Medical Waste Pollution In The USA

What is Medical Waste?

Like its name suggests, medical waste is waste generated by processes such as medical diagnosis, medical treatment, immunization, and biological research. Common examples of medical waste range from removed parts of the body to blood-soaked bandages, discarded syringes, and discarded surgical instruments. In some cases, medical waste can even include the waste produced by both humans and other animals as part of their bodily functions.

Medical waste can cause much the same problems as other forms of waste when it is tossed into the landfills without consideration for the proper procedures. For example, it takes up limited space in those landfills, thus contributing to their expansion in spite of their notorious impact on their surroundings. Similarly, medical waste can release harmful chemicals into the environment, which can cause human health problems in sufficient concentrations.

However, medical waste is particularly bad because it has the potential to spread infectious diseases when people come into contact with such substances. Fortunately, medical waste tends to become less and less infectious over time because of natural causes, but it is important to remember that even a single moment of carelessness can result in a lifetime of medical costs and complications.

medical-waste needle

How is Medical Waste Pollution Treated As an Issue in the USA?

In the late 1980s, interest in the issue of medical waste intensified when an enormous number of discarded syringes began washing up on beaches situated throughout the East Coast. Combined with increasing awareness about AIDS at the time, this created enough impetus to pass the Medical Waste Tracking Act in 1988. Said act defined medical waste, established a tracking system from start to finish, and instituted standards for the management of medical waste. Although it expired in the early 1990s, it continues to exert a significant influence over state regulation of medical waste.

Currently, incineration is the most common method for eliminating potentially infectious medical waste, so much so that it accounts for more than 90 percent of all such substances. However, other methods are seeing more and more use because they make more financial sense than medical waste incinerators, with common examples ranging from electropyrolysis to thermal sterilization and microwave sterilization. Of course, there are also standards in place to reduce the pollutants released by such treatments of medical waste, which include but are not limited to carbon monoxide, lead, mercury, and various acidic gases.

How Can You Prevent Medical Waste Pollution?

Businesses and other organizations interested in seeking assistance with their medical waste should not hesitate to contact a specialist such as Allied Medical Waste. This is because the seriousness of the situation means that the right solution needs the right expertise and experience. Furthermore, outsourcing tends to be less expensive than on-site solutions while still producing results that are no less excellent.

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