Toxic clinic waste in our trash?

More than 12,000 tons of toxic waste produced by hospitals and clinics every year may be ending up in landfills and posing a grave risk to public health, according to an expert report whose results were made public by Kathimerini yesterday. The disposal of hospital waste is allegedly inadequate at every stage of the process, from its management at hospitals to its collection and disposal by local authority services, according to a group of health and environmental inspectors who last November inspected several state hospitals and private clinics in Attica and around the country as well as the incineration unit run by the Association of Municipal Authorities of Attica. Only 2,500 tons of toxic medical waste produced every year are disposed of at this incineration unit, while the fate of some 12,500 tons remains unclear, the report said. This waste is believed to include human body parts, diseased blood as well as expired anti-cancer medicines. Fortunately, radioactive waste appears to be more strictly monitored, falling under the watchful eye of the Greek Atomic Energy Commission. «The procedure is very careless. The waste is not sorted out and often ends up in public garbage cans,» the dean of Athens’s School of Public Administration, Nikos Katsiris, told Kathimerini. «Also, there are no laboratories testing whether the residues are a risk to public health,» he added. According to experts, it could be the high prices charged by the incineration unit – 1.7 euros per kilo as compared to 0.5 euro per kilo in the rest of Europe – that leads to the waste being dumped unprocessed. They propose that the government channel some of its EU funding to hospitals to establish their own incineration units and that inspections of hospitals and clinics be intensified as the lack of current checks may be encouraging violations.