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Neglect of Household Biomedical Waste

While India has had a biomedical waste management rule since 1998, which was modified for ease in 2016, household biomedical waste has been neglected. Increased lifespan, rise of non-communicable diseases, the growing buying power, and better access to healthcare have resulted in the increased generation of household biomedical waste. This poses serious challenges to a frail public health system. This growing problem needs to be tackled by acknowledging it, introducing guidelines, and decentralising solutions, including facilitating recycling.

Biomedical waste (BMW) is any waste produced during the diagnosis, treatment, or immunisation of humans or during animal research activities. It also includes waste generated in the production or testing of biological material or that produced in health camps (Datta et al 2018). The above definition is often focused on the waste generated at hospitals, health institutions, research and training establishments, slaughterhouses, laboratories and biotechnology institutions while overlooking BMW generated at our homes (Park 2017). Household biomedical waste (henceforth HBMW) usually gets mixed with other household waste in India, ending up in posing numerous public health hazards. Ignoring HBMW in the new BMW management rules of 2016 has left a gaping hole in addressing this already-neglected paradigm in public health. Management of HBMW thus needs a mission-mode approach.

The clinical waste generated in households includes expired medicines, used adult/baby diapers, soiled sanitary napkins, injected needles, bloodstained cotton buds, used condoms, spilt mercury, used band-aid, used X-ray films, pregnancy and blood sugar test strips and discarded insulin pens to name a few. In clinical set-ups where such waste is generated, it is segregated and treated as per protocols laid by Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rule, 1998, which was implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. However, these set of guidelines evade mention of HBMW.

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Updated On : 26th Jun, 2020

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