Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Medical clinics produce a lot of medical waste every year. During the Coronavirus pandemic, people paid more attention to medical waste and the specifics of its disposal. Yet, concern for proper medical waste management has been a big part of the healthcare industry for many years. The regulation of medical waste is handled by state health departments and other state entities, although some federal agencies are involved in the creation of proper medical waste protocols.
Most people outside of the healthcare industry might not spend a lot of time considering where all the medical waste goes or its disposal. It’s mostly a behind-the-scenes industry that operates without much attention or scrutiny outside of the healthcare industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, people paid close attention to how hospitals and healthcare facilities were operating in order to curb the spread.
The concern over medical waste was not particularly widespread until about the 1980s. It wasn’t until several beaches saw waste washing up on the shores that the problem garnered public attention and pressure.
The Syringe Tide and Increasing Public Pressure on Medical Waste Management
One such event nicknamed the “syringe tide” played a big role. It was the summer of 1988 in New Jersey. The shores of Island Beach State Park were suddenly littered with glittering and shiny objects. They were not diamonds. These objects were vials, syringes, and other medical waste. Another nearby beach found vials that tested positive for the HIV virus and Hepatitis B virus. The “syringe tide” was a name describing the various tides that swept in medical waste to these New Jersey beaches and forced them to close for long periods. The tourism industry suffered a heavy blow as 1 billion dollars in revenue was lost during one year alone.
While the unpleasant site of medical waste washing up on shores has not disappeared completely, in the 80s it was seen almost as a common occurrence. It was not until 1988 that Congress decided to take steps to alleviate this common problem across the country. They enacted the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988, which addressed how medical waste was handled in coastal areas. The central purpose of the act was to more closely monitor the process of medical waste disposal. The Act included hefty fines and prison time for violations.
After two years, however, the authority to regulate medical waste became a state issue. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contributes to research and information but does not have any authority on regulating this on the state level. Every state since then has imposed and perfected its rules and regulations for the proper disposal of medical waste.
Why Medical Waste Management Matters for the Work and the Environment
A surge in the generation of medical waste occurred during the year 2020 as hospitals and clinics adapted to precarious conditions. While the list is much longer, here are six ways that proper medical waste management makes a difference in the workplace and the environment.
#1 Reduces the risk of infection among the staff
As a hospital or clinic, your staff is of utter importance to you. Keeping them and the patients safe is of utmost importance. Medical waste tends to involve a lot of bodily fluids and contaminated equipment. Infectious diseases can be spread through contact with body parts, bodily fluids, infections agents used in research, and more. The health impact involves injuries caused by sharp objects not properly trashed, exposure to harmful chemicals, contact with body fluids that are contaminated. Staff can be exposed to diseases that include:
#2 Keeps the Community and Local Landfills Free From Contamination
Medical waste does not belong in regular community landfills. Waste produced in healthcare facilities is more hazardous than regular household waste. This type of waste includes hypodermic needles, broken vials, contaminated wound dressings, gloves, and masks, etc. It can pose a risk to those living in the area or release harmful substances into the air. Some of these substances do not biodegrade and can take many years to break down. By ensuring that medical waste is properly disposed of in special incinerators and/or landfills, the risk of spreading infectious diseases through these areas is greatly minimized.
#3 Keeps the Water Supply Free of Contamination
Water is essential for the health and safety of a community. Our lives are interconnected with our planet and wildlife. As illustrated by the “syringe tide” story in New Jersey, without proper care, waste management can reach our oceans and water supplies. There, plants and other sea life come into contact with them and absorb them. If it infects the fish life, it can move up the food chain and contaminate fish that people consume like tuna or shrimp. When wildlife is exposed to infectious substances or toxins it can lead to serious defects in newborn babies and health effects in people.
#4 Maintaining the Safety of Patients and the Credibility of Your Establishment
In addition to the safety of your healthcare workers and staff, disposing of medical waste properly and efficiently will create a sense of trust between patient and provider. Maintaining patient trust in these trying times, when the medical community had to respond quickly to a global pandemic is essential. People at risk include your patients, visitors, and even other workers such as personnel that deliver equipment, cleans, delivers food, etc. Your clinic, hospital, or veterinary clinic wants to convey your expertise and responsibility in healthcare practices by ensuring excellent adherence to medical waste protocols. Trusting a professional medical waste management company helps you ensure you are doing your part to keep everyone safe.
When It Comes to Excellent and Compliant Medical Waste Disposal, Trust Only the Best
Don’t leave the handling of your facility’s medical waste disposal to just anyone. The proper vehicles, equipment, and disposal are needed to ensure that the journey is complete and safe for workers, patients, and the environment. At Mediwaste Disposal, we take care of it from the moment we pick it up at your facility. You don’t have to worry about transportation or safe disposal. Leave that up to us.
Need more information on medical waste disposal in El Paso or the surrounding area? Call Mediwaste today.