Unsafe disposal of self-test kits, masks posing risk

Experts call for standard procedures and norms for their collection and disposal

Published: 19th July 2022 06:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th July 2022 06:21 AM   |  A+A-

Face Mask

image of a face mask used for representational purpose only. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

KOCHI: The improper disposal of masks and Covid antigen self-test kits used at home are posing a serious threat to public health as people are clueless about their standard disposal procedure. Due to a lack of awareness, people end up disposing of these kits along with their household waste, risking further spread of infection, experts have pointed out.

As self-test kits and masks become biohazardous after use, standard procedures and guidelines for their collection and disposal need to be formulated and publicised.According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s advisory for Covid home testing using rapid antigen tests, manufacturers’ instructions must be strictly followed for the disposal of the test kit, swab and other materials.

“Used kits should not be disposed of along with household wet or dry waste, as they pose a serious biomedical hazard. There should be a system in place in the state to dispose of the masks and kits used at homes. Corporations and municipalities are engaged in only selective collection of biomedical waste,” said Dr Gopikumar P, vice-president of the state chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Residents in many areas have raised complaints that they are left with no choice but to dispose of the testing kits along with the household dry waste. “The existing system in place for collecting biomedical waste — including testing kits, syringes, medicines, catheters and testing kits — are not available for all. Certain apartments have tied up with private parties for the collection of such waste for a sum paid by the residents. Others are left with no option but to dump it with the household waste,” said Ravi Krishnan, who collects waste from households in Kochi.

Private players like CREDAI and the app-based scrap collection firm AAKRI are engaged in the collection of biomedical waste from households.Meanwhile, doctors said infection spread is possible if there is direct contact with the swab while handling and sorting the waste.

“Covid is not a fomite transmission but an air-borne infection. Therefore, it will spread only through direct contact. Whoever has direct contact with waste, without gloves or any protective gear, are at risk of infection,” said Dr Anup R Warrier, an infectious diseases expert.  “The chances of spread through these kits is low as they are collected in bags from households. But handling them with care is of utmost importance. The masks have to be disposed of after removing the bands on either side while the kits should be disposed of only as per manufacturers’ guidelines,” a health official said.

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