About bio-medical waste

I wanted to write about biomedical waste problem that I again came across while talking to one of my friend in Kanpur . I also looked at your website and found the problem to be very true and serious in nature. I have been reading a lot about this problem lately as my research work little bit deals with biomolecules and biological materials. So, I am writing about what I got to know from some of my friends and interestingly remembered an old incident in this regard.

Being a person who envisions for a peaceful and clean world, I will say I am encouraged by the problems in this regard to write and think about the possible solutions to accomplish the goals and the relevant challenges. Keeping my thoughts aligned in the direction of the question of India being a developed nation, I feel that problem related to the ground pollution is something our nation and citizens should be aware of properly. Not only knowing the problem is going to help but to take few actions to improve the situation will be a great advancement towards a clean society. There are many factors contributing towards pollution and can be categorized into three primary sources: Solid waste, Liquid waste, and Gaseous waste. A very common example for a solid waste which is taken less care about in underdeveloped countries is biomedical waste that is generated in the hospitals. It is extremely important to dispose this waste in a proper manner. Recent study on a survey of biomedical waste done by researchers at regional engineering college at Orrisa indicates that an average daily generation of the biomedical waste in an Indian hospital comes out to be around 1.37 Kg/bed/day. This is a significant amount of waste and can be extremely hazardous to human health if proper disposal measures are not brought into action. Recently, talking to some of my friends back in Kanpur , I realized that this is one of the major factors contributing to the deterioration of our city. The most interesting thing that I came to know was that one can easily find such waste lying right in the middle of the roads nearby local hospitals. This is quite frustrating and makes me think what is happening to our civic sense? Are we as a community acting in the right directions to make sure that when a patient goes in a hospital for a treatment then he will be safe outside after his treatment and will not go back for another treatment for a disease/infection which he/she caught because of the improper and unacceptable waste disposal efforts in our city. I would say that these efforts are not even efforts because disposing a waste on roads or even in improper location does not require efforts and demonstrates the extent of our illiteracy as a whole community. In this regard, I strongly feel and recommend proper training courses for all those employees in a particular health care center who are responsible to dispose such medical waste including all the doctors working there.

Many goals in a society can be even achieved without advanced industrialization which of course comes behind when a society starts applying common sense to judge what is right and what is wrong. To maintain certain level of civic sense it is extremely important for every citizen to think before he/she acts. If I say just a biomedical waste then you might find it slightly technical but if I say this biomedical waste is one of the ingredients which is in certain ways responsible for polluting rivers, polluting the air we breathe, and most importantly and unknowingly polluting our own bodies or human health. Now the big problem is that the source itself is a set of extremely educated people in our society. The question is what doctors are doing? Are they taking proper care in this regard? What about such waste which is generated around a private clinic? I very well remember this aspect few years back (year 2001) when I was in fever and visited a private clinic which is located in densely populated core of Kanpur city. The doctor's assistant gave me a flu shot. It is good to see that our government has enforced the use of disposable syringes but what happened next was something that made me feel that we still don't understand the meaning of the word "Disposable". To my surprise, today, the private clinic was half encroached on the road side with many patients sitting uncared around a litter. This litter was nothing but used cottons, used syringes, used bandages and other medical waste generated in that clinic. This litter also included that disposable syringe which the doctor's assistant threw right into that litter after giving me a shot and I witnessed that moment very well. Now this is an excellent demonstration of ignorance which makes me think today about the fact that how much the doctor's assistant knew about the word "disposable". Does it mean dispose it wherever you want? Comparing with the situation of finding such waste on roads today (2005) makes me feel that even in past 4 years nothing changed in this regard. One has to very well agree that this is affecting us badly. In 21st century when developed nations are fighting problems of biological and chemical warfare, we in India do not even understand the meaning of biomedical waste which is in no way different than the former problem around the world. In fact, we are the one who is spreading this problem by not educating ourselves. Think about an example of pathological and radioactive waste that can be generated by this biomedical waste because of its very nature. It can not only give rise to diseases like flu but also to diseases like AIDS and other dangerous viral diseases. Speaking in terms of facts, UK and USA generates 2.5 and 4.5 kg/bed/day, respectively, of biomedical waste. These numbers are much much greater than in India . But the surprising thing is that these countries are able to prevent pollution due to it. The question is how? One can easily observe this in common working style of the authorities and doctors in USA . Before even any scientist or law enforcement authority estimates or audits the waste and disposal, these doctors themselves make sure about the problem by disposing it in proper way and thus preventing the filth to go on the roads. If our health officials are treating similar diseases in India that are being treated in same way in USA then why we can't be careful about an important issue of biomedical waste disposal. Our country is not yet ready to tackle such health related serious issues and one evidence for this statement roots from the poverty line in the country which further leads the major population of the country to be without any health insurance plan. Not being able to afford the health insurance and exposed to such a complex and polluted environment makes our citizens very vulnerable from the point of view of overcoming the aftermaths of diseases that can be caused by unattended biomedical waste.

As a citizen what can we do? At this point it seems to me that we can do a lot in this regard. Our representatives in this direction can be classified into two categories: Firstly, biomedical waste operator which is present in every healthcare organization. Secondly, in case if such thing is reaching the middle of the roads then it's the duty of the municipal organization of the city to order the janitors or "safai karamcharis" to clean the roads on regular basis. The second aspect can be slightly challenging due to the nature of work habits of these officials which is not hidden from anyone in the city and I am not afraid of extending it to whole country. If these people can perform their duties well then I think India will not only be free from biomedical waste but also from other kinds of pollution and not to mention a huge amount of animal and human excreta which is a very common sight on our roads where we walk and drive.

There is no end to thinking about problems because they come very easy but solutions are never cheap. Solution to the biomedical or any kind of waste disposal leads us further to the issues which include: coordination between municipal authorities and pollution control boards, need for development of cost effective technology for the treatment of the generated waste of any nature, and most importantly for biomedical waste, a substitute for plastics in manufacture of biomedical disposable items. I believe that addressing these issues require awareness at mass level and then only we can employ a suitable technology to prevent further pollution in our wonderful city Kanpur . I have heard a saying by an unknown author " I like my new telephone, my computer works just fine, my calculator is perfect, but lord, I miss my mind ". I hope our citizens understand the importance of the above quote.

I have abundant matters to discuss and to write and I hope I can convey my thoughts for some useful purpose from time to time.
- Nitin

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