The Pressing Issue of Injury by Sharps
On our heavily populated planet, the advancement of science and medicine in all its fields means more medical care is being provided. Taking into consideration veterinary services; dental services; medical facilities services; and home treatment (to name a few), the result is that throughout the planet it is estimated that over 16 billion needles (sharps) are being disposed of yearly.
The Risk of Sharps Injury:
Over 16 billion sharps alone yearly adds up to a very expensive and dangerous problem.
“Needles are the largest contributor to sharps waste” – World Health Organization (2004).
Sharps pose a very real risk. According to the WHO there are over 350,000 injuries from sharps recorded annually with many of these cases being contaminated sharps resulting in contraction of infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B&C. (For more information on this see the downloads section: Know Your Hospital Waste (infographic) & Sharps Injury – WHO (Useful Resources).
This is why efforts are being focused on new technologies for sharps and medical waste disposal. In line with this, governments are attempting to ensure sharps waste safety. In 2000, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was passed, along with the 2001 Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. This was designed to specify requirements by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for employee use and health and safety prevention when using sharps to protect all at risk from from accidental sharps injuries.
The Price Tag:
Sharps injuries pose a huge threat on the victim whether it be a patient or an employee. The cost of such an injury can be costly both in terms of the health of the victim (in some cases it can be deadly), and in terms of the cost for the medical facility. Compensation payouts (increasing insurance rates), investigations & reports, sick leave, and expensive testing, are all very relevant factors to the cost of injury by sharps. Even if the results come out clear, one single injury can still cost a health care facility in the region of $4000+.
Sharps in the Developing World:
Sharps waste is a major concern in the developing regions of the world. The risks are much larger for sharps injuries and contamination even more so. Factors that contribute to this are high disease prevalence and lack of health care professionals, lack of education in the field and the cost of disposal technology (blocking the use of such technology).
Worldwide, injections make up the largest portion of sharps waste. The use of injections in the developing world is much more prevalent,this increases the risks and points towards the desperate need for a solution in this region of the world.
Preventing Sharps Injury:
Proper segregation is the first point of action. Proper storage of sharps can prevent sharps injury by up to 99%. (For more information on this see the downloads section: Know Your Hospital Waste (infographic) & Sharps Injury – WHO (Useful Resources).
But what happens after the storage? This stored content needs to be safely transported and then dealt with via treatment and disposal until it no longer poses a risk to others. Often, reducing the risk to others comes at the cost of increasing risks to the environment. The most common form of sharps disposal is incineration and sending it to landfills. This is costly to our planet and costly to the medical facilities.
Sharps (and all other forms of infectious Medical Waste), is such a pressing issue and poses such a risk to the environment both to our planet and the population, that on-site technologies are critical for the future of Medical Waste treatment.