Over 700 health units and hospitals in Bangalore are dumping medical waste in open garbage dumps, according to statistics available with the BBMP. The infectious waste, experts say, poses health risks and may lead to deadly diseases.
Infected waste dumped at landfill sites and drains consists of cotton swabs and bandages infected with blood and other body fluids, IV fluid bags, needles, catheters, human tissues as well as body parts.
Dr Vaman Acharya, chairman, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), agreed that biomedical wastes are mixed with regular waste.
“It attracts birds, houseflies, mosquitoes, rodents and dogs which in turn aid in spreading the infection into the air, water and soil,” he said.
Chemical waste consisting of leftover medicines and pharmaceuticals and hazardous waste like waste from radio therapy units that contain radioactive chemicals cause leaching of these chemicals into the soil, air and water as well and cause health hazards to those handling it without protection.
Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has categorised 12 different types of health units, including hospitals, super-specialty hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, Ayush centres, etc. According to the biomedical waste (Management and Handling) rules 1998, any waste generated during diagnosis, treatment or immunisation of human beings or animals or in research activities is biomedical waste.
In the city, BBMP has authorised Sembramky Environmental Management Pvt Ltd and Maridi Eco Industries Pvt Ltd to collect biomedical waste.
BBMP may soon issue closure notices to at least 1,964 health care units for not obtaining a trade licence.
Of these, 709 have not registered with the BBMP’s authorised agencies to dispose of biomedical waste. The BBMP has given them time till December 10 to obtain the required licences. Defaulting health units have to pay a penalty or face closure according to Section 353 of Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act.
A BBMP source said a team of officers, headed by the Chief Health Officer, along with health inspectors will visit health units to check trade licences and waste disposal systems in health care units. Last year, Mallige Hospital was found to be dumping waste near the Esteem Mall in Hebbal.
Only 30 per cent Segregation
According to M A Srinath, vice-president (Operations), Maridi, on an average, they collect 4.5 tonnes of biomedical waste from southern and eastern parts of Bangalore.
“Segregation at source is still a concern. Around 30 per cent of the units do not segregate properly. We have trained the hospital staff,” he said. Srinath said they have two incineration units at their plant on Kanakapura Road. “Each unit has a capacity to burn 250 kgs an hour at a temperature of 1,050 degree Celsius. It is an eco-friendly unit. Unburnt particles are dissolved in water,” he said.
Pourakarmikas at the Receiving End
According to BBMP Contract Pourakarmika Association president Balan, in Bangalore there are 18,709 pourakarmikas working with contract garbage contractors.
“They are the ones who keep the city clean. Yet the BBMP or contractors have failed to take care of their health. As they dispose of waste with bare hands, they are vulnerable to skin infections. They also suffer from respiratory ailments. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide them with gloves, gumboots, disinfectants, soaps and masks for they deal with hazardous biomedical waste,” he said.
Threat of Disease
Biomedical waste containing fresh blood such as infected placenta, when touched, can cause HIV and Hepatitis B infections. Hepatitis C can be caused by waste with dried blood on it.
HIV testing kits and IV sets that have been in contact with blood can carry hundreds of microbes. If IV needles are not burnt, pin prick injuries and skin cuts can cause the above infections.
Catheters that have been in contact with infected patients and their waste are a potential source of infection. Flies, mosquitoes, birds, rodents, etc can transmit microbes from microbial cultures grown in diagnostic labs, causing gastrointestinal infections, cholera, tetanus and others.
India is endemic to Tuberculosis (TB). TB bacilli is present in sputum of patients with tuberculosis. These may form aerosols if exposed to air and can cause the disease.