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Medical waste

Related Terms

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Background

  • Medical waste refers to clinical waste materials that are produced from healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, doctor's offices, pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, nursing homes, and research laboratories. These materials may include used syringes, soiled dressings, chemicals used to treat illness, equipment and facility chemical cleansers, and radioactive materials. Disposal of this waste is an environmental concern.
  • In high-income countries, such as the United States, each person generates about 13 pounds (6 kilograms) of medical waste per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). People in lower-income countries, such as Cambodia, generate between 1 pound (0.5 kilograms) and 6.5 pounds (3 kilograms) of medical waste per person each year.
  • The WHO suggests that 75-90% of medical waste from healthcare facilities may not be hazardous to humans, animals, or the environment. These waste items include used papers, soda cans, plastic containers, and other office-related disposable items. However, the remaining 10-25% of medical facility waste may be infectious or biohazardous, potentially exposing healthcare workers, patients, and community members to injury, infectious diseases, and toxins.
  • Examples of harmful side effects related to medical waste may include acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis A, drug abuse, and cancer. Toxins, such as mercury, may be spread through skin contact or inhalation. Also, Escherichia coli bacteria may be spread through eating contaminated foods. Furthermore, infectious diseases may be transmitted through contaminated syringes or potentially cause injury.
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Technique

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Theory/Evidence

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Health Impact/Safety

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Future Research or Applications

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.