Improper medical waste disposal can cause infertility, cancer?
Well, that’s a bold and potentially very important claim. So, where is the evidence?
Though the claim has reached the headlines and now spreads globally, the reality is as follows:
“A family physician, Dr Adeyeye Arigbabuwo, said on Wednesday that improper medical waste disposal by healthcare workers could lead to infertility, cancer and environmental pollution.
“He spoke at the 8th Lagos Healthcare Waste Management Summit organised by the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) in Lagos.
“Theme of the summit is “Healthcare Waste Management Policy in Preventive Health. “
“Arigbabuwo, who is the chairman, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, called for training and retraining of health workers on proper management of waste.
“The medical waste is not all about the waste, but also the complications that can arise from improper waste management. And one of its greatest complications can be environmental pollution.
“Apart from cancer disease, you can also have pollution that can be inhaled, or that can directly or indirectly affect the process of sperm production in men. “Once this happens, fertilisation becomes a challenge and this can also lead to dysfunctional families.
“Nobody will trace these health problems to our initial bad attitude toward improper disposal of our wastes,’’ he said.
“Arigbabuwo advised health workers to work as a team to ensure that waste generated at the health facilities were properly disposed of.
It’s a rather bold and unsubstantiated claim, derived I would imagine by a series of highly selective dips into the medical and scientific literature, putting together a tale that seems to have jumped far from reality.
Of course, there are genotoxic and other highly toxic components which may be present in some very specific fractions of healthcare waste, but which would never arise in the typical load and are the products of highly specialised tertiary teaching hospitals only. Likewise, the products of combustion may include an array of hazardous compounds including in particular dioxins which would normally be removed by care in managing combustion temperatures and the cooling rate of gases, and post-combustion clean-up of the exhaust gases before release to atmosphere. So, exposure is, in reality, quite improbable.
I don’t know of Dr Adeyeye Arigbabuwo, the family physician quoted here. If the report is correct, he makes hugely unsubstantiated, quite remarkable, and wildly incorrect comments.