Hospital waste sent to landfills

Virtually all Greek hospitals, both state-run and private, are sending their toxic waste to regular landfills, in violation of health and safety regulations and at a serious risk to public health, according to a report compiled by the Association of Municipalities and Communities of Attica (ESDKNA) which conducted a series of random inspections on garbage trucks gathering bags of trash from major Athens hospitals. The report, seen by Kathimerini, noted that all 16 inspections carried out on the same number of garbage trucks revealed the presence of several toxic materials, including used catheters and syringes, bloodied strips of gauze, colostomy bags and vials of blood. The report notes, «Inspections on a sample number of bags of trash revealed large quantities of dangerous medical refuse… much of this refuse was covered with blood and other biological fluids.» The disposal of these materials by any other means apart from sanitary incineration – in either ESDKNA’s unit or the smaller units on the premises of some of the larger Athens hospitals – is illegal. The hundreds of tons of toxic waste being produced by these hospitals each month should be ending up in ESDKNA’s special incinerator. But, according to the report, many hospital managers say that one incinerator cannot support all the capital’s hospitals. Others reportedly claim to be incinerating their waste in their own units. The findings in ESDKNA’s report were not made public but have been sent to the managers of the hospitals and to Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos. A spokesperson for ESDKNA told Kathimerini that the uncontrolled disposal of such toxic waste posed a particular health risk to landfill staff. «For years, we saw hospital waste being dumped at landfills illegally and landfill employees would often complain about the risks to their health,» Costas Sypsas told Kathimerini. «We conducted these inspections to prove what we already knew,» he added.