Eliminating mercury use in hospital laboratories: a step toward zero discharge.
In 1996, the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District initiated a Zero Discharge Project to work toward the goal of zero discharge of persistent toxic substances from its wastewater treatment plant. This multifaceted project focuses on mercury, lead, dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls, and hexachlorbenzene. Here, the author describes a collaboration with local hospitals to eliminate the use of mercury-containing fixatives by histopathology laboratories. Three primary roadblocks to change were identified: (a) technicians' belief that pathologists would be resistant to change; (b) lack of time to research alternatives; (c) lack of awareness of the hospital's role in polluting the environment. (+info)
Sterilizable syringes: excessive risk or cost-effective option?
In recent years, many poorer countries have chosen to use disposable instead of sterilizable syringes. Unfortunately, the infrastructure and management systems that are vital if disposables are to be used safely do not exist. WHO estimates that up to 30% of injections administered are unsafe. The traditional sterilizable syringe had many disadvantages, some of which have been minimized through better design and the use of modern materials; others have been overcome because staff are able to demonstrate that they have performed safely. For example, the time-steam saturation-temperature (TST) indicator has enabled staff to demonstrate that a sterilizing cycle has been successfully completed. Health facility staff must be able to sterilize equipment, and the sterilizable syringe remains the least costly means of administering an injection. Data from countries that have acceptable systems for processing clinical waste indicate that safe and environmentally acceptable disposal, destruction and final containment cost nearly as much as the original cost of a disposable syringe. By careful supervision of staff behaviour and good management, some countries have demonstrated that they are able to administer safe injections with sterilizable syringes at a price they can afford. (+info)
Practical methods for reducing radioactive contamination incidents in the nuclear cardiology laboratory.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the extent and cause of radioactive contamination in our nuclear cardiology laboratory, and to develop possible solutions to minimize future occurrence. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective review to determine the underlying causes of the 15 minor radioactive contamination events that have occurred in the exercise areas of our laboratory since 1986. Of the 15 documented events, 8 were caused by failure of intravenous apparatus and 7 were due to syringe mishandling. Based on a staff questionnaire, we determined the most prevalent causes of radioactive contamination. Other than problems associated with intravenous setup, the causes were lack of experience by the individual performing the injection, followed closely by radioactive syringe disposal problems, injection technique, and unclear designation of duties during the exercise procedure. RESULTS: Based on these findings, we formulated a 4-part plan: a training program; a closely inspected intravenous apparatus; a mobile radioactive waste container; and a clear designation of duties for personnel to be included in the exercise procedure protocol. CONCLUSION: We have implemented a sensible and practical plan for reducing radioactive contamination, which is currently being evaluated. (+info)
What do the needles, syringes, lancets and reagent strips of diabetic patients become in the absence of a common attitude? About 1070 questionnaires in diabetic clinics.
The aim was to investigate the fate of injection and monitoring material after its use by diabetic patients in different countries (France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzeland and Tunisia). Some suitable containers are available for disposal but little is known about the attitudes of patients and physicians to them. 1 070 questionnaires were completed by patients (age: 50 +/- 18 years; diabetes duration: 15 +/- 11 years; 2.8 +/- 1.1 injections per day) visiting 109 doctors. Injections were done at home (72.6%), or both at home and at work (26.6%). At home: needles, syringes, lancets and reagent strips were thrown directly into the bin in 46.9%, 49.9%, 52.2% and 67.6% of cases, respectively; and in a closed plastic bottle in 29. 6%, 28.5%, 28.9% and 19.9% of cases, respectively. Specific containers were used in 8.6% and 6.3% of cases for needles and syringes, respectively. 62% of the bottles and containers were thrown directly into the bin, whereas 15.5% were returned to a pharmacy (4.5% taken to hospitals, 2.9% were burned). At work: 63% of the patients brought their needles and syringes home for disposal, 6.9% kept suitable containers at work and 30% threw their materials directly into local bins. We conclude that awareness should be increased and the organization of the collection of used material improved. (+info)
Minimization and management of wastes from biomedical research.
