What is hazardous waste?

 

Hazardous waste is waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. ...

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HAZARDOUS WASTE

What is hazardous waste?

 

Hazardous waste is waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges. They can be discarded commercial products, like cleaning fluids or pesticides, or the by-products of manufacturing processes.

 


What makes it hazardous?

 

It will be easily flammable.

 

It will be corrosive.

 

It will be unstable and will react vigorously with other material

 

It will be contaminated or toxic.

 

It can be cosmogenic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic.

 

Impacts of hazardous waste.

 


Hazardous wastes - India's Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (HPC or High Power Committee) on Hazardous Wastes, set up in November 2003, said it had been "pursuing certain serious and chronic situations" relating to to the management of hazardous wastes. One of their observations was that incineration is the most important type of treatment for wastes that have a high heating or calorific value or which are highly toxic. Due to the high temperatures maintained in incinerators, toxic components in organic matter are thermally decomposed into non-toxic matter. Incinerators which are designed properly will ensure complete combustion and hence no POPs (persistent organic pollutants) are produced. Design and operating criteria were required to ensure hazardous waste incinerators performed in this manner. One of the outputs of the action of the HPC was a well documented ‘Guidelines for Hazardous Waste Incinerators' which was prepared by the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) to ensure certain minimum requirements in incinerators that handle hazardous waste.

 

According to the US-EPA, “In the U.S more than 3.1 million tons of hazardous waste was disposed of through combustion in 2005. When performed properly, incineration destroys the toxic organic constituents in hazardous waste and reduces the volume of the waste.”

 


What happens with poor disposal.

 

Recycling of toxic material in the secondary market.

 

Toxic Shock

 

The word 'disposable' has acquired an altogether different meaning in the Indian context - what you throw away today may well turn up like a bad penny but in a different packaging. In fact, Indians pride themselves on their ability to recycle almost anything; this is seen as thrift. But when the recycling involves dangerous and toxic medical waste products like syringes, needles, blood transfusion pipes, glucose bags and bandages, human lives are put to risk. Infected medical waste can cause fatal diseases like AIDS, meningitis, hepatitis B and C, liver failure, tuberculosis and brain fever. The Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1998 prescribes a number of provisions to eliminate the threat to human health from such waste, the primary being the installation of incinerators in hospitals and nursing homes. Similarly, five years ago, the Supreme Court ordered all hospital in the Capital to make sure all their waste was incinerated. Today, hardly any have bothered even to install incinerators. The backyards of Delhi's premier hospitals today overflow with all manners of toxic

waste from where rag pickers and recyclers cart off used products which will eventually find their way back to the shelves of chemists in the smaller metros. In Patna, not surprisingly, over 90 percent of the hospitals have no waste disposal facilities at all; they have no plans to install any either. In which could be a scene from a horror movie, liquid wastes and human organs are dumped into the nearest river, which provides drinking water to the city's people.

 

In keeping with our well known penchant for cutting corners, many nursing homes and hospitals try to avoid the expense of purchasing an incinerator and dispose off the waste by simply burning it. This process is extremely dangerous and in such burning toxic dioxins and furans are released. The workers who undertake this hazardous task are put at grave risk from these emissions as well as to a myriad of infections from handling the waste without prior protective clothing. Needle-stick injuries could result in the transmission of a variety of viruses, the most lethal being HIV. Patients too, their immune systems already weak, are rendered all the more susceptible to infections from these wastes since they will come into close proximity with these at the hospitals. Those living in the vicinity of nursing homes and hospitals cannot escape the noxious effects of these dumps; indeed residents near some of the capital's hospitals and nursing homes have complained of being rendered vulnerable to infections, putting up with the ghastly stench and of animals actually dragging the refuse into their premises. Until recently, people vested their hopes in the judiciary to set right a system gone wrong after having lost faith in the executive. And the judiciary has never failed to step in to protect the human rights of the ordinary citizen whether to constitutional freedoms or his right to an enabling environment. Yet, today we find that even the judiciary's directives are being observed more in the breach in matters of vital concern to the public. In the long-run, nobody profits from such dangerous practices. It will ultimately undermine the greater public good and this affects us all.

 

Source: THE TIMES OF INDIA, Sunday, May 21, 2000

 

 

 

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