04 Nov Medical Waste Pollution

Hospitals and medical facilities around the U.S use an unbelieveable amount of disposable equipment every year, producing copious amounts of medical waste. Unlike a casual case of littering, medical waste poses a direct threat to our health and wellbeing. Medical waste may contain residue of bodily fluids and other biohazardous materials, potentially containing some of our world’s most lethal diseases.

So the question is: What are we doing with all this medical waste? The answer to this question might be complicated than you’d think. At this moment, many states have their own rules on how to handle medical waste, which makes it quite a challenge to regulate and verify that the waste has been properly disposed of, as to not create a safety hazard for neither humans nor for the environment.

Background

Medical waste pollution was not given much thought until the 1980’s, when it was suddenly the center of a news scandal. In 1987, a terrifying amount of used syringes were found washed up on the shores of New York and New Jersey. Since this was at the height of the AIDS scare, it became the number one concern for the federal government. Thus the Medical Waste Tracking Act was signed in 1988, a law that helped the government regulate the issue. This law defined what was to be considered medical waste, established a cradle-to-grave tracking system for all medical waste items, required stricter rules on packaging, labeling and storage of medical waste, and put into place harsher punishments for mismanagement of medical waste.

Today’s situation

Nowadays autoclaving is the most widely used means to dispose of medical waste. This method, based on microwave technology, is certainly better for our environment. Surely medical equipment companies will continue to develop even safer disposal methods as time goes on.