Medical Waste treatment methods

Medical waste, also called as clinical waste, normally refers to the waste generated from healthcare premises as a result of healthcare activities that includes a vast range of materials such as needles, blood, chemicals, syringes, body parts, medical instruments as well as radioactive substances. Lack of medical waste disposal management poses risk of infections and diseases to the public and community and also pollutes the environment. Therefore, it is very important to practice proper clinical waste treatment measures at the point of generation and dispose them safely.

Different methods of medical waste treatment-
There are a number of methods available to treat medical waste and render the waste less hazardous and non-infectious.
An incinerator is a device in which waste deposits are burned under controlled conditions to oxidize carbon and hydrogen present in waste into ash, flu gases, particulates and heat (this heat is used to produce electricity).

Steam sterilization
Steam sterilizer, also known as autoclave is commonly used medical waste treatment method for decontaminating waste. Unlike other sterilization methods, steam sterilization is a cheap and economical method. In this method, the medical waste is kept in a specialized sealed chamber and exposed to steam at a particular temperature and pressure for a specified duration. Steam sterilization is an excellent alternative to incineration and also helps to diminish the cost of disposing untreated medical waste.

Gas sterilization
Gas sterilization is a rarely used method to treat medical waste. In this, medical waste is put in an evacuated air-tight chamber and treated with a sterilizing agent (such as ethylene oxide or formaldehyde). The gas comes in contact of the waste, penetrates and kills the harmful infectious agents.

Chemical disinfection with grinding
The method involves grinding of the medical waste before exposing to a liquid chemical disinfectant (such as chlorine bleach). Grinding of the waste ensures sufficient exposure of the chemical agent to all the portions of the waste and also helps in easy disposal of the residues. The resulting liquids are dropped into the sewer system while the solid residues are disposed in the landfills.

Thermal inactivation
Normally, thermal inactivation method is used for treating large volumes of liquid waste and involves heating of waste to temperatures at which infectious agents get killed. The chamber is preheated to a particular temperature and the waste is held in it for a specified duration and then released.

Irradiation involves sterilizing waste by exposing medical waste to a cobalt source. Cobalt gives out gamma radiations that destroy all microbes present in the waste.

Microwave treatment
Microwave has recently been introduced in US to disinfect waste. The waste is first shredded before mixing it with water and then internally heated to neutralize all the biologicals.

Grinding and shredding
This method aids in converting medical waste into a more uniform mixture that can be handled easily.

Compaction is often used to reduce the waste volume and helps to compress waste to adjust more waste in the same space.

Keywords- medical waste, waste, treatment


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