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Covid-19 medical waste threatens human health and the global environment

Covid-19 medical waste threatens human health and the global environment


The latest report of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that tens of thousands of tons of medical waste from the Covid-19 pandemic are putting great pressure on the global medical waste management system, threatening to threaten human health and the environment, creating an urgent need to improve medical waste management practices.

The WHO analysis is based on approximately 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) that were procured between March 2020 and November 2021, shipped to countries responding to the Covid-19 emergency, through 1 joint initiative of the United Nations. Most of these devices are said to have become waste.
Medical waste from the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic poses a great threat to people’s health and the environment. (Photo: Reuters)

The report provides only preliminary figures on the size of the Covid-19 waste, not taking into account any additional purchases by countries outside of the initiative. Accordingly, more than 140 million test kits, capable of generating 2,600 tons of non-infectious waste (mainly plastic) and 731,000 liters of chemical waste (equivalent to a third of an Olympic-sized swimming pool). While more than 8 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally, generating 144,000 tons of additional waste in the form of syringes, needles and safety boxes.

Currently, 30% of healthcare facilities (of which 60% are in least developed countries) are not equipped to handle existing waste. This has the potential to impact communities living near poorly managed landfills and waste disposal sites, through contaminated air from waste incineration, poor water quality or disease carriers.

Dr. Margaret Montgomery – an expert on clean water, sanitation and health of the World Health Organization (WHO) offers a number of suggestions that can both protect and prevent Covid-19 and can protect the environment. “First of all, it is necessary to reduce the use of non-essential medical equipment, reuse products if it is safe like masks. The third issue is to invest more in the waste system and waste workers. , to ensure this issue is solved safely and sustainably”, Dr. Margaret Montgomery pointed out.

The report also makes a series of recommendations to integrate safer and more environmentally sustainable measures in the Covid-19 response strategy. In addition, the United Nations also sets out tasks to implement the problem of medical waste, including in the post-Covid-19 period as well as in other medical emergencies in the future.