The Importance of Medical Waste Management to Human Health and the Environment?


Economic growth and growing consumption of materials result in a constant increase in the amount of waste. Almost everything, material, and device becomes the same after some time. Its accumulation disturbs the balance in nature and becomes an economic, ecological, and health problem of today, which sets before society the task of special care for waste. Medical waste mostly falls under hazardous and represents a great chemical and biological hazard, and can significantly threaten the health of the population. It must be treated in one of two ways – direct burning, or sterilization and shredding, after which it becomes non-hazardous and can be disposed of or burned together with municipal waste.

Properties and types of medical waste

In practice and literature, we often come across different terminology when it comes to medical waste – biomedical, chemical, infectious, clinical waste, and so on. According to WHO (World Health Organization), hazardous medical waste can be clinical and non-clinical and based on this division, further waste disposal is carried out. Clinically, they were divided into seven groups – pharmaceutical, chemical, sharp objects, pathological, infectious, aerosols, and radioactive waste. Any species in question requires special treatment due to the dangerous properties they possess. On the other hand, we have non-clinical waste, i.e. that which is generated in healthcare institutions and is a mixture of municipal and medical. What we are trying to say is that any of these species have very negative effects on humans – they are dangerous for the human body if they come into contact with humans, especially with their blood, they are often carcinogenic, and often lead to death. Also, almost every type of this waste contains living microorganisms that cause human diseases. Quite enough reasons to medically leave as necessary, and in order to protect ourselves and others, right?

Treatment of medical waste

Persons who work with hazardous infectious waste must be familiar with the principles of occupational safety and worker safety, which includes appropriate training that will ensure the safe handling of personnel so that they do not expose themselves to the risk of infection. This instruction applies to all medical workers, as well as housekeepers and other workers who come into contact with it in any way. Medwaste Management is very important when it comes to the safety of all employees and proper disposal. Therefore, it is very important that workers have appropriate protective equipment such as a helmet, protective face mask, gloves, protective glasses, coveralls, leg guards, industrial aprons, boots, and other equipment that will prevent any contact of a person with the source of infection. It is also very important to sort it in order to dispose of it properly.

Why is medical waste disposed of in a special way?

Untreated hazardous medical waste must not be disposed of together with municipal one. If untreated hazardous medical waste is collected and disposed of together with municipal waste, especially in places that are not intended for disposal, the danger to the health of the population increases many times over. The places where the waste was collected must be washed with a stream of water and disinfected, as well as disinfected and exterminated to prevent the reproduction of insects and rodents.

Who are the biggest producers of medical waste?

The biggest producers are healthcare institutions, laboratories, autopsy centers, dental practices, and so on. However, in addition to these establishments, you can also meet him in tattoo and piercing salons, animal shelters, and beauty salons that deal with acupuncture, pedicures, and similar beauty treatments.

The most common infections

If we are talking about diseases that can be acquired in this way, among the most common are hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus, and the like. Therefore, about 80% of hazardous medical waste is infectious, i.e. hazardous medical waste that contains and/or may contain microorganisms that can cause diseases in humans and animals, and consists of cultures and accessories from microbiological laboratories, equipment, material, and accessories that have been in contact with the blood and other secretions of infectious patients, dialysis waste, and from all other procedures on patients. This can be the source of all kinds of infections (respiratory, skin, gastrointestinal, and urinary, infections that can be transmitted through blood and other body fluids).

Environmental hazards

Exposure of the environment to such kind of waste can affect the entire system, not only the direct threat to the health of people who come into contact with it. Before being deposited, hazardous medical waste must undergo a process of sterilization and destruction of pathogens in order to avoid their release into the environment during disposal. The most common form of destruction of medical waste is incineration, after which it ceases to be dangerous for the environment because it loses its dangerous properties and the waste takes on a different appearance of reduced volume, which is more acceptable for the landfill. It is also a method that releases potentially dangerous particles through the smoke into the environment.

When the virus reaches the environment, it can be transmitted through water or rodents and other smaller animals, thus endangering the entire ecosystem. According to research, the survival of the virus in municipal waste and its arrival in the aquatic ecosystem depends mostly on external conditions and the conditions prevailing in municipal waste.

Final thoughts

Due to its properties and characteristics, medical waste has recently attracted a lot of public attention. Irresponsible handling of hazardous medical waste puts people and the environment at risk, and therefore waste management requires greater control.

In order to establish a comprehensive medical waste management system, it is necessary to first create legislation and regulations that would accurately regulate the medical waste management system. On the basis of legal regulations, the obligations and responsibilities of legal and natural persons regarding the handling of waste should be determined. Thus, healthcare institutions as producers of hazardous waste would be obliged to dispose of waste in an environmentally friendly manner. This is successfully implemented in a large number of countries, but in some, there is still room for improvement so that the environment and the people themselves are healthy and protected from various infections.

Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]