Jammu & Kashmir

Heaps of bio-medical waste treated unscientifically in JK, say doctors

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Bio-medical waste thrown on ground in Kashmir as officials claim heaps of trash is being treated unscientifically in JK. [FPK Photo/ Umar Farooq]

‘40,000 medical shops in JK have the capacity to generate tonnes of bio-medical waste’

Srinagar: Most of the bio-medical waste generated in health institutions is not being treated scientifically even as authorities claim that they have adopted a barcoding system for segregation and proper disposal of the bio-medical waste.

Several doctors and environmental said that even though the premier health institutions in Kashmir have at least some system in place to collect, transport, segregate and treat the bio-medical waste but most of the health care institutions especially in rural areas have no system in place.

A senior doctor from GMC Srinagar, wishing not to be named, said that there should be a proper check on the waste disposal mechanism as there are some loopholes that need to be checked at the earliest.

“The bio-medical waste has to go through various stages before it reaches the treatment plant and there is a need of keeping proper vigil on it,” he said.

Another doctor said that mostly, the bio-medical waste in different hospitals is collected by the staff and transported by waste-dumper of the Municipality and without segregation, it is either being burnt in an incinerator or used for landfilling thereby violating the Bio-Medical Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 1998.

Dr Nisar Ul Hassan said that Healthcare waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms that can infect hospital patients, health workers, and the general public and other potential hazards may include drug-resistant microorganisms which spread from health facilities into the environment.

“Adverse health outcomes associated with health care waste also include sharps-inflicted injuries, toxic exposure to pharmaceutical products, in particular, antibiotics and cytotoxic drugs released into the surrounding environment, and to substances such as mercury or dioxins, during the handling or incineration of health care wastes; chemical burns arising in the context of disinfection, sterilization or waste treatment activities and air pollution arising as a result of the release of particulate matter during medical waste incineration,” he said.

“It can put an impact on the environment as well as untreated health care wastes and scattered waste can lead to contamination of water, surface, the release of pathogens and toxic pollutants, he said, adding that this waste can prove dangerous at times of pandemic like Covid-19.”

Doctors said that a large number of ill-equipped, Public Health Care institutions especially in rural areas have no proper mechanism to transport or dispose of bio-medical waste.

They said that there are around 40,000 medical shops working in the UT having the capacity to generate tonnes of bio-medical waste but the persons running these shops have no training in BMW.

The detailed estimate of BMW generated by the hospitals, private clinics, medical shops, dispensaries, households and other medical institutions in the UT remains unavailable and it has been putting a bad impact on the environment, they said.

Use of incineration is preferred as the preferred method of disposal of Bio-Medical Waste which is not environmental-friendly as the practice produces toxic gases giving rise to health complications, they said.

Meanwhile, an official of the Pollution Control Board JK said that several initiatives were taken to strengthen the biomedical waste management system in Jammu and Kashmir.

He says that a bar code system has been established to help in accounting for the quantity of biomedical waste being collected, treated, and disposed of.

Pertinently, about 8000 kg of bio-medical waste is being generated by health care facilities in J&K every day and there are just three bio-medical waste treatment plants available in the whole UT

A top scientist of the Pollution Control Board said that there are three common bio-medical waste treatment facilities in JK but they are not sufficient. The rules don’t allow them to establish the fourth plant.

He said that the government can always change the rules considering the quantum of bio-medical waste generated.

Notably, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that improper disposal of Bio-Medical Waste (BMW) can cause the diseases like Parasitic Infections, Lung Infections, Skin infections, HIV and Hepatitis B and C Viruses, Candida, Meningitis and Bacteremia. The people living nearby open BMW disposal sites can experience diarrhoea, headaches, chest pains, irritation of the skin, nose and eyes and typhoid.

As per the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in July 1998, it is the duty of every “occupier”, (in this case the heads of hospitals and other healthcare facilities) i.e. a person who has control over an institution or its premises, to take all steps to ensure that Bio-Medical Waste (BMW) generated is handled without any adverse effect on human health and the environment. (KNO)

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