The International Red Cross states: “Hospitals are responsible for the waste they produce. They must ensure that the handling, treatment, and disposal of that waste will not have harmful consenquences for public health or the environment.”
Incineration, which is one of the most commonly used methods for medical waste disposal, does not eliminate toxic substances that are found in the medical waste. Incinerators concentrate hazardous substances, then redistribute them, and the oxygenation even creates new toxins, like dioxins. These chemical substances are known as Hazardous Air Pollutants. (HAPs)
Dioxins are among the most toxic manmade chemicals found on this planet. , apart from plutonium. Dioxins were the contaminant factor in Agent Orange that was used in the Vietnam War. They are a Class 1 human carcinogen. According to the EPA, the risk of cancer in Americans increases a thousand fold because dioxins get stored in the body. The EPA studied dioxins and concluded that there does not appear to be any “safe” level of exposure to dioxins.
Dioxins are very persistent in the environment. They can resist physical, chemical and biological degradation for decades. They cause multiple reproductive and developmental abnormalities. They have been linked to disrupted sexual development, birth defects, and damage to the immune system.
Besides dioxins, which are created by the combination of the chemicals in the medical waste disposal (PVC for one) and the chemicals generated by the burning process, incinerators emit chlorine, mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, ammonia and benzene. The heavy metals (mercury, lead and cadmium) are not destroyed by burning. They are just concentrated in the ash and released from the incinerator stacks into the air. The ash is disposed of with general trash and sits around in piles at the landfills.
The heavy metals emitted from the smokestack spread for miles around to be eventually inhaled by local inhabitants, or ingested when they eat produce that was grown in gardens that lay in the vicinity of a medical waste disposal incinerator.
Most of these toxins are both toxic and bio-accumulative, which means that they insidiously accumulate in the human body. They are not combustible, do not degrade, cannot be destroyed. They have been implicated in a broad range of behavioral and emotional problems, especially in children. Some of these problems would be: Autism, ADHD, learning disabilities/difficulties/delinquency. Problems seen more in adults would include dementia, depression, Parkinson’s disease. Autism rates are increased around places where mercury is released into the environment, like coal power plants… and incinerators.
Medical Waste Disposal is particularly notorious because they may also generate and/or emit radioactive toxins and highly infective mutated proteins called prions.
Protests have spurred action against medical waste disposal companies, and incinerators have been shut down. Other, safer methods for medical waste disposal are being examined. Hopefully there will be a solution that will satisfy all parties, but we will have to work hard and work together to reach it.
For much more detailed information about dioxins, and about the damage incinerators can cause us humans who live in the same area/state/country, you can follow these links: