The Problems of Improper Medical Waste Disposal

Improper medical waste disposal is a bigger problem than the trash can knocked over in the doctor’s exam room. While that problem isn’t anything to sneeze at, there are much more significant problems looming over the world because of improper medical waste disposal. Improper medical waste disposal can create civil and even criminal issues for companies doing and handling the disposal. It can create human health risks and impact our environment for years.

There are some nasty waste products in the medical field. The cotton balls held on your arm as they withdraw the needle after a blood draw are medical waste. It doesn’t seem scary, though, does it? Well, does strychnine send a shiver up your spine? It can be medical waste, and that is scary. Medical waste is all that, a lot more in between, and even some radioactive chemicals used in chemotherapy mixed up in it, as well.

The Business Impact of Improper Disposal

There are more federal, state, and local regulations for medical waste disposal than there are stars in the sky. Even large corporations are intimidated. Fines approaching $500,000 have been levied for violations of medical waste disposal regulations.

Knowing the right thing to do with medical waste can be a big challenge for large and small businesses. Fines usually range between $5,000 and $70,000, but that upper end could put a small business out of business, and the regulations apply as equally to a small business as they do to a corporation. That puts a small business owner on the spot.

The consequences don’t necessarily have to stop there, either. Malfeasance charges against a corporation when it involves a death could result in criminal charges. Malpractice charges against a doctor could also be criminal if the doctor’s actions resulted in death.

The Health Risks Of Medical Waste

Direct exposure to improperly disposed of medical waste is an obvious risk anywhere along the disposal line. It can occur when a janitor handles unlabeled bags containing medical waste. Direct exposure can occur during the sorting and handling of regular waste at disposal sites. When sharps are mishandled, needle sticks and even the reuse of needles are risks. Medical waste is commonly scavenged for needles and other usable items in some parts of the world.

The Environmental Threat

Improper disposal of medical waste at a facility not built to contain it is likely to contaminate the ground beneath it and eventually contaminate drinking, ground, and surface water. Improper treatment of medical waste with chemicals meant to neutralize the waste can result in chemical contamination of the surrounding area.

Burning medical waste is a standard practice permitted by regulations; however, that does not preclude incineration at disposal sites from being improper. The issue is challenging since incineration releases toxins and particulate matter into the air. Incineration of heavy metals or materials with high metal content (in particular lead, mercury, and cadmium) can spread toxic metals in the environment. Incinerated materials containing or treated with chlorine can generate dioxins and furans, human carcinogens.

A Global Problem

The World Health Organization says many low-income countries do not separate hazardous and non-hazardous waste. In 2015, a joint WHO/UNICEF study found that only 58% of sampled facilities in 24 countries had sufficient resources to dispose of medical waste safely and properly.

Make Sure Improper Disposal Of Medical Waste Isn’t Your Problem

A single hospital can produce a ton of medical waste for disposal in only one day. Smaller healthcare facilities still produce significant amounts. The challenges of separating hazardous from non-hazardous waste and proper disposal will not disappear. That is why we are here.

Medical Waste Pros will make sure you find the service solutions you need to meet all the problems and challenges that come your way regarding proper medical waste disposal. Call us at (888) 755-6370 or fill out the contact form to receive free quotes on our medical waste disposal services and training programs today.