Published On: Sat, Mar 21st, 2020

What are the hazards associated with hospital waste?

The main danger with biomedical waste lies in the harm it may cause to the environment, and the people who may come into contact with it. This is why hazardous medical waste shredders are becoming more and more prominent among the basic equipments of a hospital. But how can hospital waste be so dangerous? And what are the exact dangers associated with it? Read on to find out!

A radioactive sign hangs on barbed wire outside a café in Pripyat.
photo VOA Photo / D. Markosian

When is hospital waste considered hazardous?

When talking about hazardous medical waste, it usually falls into one or more of the following categories:

  • infectious medical waste
  • genotoxic medical waste
  • chemical medical waste
  • radioactive medical waste
  • sharps medical waste

Apart from the dangers associated with such types of hazardous hospital waste, there is also the visual horror that comes upon seeing certain elements of the waste (especially in the case of the identifiable body parts of anatomical waste). However, if left untreated, the generally negative opinion of the public will be the least of your problems if you put medical staff, patients, visitors, and workers in danger. Anybody who comes into contact (or in some cases the close proximity) of hazardous hospital waste can be at risk.

Hazards associated with infectious hospital waste and medical sharps

Sharps waste can be especially hazardous, since the punctures and cuts they can cause to the skin are an easy way to infect the wounds they caused (if they have previously been in contact with pathogens). The double risk of injury and infection transmission makes this a category that requires extremely safe handling (the medical waste shredder mentioned at the beginning of the article is an excellent example for an adequate tool).

Examples of dangerous pathogens related to sharps waste include hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV.

Hazards associated with medical chemical and pharmaceutical waste

The risks associated with the chemicals and pharmaceuticals inside hospital waste mainly include intoxication (by chronic or acute exposure), as well as different injuries (such as burns). The former doesn’t only occur from inhalation or ingestion (which is quite a straightforward way for hazardous chemicals to cause harm), but also from being absorbed through the skin.

The main dangers that untreated medical chemical or pharmaceutical waste may cause is through the contamination of the sewage systems, which in turn leads to adverse effects on the environment that will receive the infected water.

Hazards associated with genotoxic hospital waste

The dangers that are represented by genotoxic hospital waste can be quite severe depending on the toxicity of the waste, and the amount of time that the person (or animal) at risk was exposed. In the most severe cases, certain types of leftover drugs can even cause mutations.

Hazards associated with radioactive hospital waste

Similar to genotoxic waste, the harm that radioactive medical waste may cause depends on the isotopes within the waste, and the duration of the exposure. In the least serious cases, the symptoms will be limited to headaches and dizziness, but one can never be too careful with this kind of biomedical waste.

Author: Gourav Rana

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