Improper disposal of medical waste leading to hazard

Soiled baby diapers disposed of unscientifically.

Diapers and sanitary pads are considered medical waste in hospitals and are incinerated but not at houses, smaller health clinics and other places, where they are disposed of unscientifically.

According to paediatricians, the super absorbent disposable diapers are convenient to use but come with a huge cost not just for the babies but also to the environment.

According to Dr Asha Benakappa, director of Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, diapers are environmental hazards, since they absorb not just water, but also the soil on which they are thrown. “Diapers were advised for control of neonatal sepsis, but parents find it easy to use and throw. It is doing more harm for infants as it causes rashes and can lead to other complications too. The soiled diapers have two destinations, either they find their way to disposal sites or landfills or they are littered in public places creating a health hazard,” she added.

Dr Benakappa, a paediatrician, says that she would recommend parents not to use these environmentally hazardous diapers and instead use cloth which can be easily washed.

“After the child is born, the hospital provides diapers to infants, but parents should understand and not carry on the practice of using diapers at home too,” she added.

About IGICH, she said of the 36 Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), each child is given at least four diapers a day and about 3 kg of disposed diapers are generated each day. At the end of the month, around 90 kg are generated, which is collected as medical waste. But if the same waste is generated at home, the municipal worker picks it up like general waste and disposes of it.

Wilma Rodrigues, founder of Saahas Zero waste says that the city is not equipped to handle the kind of medical waste it is generating. “We have two recyclers, Ramky and Maridi, picking up medical waste, but they don't have the capacity to handle the tonnes of diapers and sanitary pads disposed every day."

"We have to either reduce or reuse. Instead of blaming BBMP for all the garbage menace, we as citizens should also play a leadership role in each area to engage people and create a system where medical waste are safely disposed of. Not all medical waste is reaching incinerators. Most of them go to the landfill, which is a huge health hazard. Citizens can play a role here and engage the recylers to pick medical waste from their area," she added.

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