ISLAMABAD, June 12: Eighty per cent of the total prevalent Hepatitis B cases are caused by the improper disposal of hospital waste.

This was stated by Dr Naila Khalil, head of the environmental health unit, health services academy (HSA). She was speaking at a dialogue on “How safe are medical waste incinerators,” organized by Leadership for Environment and Development (Lead) on Wednesday, to observe World Incineration Day.

The participants discussed different aspects of disposing hospital waste management including land-filled dumping.

They reached the conclusion that at present incinerators were the only available option because more people were affected by hospital waste than the dioxin and other hazardous gases emitted by the incinerators.

They emphasized that trained people should handle the incinerators, which should be installed as per EPA guidelines while the poisonous gaseous emission should be controlled by avoiding burning of plastic waste. The mushrooming of incinerator was also not advisable.

They deplored that no proper disposal management had been in force in different hospitals and their waste was being dumped at the municipal solid waste, where they were mixed up again to contaminate the entire waste.

Dr Naila said hospitals in the country produce 16,000 tons of waste annually out of which 2,500 tons was considered to be highly infectious.

She said around 2kg of waste was produced per bed daily out of which 0.6kg were risk based. There were a total of 120,000 beds in the country, out of which 90,000 were in the public hospitals and the remaining in the private sector.

Apart from Hepatitis, other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, gastroenteritis, infections in respiratory tract, blood stream, skin and intoxication through radioactive substances could be caused by infectious waste.

She said 79 per cent of the syringes were being re-used without sterilization in Pakistan. Around 12 billion syringes were used worldwide, every year, and had contributed in generating eight to 16 million cases of Hepatitis B and 2.3 to 4.7 million cases of Hepatitis C every year. She also informed that a draft of the hospital waste management rules 2002 was due to be approved in the meeting of the environmental protection council scheduled for December.

Dr Majeed Rajput, Director HSA emphasized the need for separating hospital waste to help in proper disposal and said even two incinerators were enough for a city like Lahore.

He said even household waste was 1,000 times more dangerous than hospital waste and sanitary napkins and diapers should be disposed of properly.

Imran Khalid said incinerators have both merits and demerits but its effects could be minimized by the use of filtration devises like scrubbers, fabric filters or electrostatic precipitate.

The dialogue was attended by Dr Ishtiaq Qazi, director general Pakistan Council Renewable Energy Technology, Imran Khalid, programme assistant Lead, Dr Anwer Baig Principal Institute of Environmental Sciences and Engineering Rawalpindi.