Effects of Waste and Dirtiness on our Health and Wellbeing

January 27, 2011

By: Nazanin Shafahi
Source: Daily
8 a.m, May 20, 2010
Translated by: Jawed Nader

Health and wellbeing is undoubtedly a chief concern of every human being. We need a healthy body to continue our lives. Health is achieved when we observe the individual and social hygienic standards. In our current society or more specifically in our city hygienic standards are among the most neglected and absent standards.

What reinforces our indifference towards these standards is the fact that we have grown up in these conditions and have gotten used to them. We can clearly see the food sold on streets under a thick layer of dust and smoke emitted from vehicles, yet we buy and consume it. It is natural that the consumption of such dirty food endangers our health and ultimately drags us to hospitals.

We recognize the adverse condition of our healthcare centers. Though there are centers where hygienic standards are met, I have personally seen healthcare facilities which are the hotbed of hygienic problems. One such issue is the waste produced by healthcare centers which are irresponsibly thrown around just like other garbage. Environmentalists consider medical waste extremely harmful to human as well as to the ecological wellbeing.

Doctor Mohammad Hakim Sattar, the Director of Environmental Health Department of Ministry of Public Health states that, “if we do not properly discard the garbage it can cause many diseases. It not just contaminates the environment but causes air pollution as well. Garbage is classified in two forms: 1) ordinary garbage that is produced by houses and industries, and 2) clinical garbage produced by hospitals and clinics.” He classifies the ordinary garbage into two sub-classes: 1) garbage mostly produced in kitchen such as peel of onions, potatoes, fruit and leftovers, and 2) other garbage such as cans, tiles, mosaic, glass etc. Garbage produced in kitchens are mostly easily spoiled and can causes greater environmental and air pollution. The second category as mentioned above is not spoilable and if properly discarded, they do not harm the environment much.

We do not have a responsive attitude towards garbage and therefore the garbage produced by families and industries can be easily spotted on roads, streets, deserted buildings and under bridges. They produce such an intolerable stench that if someone passes even meters away from it, he/she has to cover her nose and mouth. Yet, despite knowing its ill effects on our body and the physical environment, it is normal for many of us to observe such a situation and remain indifferent.

According to Dr. Sattar, if the garbage produced by families is not properly discarded, it can cause the outbreak of serious illnesses. Meanwhile, if it is left in open air it can contaminate the environment, spreads with the flow of wind, enters into body through breathing and can cause dangerous diseases. It also mixes with the open food and beverages sold on roads and causes typhoid, nausea and vomiting.
However, despite knowing that the food and beverages sold on roads are of lowest hygienic standards and have negative consequences to our health, it intentionally evades our attention and we voraciously eat them. Perhaps, our body has developed immunity against such germs.

Clinical Garbage and its Consequences

Another type of garbage is clinical garbage. We find them easily among other types of garbage in hospitals and other places. A great deal of used syringe and needles, hydrophilic cotton, and dirty bandages are stuffed in plastic bags and kept in public places, exposing the pedestrians to their danger.
Dr. Sattar describes clinical garbage as bandages, syringes, needles, etc. that are produced as a result of medical activities. They are more dangerous than the ordinary garbage, and if not properly discarded, they can cause outbreak of major epidemics and other diseases. For example, any contact with used sharp and cutting objects such as surgery blades or syringes can cause the spread of Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS and Tetanus.
Dr. Sattar adds that most medical waste is bacterial and 10 – 15 % of it causes the transmission to disease. They are commonly divided into general waste and bacterial waste. The bacterial waste can be further broken down in six sub-categories:

1.       Wastes that are generated by the culturing and saving bacteria

2.       Human waste

3.       Human blood and its compounds

4.       Sharpe wastes

5.       Animal waste

6.       Wastes produced during medical treatment

The human health and wellbeing can quite simply be endangered, but can be simply safeguarded as well. In order to prevent these diseases, individuals and the government has a common responsibility. If every citizen observes the personal hygiene and environmental standards, and the municipality discards the waste more effectively, many outbreaks can be prevented. Similarly, hospitals too should dispose of their medical waste effectively.
Dr. Sattar discusses the method of discarding medical waste and says, “firstly the hospital staff should be educated to pay due attention to diagnosis and causes of diseases. Therefore, the staff should learn and practice the concept of minimizing medical waste. The color system should be used in collecting medical waste.” He describes the various colors and bags as follows:

Yellow bags

Yellow bags are always used to collect and manage clinical garbage. This should be taught to all hospital staff. Yellow bags should be thick and two-folded so they are not torn easily and used in laboratories, operation theaters and special unites. ¼ part of a yellow bag should always be left empty and it should be properly sealed.   

White bags

After separating the medical waste and putting them in yellow bags, the remaining garbage is ordinary waste and should be put in white bags. They include waste such as food, paper and plastic which are similar to the ones produced in families. They can be transported and discarded by the municipality.

Sharp objects containers

They are used in hospitals and laboratories to collect syringes, needles, used vials and sharp glasses. The sharp objects are bacterial and contaminated and therefore should not be kept in yellow bags because it can tear them and spread the disease.
If we observe these guidelines in clinics and hospitals, we can simply prevent the outbreak of many dangerous diseases. Therefore, let us join our hands, irrespective of who we are and what our status is, to pay attention to these “what to dos” and “what not to dos” and respect the culture of living in cities. Only then we can have a safe and clean environment and safeguard our health against diseases caused by environmental issues.

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