US sending its hospital waste to other countries?

A news bulletin reports that Brazil recently received two containers with 45 tons of illegal hospital waste from the US. Inspectors found bed sheets, dressing gowns, pillowcases, aprons, and diapers, along with gloves, syringes, bandages and catheters, all with bloodstains.

Under Brazilian law it is illegal to import medical waste, and the customs inspectors states that it is an illegal waste trade.

In what seems to be a silly little spat, the video shows piles of used linen, some stained, and just one or two ‘stray items’ that I guess had been found within that linen. There were no sharps bins, no piles of soft clinical wastes, just a few bits retrieved from within the linen and the allegations of illegal shipment of clinical waste seem unfounded.

There are problems. Unsorted lined should not contain stray items. Perhaps an occasional incontinence pad or even an adult diaper, but never a syringe or soiled dressing. That smacks of a major failing in healthcare practice. Additionally, it is questionable that soiled linen was exported, perhaps intended for recycling of those fabrics rather than laundering for re-use. However, even if bloodstained it is difficult to state that the waste is clinical waste – by any of the many generally flexible definitions – and the allegations seem largely unfounded.

Interestingly, this echoes that 2009 spat between Brazil and the UK over allegations of illegal export of huge quantities of ‘clinical waste’. Despite much puffing and blowing at the time by the Environment Agency, everything went quiet and I wonder if that too was a hugely overstated case, made worse by the pomposity of the UK regulators who focused more to the PR opportunities that they did on an honest and open investigation.

Does anyone know of the outcome of the UK case?




1 Comment

  1. Brazil reported to be sending this waste back to US

    Once again, a political spat that has little to do with hospital waste – and thereby an implication that much of this is clinical waste – and more of general wastes that may of may not come from hospitals.

    Similar to the UK situation at the start of this year. Remember EA puffing themselves up to a ‘major investigation’, with claims of impending prosecutions and much wailing about their own importance? It’s gone very quiet, hasn’t it?


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