- Discarded syringes, used test kits and old vaccine bottles from the COVID-19 pandemic have piled up to create tens of thousands of tonnes of medical waste, threatening human health and the environment, a World Health Organization report said on Tuesday.
- The WHO report did not name specific examples of where the most egregious build-ups occurred but referred to challenges such as the limited waste treatment and disposal in rural India as well as large volumes of faecal sludge from quarantine facilities in Madagascar.
- That was as high as 60% in poor countries, it said.
A World Health Organization report released on Tuesday warned that discarded syringes, used test kits, and old vaccine bottles from the COVID-19 pandemic have piled up to create tens of thousands of tonnes of medical waste, endangering human health and the environment as reported by Reuters.
According to the research, the substance could expose health professionals to burns, needlestick injuries, and disease-causing bacteria.
“We found that COVID-19 has increased healthcare waste loads in facilities to up to 10 times,” Maggie Montgomery, a WHO technical officer, told Geneva-based journalists.
She stated that the greatest threat to affected populations was air pollution created by insufficiently high temperatures when burning waste, which resulted in the discharge of carcinogens.
The research asks for change and investment, including a reduction in packaging, which has resulted in a rush for plastic, as well as the usage of protective gear made of reusable and recyclable materials.
According to the WHO research, up to November 2021, 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) weighing the equivalent of several hundred blue whales were ordered through a United Nations portal, the most of which is estimated to have ended up as garbage.
According to the analysis, 140 million test kits have the potential to produce 2,600 tonnes of primarily plastic garbage and enough chemical waste to fill one-third of an Olympic swimming pool.
It’s also estimated that the 8 billion vaccine doses given around the world resulted in 144,000 tonnes of waste in the form of glass vials, syringes, needles, and safety boxes.
Too many moon suits
Montgomery said a misperception about the rates of COVID-19 infection from surfaces was to blame for what she called the “overuse” of protective gear, particularly gloves.
“We’ve all seen photos of the moon suits, we’ve all seen photos of people vaccinating with gloves,” she said. “Certainly across the board… people are wearing excessive PPE,” she added.
The WHO report did not cite specific locations where the most severe accumulations occurred, but it did mention difficulties such as poor waste treatment and disposal in rural India and huge amounts of faecal sludge from quarantine facilities in Madagascar.
According to the WHO, over a third of healthcare institutions were not equipped to handle existing waste burdens even before the pandemic. According to the report, this figure may be as high as 60% in underdeveloped countries.
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