during research/experimentation, from veterinary hospitals etc.) Microbiology and biotechnology waste, such as, laboratory cultures, micro-organisms
Human and animal cell cultures, toxins etc.
Waste sharps, such as, hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpels, broken glass etc.
Soiled waste, such as dressing, bandages, material contaminated with blood etc.
Solid waste (disposable items like tubes, catheters etc. excluding sharps),
Liquid waste generated from any of the infected areas,
The management issues in bio-medical waste handling are:
Reduction of waste generation
Segregation of waste at the place of its generation
Transportation of the waste
Handling of the waste
Stages of biomedical waste management:
Stage 1: Waste generation and storage:
Here the waste generated is segregated at the place of its generation and the toxic and hazardous waste is kept in a separate container which is labelled for its easy identification. Each type of waste generated is kept separately and labelled which further helps in its transportation and handling.
According to the rules of the government, untreated waste shouldn’t be stored beyond a point of 48 hours.
Suggestions for segregation and storages of waste in separate containers:
â€¢ The container must be strong enough to be able to handle the pre-determined maximum capacity of waste without any damage.
â€¢ It shouldn’t have any leakages.
â€¢ The containers should be covered when idle.
â€¢ The sharps must be stored in puncture proof containers after being mutilated.
After a bag or container is sealed, a label of the name of the component should be attached to it.
Stage 2: Transportation:
â€¢ While collecting waste from the medical establishments, it should be ensured that the waste is properly collected without any leakages and ambiguity in its nature.
â€¢ Attempts can be made to provide a separate corridor for transfer of waste from the storage area to its transport area (It can be ensured that this path is not used for mobility of the patients and visitors).
Stage 3: Waste treatment and disposal:
The various ways for treatment and disposal of waste are:
It’s the practice of using thermal energy to convert the waste into inert materials and gases.
This process has been recommended for human anatomical waste, animal waste, discarded medicines.
It is a process in which the waste material is brought in contact with steam for a time period which is sufficient to disinfect the waste material.
It is recommended for biotechnology waste, waste sharps.
It is again a wet thermal disinfection technology but unlike others (which heat the waste externally), microwave heats the target material inside out providing a high level of disinfection.
It involves the use of chemicals like hypochlorite solution to disinfect the waste.
It is recommended for waste sharps, solid, liquid as well as chemical wastes.
Sanitary and secured landfilling:
It is required in the following circumstances:
Deep burial of human anatomical waste when a proper facility of incineration is not available. (Sanitary landfill)
Animal waste. (Sanitary landfill)
Disposal of autoclaved, microwaved waste. (Sanitary landfill)
Disposal of incineration ash. (Sanitary landfill)
Disposal of bio-medical waste till such time when proper treatment and disposal facility is in place. (Secured landfill)
Disposal of sharps. (Secured landfill)
The other non-toxic and non-hazardous waste can be taken care of by the following ways:
Composting of green waste
Recycling of packaging material
Problems/inefficiencies being faced in the field:
Some of the problems/inefficiencies being encountered in the management of biomedical waste are:
Till now, it has been observed that the statistics presented in the government by the ‘Ministry of environment and forests’ about the quantity of biomedical waste are often not true/accurate.* (See references for source)
The Ministry of environment and forests claims that India treats more than 70% of the biomedical waste it generates (which can be misleading if the statistics are wrong as mentioned above).
Another problem being faced is the improper disposal of this waste i.e. even though the correct method is being followed; the method is not being implemented properly.
For. E.g. the incineration of waste is observed to be done at 400 C which is to be done at 1000 C resulting in release of poisonous gases.
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