Medical wastes for sale

The Clinical Waste Discussion Forum has repeatedly commented on the risks associated with and underlying causes of a deadly trade in used items of clinical (medical) waste.

Driven by poverty and corruption, this continues to occur in several South American countries and throughout much of Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The public health implications of the potential for spread of disease are profound, with scavenging from dumped wastes providing a profitable opportunity to sell used syringes, needles and other items back into the healthcare sector. Indeed, the trade can become so organised that waiting until waste has been dumped is sidetracked by the unscrupulous, who will sell wastes directly to scavengers later to buy items back at low cost while charging the system for the cost of new.

A new report, sadly one of many, tells of cleaners outside the gate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, selling salvaged clinical wastes to vendors. Despite the existence of appropriate legislation that requires safe and effective disposal of clinical wastes the infrastructure is simply not available and that legislation is not enforced.

It has been happening for years; syringes, needles, blood bags along with paper and medicine boxes are each sold to factories in Old Dhaka. There, the syringes are separated out and washed for reselling. All in new packages and without proper sterilisation, they again come onto the market.

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