The healthcare sector produces a high level of waste while treating patients. Not addressing these issues may continue to pile them up and make the environment hazardous for inhabitation. It is essential to recognize what these wastes are and how the healthcare sector can control them. Through our article, we will introduce you to the pollution this sector encounters and how it can help in making our environment sustainable:
What Are The Types Of Wastes?
Even though wastes can be broadly categorized, they can be bundled and narrowed into two specific headings. These are two leading types responsible for most of the wastes, and controlling them is vital:
Solid Wastes In Health Care
Much medical equipment constitutes solid waste. These include hazardous equipment such as needles that can spread HIV and Hepatitis C, among other blood-borne infections, if made useless before disposal. Syringes and scalpels wash up on the beach and can hurt animals and humans alike.
Therefore there was a need to safely eliminate these wastes without causing more pollution and risking more lives. They may also include protective equipment used in caring for patients with highly infectious viruses such as Ebola and, in more recent times, Coronavirus. These wastes may submerge into drinking water and contaminate it for consumption.
Municipal Solid Waste
These wastes are put in white, clear, or black bags and disposed of in landfills and thrown into a blazing fire. These are mostly plastic wastes such as patient care items, including cleaning wipes: paper, and paper towels.
Personal Protective Equipment, including gowns, gloves, and masks, also creates waste. The waste produced depends on the number of cases and infection rates a hospital may encounter. A doctor may use many PPEs in one day, and the patients may use many items. Hospitals produce waste by the kilogram every day.
How Can The Health Sector Help?
Many sectors make up the health sector. However, public health professionals are most concerned with taking care and looking after the population. You can join the workforce by pursuing a skillful degree by going for an MPA degree online and devise proper policies. Here are the number of ways the healthcare sector helps in taking care of wastes:
1. Use Red Bags
Utilize red bags to dispose of any blood products such as bloodied bandages or human tissues. These are contaminated items and may contain human pathogens with viruses and diseases that could be lethal.
These bags are thick, impervious to moisture, and strong enough to burst under pressure. They are stored away from other wastes. For medical equipment such as scalpels and needles, use thick containers instead.
2. Reduce The Number of PPEs
Hospitals can implement criteria for isolation that determines the need for isolation based on the likelihood that contact with this patient may spread pathogens. Understandably patients with open wounds should be isolated instead of every patient as they are much susceptible to diseases.
Make a list of tasks to do when visiting a patient in isolation to reduce the number of protective gear used. Hospitals can look into reusable and washable protective equipment instead of plastic ones. Offer educational seminars on how workers can reduce waste and so forth.
3. Conduct Education Seminars
Education seminars are essential for making the staff and the healthcare practitioners realize the importance of a sustainable healthcare model. It is necessary to guide them on categorizing waste and defining what each container stands for.
Check for reusable items and get them sterile for usage again. It would help to post signs in areas for red bag wastes and dedicate one area of disposal for them in the city. As public health professionals, this sector may be your specialty using data analysis collected from various community members. You can discuss the effects of exposure to these wastes and how the healthcare sector should be more cautious.
4. Disposing of IV Related Wastes
IV-related waste occurs when IV vials are not appropriately prepared and cleared off once they serve their purpose. Hospitals can solve this issue by using appropriately sized vials for each solvent.
Ensure vials are not kept close together, such as clean and dirty vials, to avoid cross-contamination. Always clean your workspace after using vials and when you need to prepare them. Ensure you know how much a patient needs and avoid making extra, which will go to waste.
How Do These Wastes Impact Our Health?
Now that you understand the challenges the healthcare sector faces. It is crucial to know how they impact our health and the potential dangers of not taking care of them. Here’s a list of their impact:
1. Impact of Biomedical Waste on Water
Water houses marine life as well as gives us drinking water. Consuming contaminated water may cause cholera, and eating polluted marine life may cause typhoid and severe food poisoning. High doses of biomedical wastes may introduce lethal chemicals into the water and maybe fatal to health.
2. Impact of Biomedical Waste on Soil
When heavy metals from chemicals seep into the soil, it ruins the soil’s PH level. Vegetation thrives best at certain PH levels. If this gets disrupted, it affects their growth, and there is a massive reduction in the amount of vegetation produced. If these plants get consumed, they can cause nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Sometimes this may lead to getting admitted into the hospital.
3. Impact of Biomedical Waste on Air
When these wastes go through incineration, the burning plastics produce hazardous fumes when inhaled. These greenhouse gases deplete the ozone layer and make us more prone to skin cancer. Gases such as nitrates and sulfates may introduce a series of respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, and lead into the blood. In severe cases, they may cause lung cancer.
There is much pollution produced by hospitals every day. These can be solid wastes or municipal solid wastes. The healthcare sector can respond to them by ensuring they use less equipment and reuse anything sterilization can clean. Use different bags to separate the kinds of wastes to avoid further contamination and limit exposure to pathogens. Conduct education seminars to educate the staff on what types of pollution a hospital produces and how to tackle them. Finally, make sure appropriate vials are prepared for each patient to avoid throwing out extra samples. If left unattended, they introduce a series of water contamination, air, and soil contamination. Through joined efforts, the environment can thrive while the healthcare sector takes care of its job.