Biohazardous waste, also known as infectious or biomedical waste, is any waste that contains infectious materials or potentially infectious substances such as blood. Of particular concern are sharps such as scalpel blades, needles, glass pipettes, or any other waste material that may cause an injury during handling.
Biohazardous waste must be handled according to strict federal, state and local regulations. Mishandled biohazard waste poses a threat not only to healthcare professionals, patients, and local community members, it also poses a significant threat to the environment.
Wildlife and Pharmaceuticals
Biohazard waste that is not disposed of properly can end up in lakes, parks, and other wildlife refuges where birds and fauna live. Wildlife are very curious about pharmaceuticals. It is thought they are attracted to the scent or color of pills and liquid medicine. This curiosity results in digestion of medication, which can injure or even kill the animal.
Much thought and effort has been taken to ensure landfills are built to protect the earth around them. Most are built with a special lining so nearby soil and groundwater cannot become contaminated. Mishandled biohazard waste can compromise even the best landfill design. Syringes and other sharp objects can easily rip the lining. As rain falls, contaminants in the landfill can seep out to the exterior soil, and the groundwater become toxic.
In order to accurately diagnose patients, doctors must sometimes use radioactive tools. When disposed of improperly, radioactivity can enter landfills and other areas. These substances emit particles that are dangerous to people. Excessive exposure to radioactivity can result in serious diseases.
Certain medical waste can be destroyed by incineration. But, if not ignited properly, pollutants can move through the air. Airborne pollutants can be worse than land-based types because they can spread far and wide and quickly.
Biohazard waste poses serious risks and must be handled and disposed of properly. Everyone working in the healthcare industry has a responsibility to handle these materials correctly and speak up if they see others ignoring safety measure and regulations.
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