Several committees were established by the National Association of Physicians for the Environment to investigate and report on various topics at the National Leadership Conference on Biomedical Research and the Environment held at the 1--2 November 1999 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. This is the report of the Committee on Minimization and Management of Wastes from Biomedical Research. Biomedical research facilities contribute a small fraction of the total amount of wastes generated in the United States, and the rate of generation appears to be decreasing. Significant reductions in generation of hazardous, radioactive, and mixed wastes have recently been reported, even at facilities with rapidly expanding research programs. Changes in the focus of research, improvements in laboratory techniques, and greater emphasis on waste minimization (volume and toxicity reduction) explain the declining trend in generation. The potential for uncontrolled releases of wastes from biomedical research facilities and adverse impacts on the general environment from these wastes appears to be low. Wastes are subject to numerous regulatory requirements and are contained and managed in a manner protective of the environment. Most biohazardous agents, chemicals, and radionuclides that find significant use in research are not likely to be persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic if they are released. Today, the primary motivations for the ongoing efforts by facilities to improve minimization and management of wastes are regulatory compliance and avoidance of the high disposal costs and liabilities associated with generation of regulated wastes. The committee concluded that there was no evidence suggesting that the anticipated increases in biomedical research will significantly increase generation of hazardous wastes or have adverse impacts on the general environment. This conclusion assumes the positive, countervailing trends of enhanced pollution prevention efforts by facilities and reductions in waste generation resulting from improvements in research methods will continue. (+info)
Applying environmental product design to biomedical products research.
The principal themes for the Biomedical Research and the Environment Conference Committee on Environmental Economics in Biomedical Research include the following: healthcare delivery companies and biomedical research organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit, need to improve their environmental performance; suppliers of healthcare products will be called upon to support this need; and improving the environmental profile of healthcare products begins in research and development (R&D). The committee report begins with requirements from regulatory authorities (e.g., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and the healthcare delivery sector). The 1998 American Hospital Association and EPA Memorandum of Understanding to reduce solid waste and mercury from healthcare facilities is emblematic of these requirements. The dominant message from the requirements discussion is to ensure that R&D organizations do not ignore customer, environmental, and regulatory requirements in the early stages of product development. Several representatives from healthcare products manufacturers presented their companies' approaches to meeting these requirements. They reported on efforts to ensure that their R&D processes are sensitive to the environmental consequences from manufacturing, distributing, using, and disposing of healthcare products. These reports describe representatives' awareness of requirements and the unique approaches their R&D organizations have taken to meet these requirements. All representatives reported that their R&D organizations have embraced environmental product design because it avoids the potential of returning products to R&D to improve the environmental profile. Additionally, several reports detailed cost savings, sustainability benefits, and improvements in environmental manufacturing or redesign, and increased customer satisfaction. Many companies in healthcare delivery are working to improve environmental performance. Fundamental to these efforts is the necessity of motivating suppliers to improve the environmental profile of new products used in the healthcare delivery sector. (+info)
Canada-wide standards: a pollution prevention program for dental amalgam waste.
Dentistry and society have long recognized the benefits of using silver-based amalgams to restore and maintain the dental health of patients. However, recent studies by health and environment experts have shown that mercury is of great concern when it enters the biosphere as a contaminant. A rational approach to pollution prevention is mandatory. This article explains the relationship between mercury, particularly dental amalgam waste, and the environment and describes a new pollution prevention initiative intended to ensure that the dental community becomes part of the solution to this serious environmental health problem. (+info)
What do pharmacists think about New York state's new nonprescription syringe sale program? Results of a survey.
Access to sterile syringes can prevent transmission of blood-borne diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C. We conducted survey of attitudes of pharmacists to aid in development of the Expanded Syringe Access Demonstration Program (ESAP) in New York State. ESAP is an HIV prevention initiative that authorizes nonprescription sale of hypodermic needles and syringes by registered pharmacies in New York State beginning January 1, 2001. As part of planning for program implementation, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), in collaboration with the New York State Education Department, conducted mailed survey of all 4, 392 licensed pharmacies in New York State during the summer of 2000. Some surveys (171) were returned as undeliverable. Of the 4,221 eligible respondents, 874 (20.7%) completed surveys were received, of which 574 (65.7%) indicated that their pharmacy would likely participate in ESAP. An additional 11.0% were not sure. Only 139 (15.9%) indicated that they would definitely not participate; 7.4% left this question blank. There were 608 responses to questions on safe disposal practices. Of these, 315 (51.8%) respondents indicated that their pharmacy sold sharps containers, and an additional 29 made them available at no cost. Only 133 (21.9%) respondents to this question did not offer sharps containers and were not interested in doing so. In all, 54 responses indicated that they accepted used hypodermic needles and syringes for disposal. Some (170, 28%) that did not accept sharps for disposal were interested in doing so. More than half (382, 63.0%) did not wish to do so. NYSDOH considered respondent suggestions and minimized ESAP requirements. By March 31, 2001, only 3 months after ESAP became effective, more than half of all licensed pharmacies in New York State were registered for ESAP. Survey results provided useful information to NYSDOH and good indication of likelihood of registration. The high level of pharmacy participation in ESAP may be reflective of NYSDOH attention to issues raised by pharmacists, as well as the direct effects of outreach to pharmacy chains regarding ESAP. (+info)