Health Risks When Disposing of Medical Waste
- Medical waste often contains harmful pathogens and chemicals. These can infect or harm patients, health care staff and the public. They can also cause harm to the environment and negatively impact fish, wildlife, birds and vegetation.
- There is a danger of drug resistant viruses and bacteria spreading from the health care centers into the surrounding environment such as into the groundwater. Not every healthcare facility has a separate sewage treatment of liquid waste.
- Sharps injuries may cause damage and infection. Someone who has a needle stick injury used on an infected patient has a 30% risk of contracting Hepatitis B virus, a 1.8% chance of being infected with Hepatitis C, and a 0.3% chance of becoming infected with the HIV virus.
- There may be exposure to toxic pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, cytotoxic medicines, mercury and dioxins.
- Chemical burns may occur from disinfectants, sterilizing agents or during waste treatment itself.
- Air pollution results from the particulate matter released when medical waste is incinerated.
- Thermal burns may happen when open burning of waste takes place or even during the operation of incinerators.
- Radiation burns.