GENEVA - A human rights investigator for the United Nations said that up to a quarter of the world’s trash from hospitals, clinics, labs, blood banks, and mortuaries is hazardous and that much more needs to be done to regulate it.
Calin Georgescu, a UN special rapporteur, says few nations are developing the rules needed to cope with the growing mountains of medical waste that pose a hidden risk of infection and could expose people to low levels of radioactivity and needle-stick injuries.
In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, he said nations pay “too little attention’’ to their tons of waste each year - waste that contains pathogens, blood, low levels of radioactivity, discarded needles, syringes, scalpels, expired drugs, and vaccines. In many poorer nations, discarded chemicals and pharmaceutical wastes go straight to city dumps, down hospital toilets, into water systems, or are burned in cement kilns that just add to dioxide emissions.
In August, Amnesty International said thousands of people in Ivory Coast still await compensation for illness caused by toxic waste illegally exported from Amsterdam in a chartered tanker.
Georgescu recommended all nations adopt better laws for managing medical waste and replace incinerators with “more environmentally friendly and safe methods of disposal’’ such as autoclaving, which uses pressurized steam and superheated water to disinfect waste and medical equipment.