Medical waste is a major day-to-day challenge faced by healthcare providers. In simple terms, it is any item that comes into contact with body fluids. According to United States Code, isolation wastes, human blood & blood products, pathological wastes, contaminated bedding, surgical wastes, dialysis wastes, sharps, needles, wipes, contaminated gloves, genotoxic waste, and other veterinary waste is classified as hazardous medical waste.
The major sources of hazardous medical waste are dental clinics, retail health shops, veterinary clinics, hospitals, funeral homes, research labs, etc. It is highly infectious and can jeopardize human lives by transmitting various contagious diseases. Keeping in mind the effects and challenges raised by medical waste, it is important to implement an effective waste disposal solution.
Here are 6 effective solutions for hazardous medical waste:
What is it? Autoclaving is the process of sterilization of solid medical waste equipment by heating them to a particular temperature for a specific period. The physical process of sterilization is executed inside a machine called an autoclave. The temperature range varies between 250-280 degrees F.
Why is it beneficial? The high amount of heat and pressure applied to the equipment helps in destroying bacteria, viruses, and even spores present on it. Autoclaving is highly effective to dispose of medical equipment such as surgical knives, sharps, and clamps. Zero chemicals are used in this process.
What is it? Incineration is the process of burning medical waste in a controlled manner inside an incinerator which is often referred to as a medical waste incinerator. The waste material is operated under a remarkably high temperature of 1200 degree C. It is a widely used technology that requires no pretreatment of medical waste.
Why is it beneficial? Incineration is considered as the most effective and safest method to treat medical waste. It is used to burn specific pathological and pharmaceutical wastes. The end-product obtained is significantly reduced by 80% or more in terms of volume and is obtained as an inorganic matter.
What is it? The process of irradiation involves gamma rays radiated on the medical waste equipment. The source of gamma radiation is the isotope of Cobalt. Sometimes, instead of using gamma rays, electron beams are used for irradiation.
Why is it beneficial? Gamma rays are intended to kill fatal bacteria and other harmful pathogens. These radiations break down the chemicals present on the equipment. There is no need to remove the waste material from plastic bags before treatment, as gamma radiations and electron beams can even penetrate these plastic bags.
What is it? The hazardous equipment is exposed to microwave radiation to get rid of it. Before using this method, medical waste is shredded to make it smaller to increase the efficiency of the radiation process. Typically, the frequency of microwave radiation used is 2450 Hz. The whole process takes place inside a single vessel.
Why is it beneficial? The process of microwave radiation sets a benchmark of 99.99% eradication of bacteria and spores. The end-product obtained is significantly reduced by volume and is ready to be disposed of in landfills without any danger to public health.
What is it? Chemical disinfection includes the use of chemicals such as chlorine compounds to disinfect liquid medical wastes. The liquid waste is shredded before exposure to the chemical agent. This helps in exposing the chemicals to every part of the waste material.
Why is it beneficial? It is an effective method to treat medical waste and kills harmful bacteria such as E. coli. The main function is to reduce the size of the solid waste pieces and increase the surface area. The end-products can be passed on to the sewer system after treatment with liquid disinfectant.
What is it? On-site medical waste treatment is typically done by using particular disposal equipment or machines. Various solid and liquid wastes, including sharp objects, are subjected to these machines, and converted into disposed of end-product in just a single cycle.
Why is it beneficial? On-site destruction offers efficient and independent treatment of biohazardous waste. It saves the cost of transportation, which is higher in off-site treatment. These machines are simple and safe to use because of zero harmful emissions.
The Bottom Line
Hazardous medical waste comes in a variety of categories which can cause serious health conditions to humans. The repercussions can be even higher in poor countries with low regulatory standards for proper disposal of medical waste. This can lead to a spread of contagious diseases and could potentially harm many people.
Governments and researchers have to work together with medical waste disposal companies to manage and dispose of dangerous waste. By doing so, a strong waste disposal solution can be implemented which can save the environment and many innocent lives.