Did you know that HIV virus remains active for no less than 28 days? So, if a discarded syringe used by an HIV patient ends up pricking a person’s foot on the road, it could lead to a potentially dangerous consequence. Even cotton having stains of blood from an HIV patient could spread infection. Danger posed by medical waste is not a new thing to know but still not many people are seemed to be aware enough.
Corpses of those who died of coronavirus floating in rivers or discarded medical devices used in treating Covid-19 patients or PPE kits and masks lying in the open during the peak of the pandemic was a common sight. But how many of us are familiar with the risk such medical waste poses to public health by spreading the virus/infection? The question that becomes relevant here is about a proper disposal of medical waste which is often found scattered outside hospitals in the form of surgical masks and gloves, syringes, used cotton and medicines that have gone past their dates of expiry. Is it not necessary in public interest that the waste is managed properly to ensure social hygiene?
In March 2020, on the basis of Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules 2016, the Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi, came up with orders to ensure that bio-medical waste is disposed off safely. In May 2020, when the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc, the pollution board also unveiled an Android app through which pandemic-time medical waste coming out of hospitals could be tracked and disposed off quickly. But are these rules being followed by all?
Non responsible attitude is the main reason
In Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, nearly 25 per cent of the nursing homes, test laboratories and hospital operators have been found to be dumping medical waste such as injections, syringes, empty vials and medicine containers, discarded bandages on roads. Medicare agencies have informed the central pollution board about 51 clinics, test laboratories and hospitals that have not sent even a kilogram of medical waste for disposal in a month. Needless to say, the risk-posing waste is being thrown out on streets and even the cleaning staff members from the local civic body are hesitant to pick it up.
In Juran Chapra, a medical hub in Muzaffarpur city, roads are filled up with medical filth and buzzing flies play as perfect carriers of disaster by touching upon them and food items kept in the open in nearby shops.
Rajiv Kumar, a senior manager at Medicare Environmental Management Pvt Ltd, told THIP Media on the issue of medical waste, “There are about 350 hospitals and test labs registered under the agency. More than 300 small health centres still defy rules to dump medical waste outside. Actions should be taken against them.”
According to data released by the Union ministry of environment and forests, between June 2020 and 2021 when the pandemic was at its peak, India saw generation of 56,898 tonnes of bio-medical waste. Maharashtra alone produced 8,317 tonnes of them, the maximum among all states. Kerala (6,442 tonnes), Gujarat (5,004 tonnes), Tamil Nadu (4,835 tonnes), Delhi (3,995 tonnes), Uttar Pradesh (3,881 tonnes) and Karnataka (3,113 tonnes) followed.
Finding a solution is the key
Every citizen who passes a pile of garbage on the road complains about breathing discomfort. Buzzing insects, shrinking of roads causing traffic snarl are other civic problems that people face because of medical garbage dumped on roads. Nobody wants to go near the waste fearing infection that could be caused if they land on a used syringe or broken medical bottle.
Some locals informed that with hospitals around, people also dump newborn babies – dead or alive – into the garbage pile. It is a serious matter that needs a quick solution. To ensure that we do not witness again the horrific sights of the pandemic times, it is urgent to take necessary steps in tackling risky medical waste.
If the citizens come together and oppose hospitals, test labs and medicine shops from throwing medical waste outside and even force the authorities to take action for doing so, then there is some hope of bringing the issue under control.
The common man also needs to set an example by not throwing garbage out in the open. Besides, it would also be useful to plant trees such as neem that help in purifying air and water. Various organisations and individuals should come together to create a better environment. A small step today can lead to a giant stride tomorrow to save the environment around us.
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