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According to the health ministry, currently only 192 Combined Biomedical Waste Treatment Facilities exist in the country against a requirement of as many as 600. Photo: RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT (RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT)
According to the health ministry, currently only 192 Combined Biomedical Waste Treatment Facilities exist in the country against a requirement of as many as 600. Photo: RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT (RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT)

New norms for disposal of waste from medical devices?

The disposal of waste from medical devices should be brought under government regulation as they are a major health hazard, health ministry tells environment ministry

New Delhi: The disposal of waste from medical devices should be brought under government regulation as they are a major health hazard, the ministry of health & family welfare has told the environment ministry.

The health ministry told the environment ministry through a national patient safety framework draft that medical devices other than syringes and plastic waste should be brought under the Bio-Medical Waste (BMW) Management Rules 1998 in order to reduce the risks from them.

“Unsafe disposal of medical devices by health care institutions can cause irreversible hazards to human health. With inclusion of medical devices waste in BMW Management Rules, hospitals, laboratories and recycling facilities will have to take special care of this category of waste also. We are also ensuring that enforcement of BMW Management should be on a priority basis," said Dr. Jagdish Prasad, director general health services (DGHS) ministry of health & family welfare.

Common medical device waste include syringes, needles, disposable scalpels and blades (which are small items)and equipment such as ultrasound machines (which are big equipment). Waste in various machines used in hospitals may include those that are mutagenic (a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism), teratogenic (an agent that can disturb the development of the embryo or foetus and halt the pregnancy or produce a a birth defect) or carcinogenic (cancer causing). The medical devices used in cancer treatment may also produce radioactive waste, including radioactive diagnostic material or radiotherapeutic materials.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health risks associated with medical devices waste and by-products may include radiation burns, sharps-inflicted injuries, poisoning and pollution by toxic elements or compounds such as mercury or dioxins that are released during incineration.

“Currently medical devices waste is not regulated under any specific rules, regulations or law. This is the reason majority of medical devices waste is being disposed off in an unsafe and illegal manner in the country," said Dr B. Vinod Babu, scientist and in-charge, hazardous waste management division, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under ministry of environment.

“The biggest challenge is disposal of radioactive waste. After medical devices such as laboratory analyzers or ultrasound machines become redundant, the hospitals or laboratories either give it back to the manufacturer or to a Combined Biomedical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBMWTF). But proper disposal or recycling of this waste is not being monitored either by the healthcare institutions or any government body," Dr Babu said.

The health ministry has also raised the issue of lack of CBMWTF across the country. According to the health ministry, currently only 192 CBMWTFs exist in the country against a requirement of as many as 600.

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