May 26, 2018, 8:01 am IST
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Healthcare activities protect and restore health

Healthcare activities protect and restore health

 Feb 10, 2018

Healthcare activities protect and restore health and save lives. Of the total amount of waste generated by health-care activities, about 85 per cent is general, non-hazardous waste comparable to domestic waste and the remaining 15 per cent is considered hazardous material that may be infectious, chemical or radioactive.

The major sources of health-care waste are: hospitals and other health facilities, laboratories and research centres, mortuary and autopsy centres, animal research and testing laboratories, blood banks and collection services and nursing homes for the elderly, says a study.

High-income countries generate on average up to 0.5 kg of hazardous waste per hospital bed per day; while low-income countries generate on average 0.2 kg. However, health-care waste is often not separated into hazardous or non-hazardous wastes in low-income countries making the real quantity of hazardous waste much higher.

Health-care waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms that can infect hospital patients, health workers and the general public. Other potential hazards may include drug-resistant microorganisms which spread from health facilities into the environment.

Adverse health outcomes associated with health care waste and by-products also include: sharps-inflicted injuries; toxic exposure to pharmaceutical products, in particular, antibiotics and cytotoxic drugs released into the surrounding environment, and to substances such as mercury or dioxins, during the handling or incineration of health care wastes; chemical burns arising in the context of disinfection, sterilization or waste treatment activities; air pollution arising as a result of the release of particulate matter during medical waste incineration; thermal injuries occurring in conjunction with open burning and the operation of medical waste incinerators and radiation burns.

Worldwide, an estimated 16 billion injections are administered every year. Not all needles and syringes are disposed of safely, creating a risk of injury and infection and opportunities for reuse.

Injections with contaminated needles and syringes in low- and middle-income countries have reduced substantially in recent years, partly due to efforts to reduce reuse of injection devices. Despite this progress, in 2010, unsafe injections were still responsible for as many as 33 800 new HIV infections, 1.7 million hepatitis B infections and 315 000 hepatitis C infections.

A person who experiences one needle stick injury from a needle used on an infected source patient has risks of 30 per cent, 1.8 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively of becoming infected with HBV, HCV and HIV.


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