Medical waste: a global problem for health and the environment
Gauze compresses and surgical drapes contaminated with blood, used gloves, sharps, blood collection tubes, etc.
Medical waste from health care, medical analysis and research activities, potentially contaminated by pathogenic biological agents, presents major infectious hazards for the environment and for the people exposed throughout the production and processing cycle: health care workers, nurses, patients, waste management providers, and the general public…
Treating biomedical waste is a real problem today for both public health and the environment on a global scale.
Regulated by numerous procedures and laws, the waste management process is long and limiting, and involves:
Biological hazards at all stages of the waste management process: collection, storage, transport on public highways and final disposal;
A negative impact for the environment arising from polluting incinerators used;
High processing costs for the waste generator, which is responsible for the waste until its complete destruction.
What exactly is infectious biomedical waste?
Infectious biomedical waste (also called biohazardous waste) is produced by diagnostics, follow-up and preventive, curative or palliative treatment in human and veterinary medicine.
« This waste contains viable micro-organisms or their toxins, which are known or reliably believed to cause due to their nature, quantity, or metabolism, disease in humans or other living organisms » (article R. 1335-1 of the French Public Health Code).
Potentially infectious biomedical waste systematically destroyed by the waste management process includes:
Sharp objects, i.e. cutting or sharp-edged materials, after use, which may or may not have come into contact with a biological product;
Blood bottles for therapeutic use incompletely used or reached the use-by date, blood collection tubes, drainage devices;
In general, all health care supplies or objects contaminated by (or containing) blood or another biological fluids (pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, amniotic, synovial and other such fluids);
Waste originating from embalming activities;
Human anatomical waste corresponding to any part of the human body not easily identifiable by a non-specialist;
Specific laboratory waste (cell cultures, samples);
Independently of the concept of infectious hazards, all health care material strongly associated with health care and that may have an emotional/psychological impact: syringes, tubing, probes, catheters, drains, gloves, etc.
Due to its nature and the risk of infection it presents, biohazardous waste includes waste that poses a risk to life. Humans can be exposed to biological agents contained in medical waste by: