The disposal of biohazard wastes varies from state to state. For example, there are 10 hospital waste treatment facilities in New Jersey that are registered to treat and destroy their own surgical wastes on site via various regulated medical waste disposal methods, such as incineration. In California and at least seven other states, though, incinerating surgical wastes is illegal.
What all states can presumably agree on, though, is that hazardous surgical wastes should not get dumped in the river, which, unfortunately, they have in the Arkansas River.
Tulsa police arrested 27-year-old Garrett Gibson on complaints of larceny of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, and a hold for Payne County after St. John Medical Center security detained him. Gibson was also caught on security camera footage taking containers of medical and surgical waste, which authorities believe are the same vials of blood and used syringes that were recently discovered in the Arkansas River.
Gibson allegedly told the staff of St. John Medical Center that he was a janitor there, but security reported that they found no evidence of the hospital ever employing him. According to court documents, Gibson was in possession of between 100 and 200 vials with varying amounts of drug remnants.
The troubling part is that even without people who dump surgical waste into rivers, there is still too much waste being mishandled. On average, one hospital will produce about 1,300 to 1,500 pounds of hazardous medical and surgical waste per week, which adds up to about 70-80,000 pounds of waste.
And while many hospitals will spend thousands making sure it’s taken care of properly, too much is just tossed away with the general waste, where it can pose a threat to hospital staff, patients, the general public, and the environment. Each year, for instance, about 16 billion injections are given across the world, but not each needle and syringe is properly disposed of. As a result, some 260,000 new HIV infections occur.
So while such instances as what happened with the Arkansas River are very unfortunate, the problem is even bigger than most believe. The amount of hazardous medical waste being disposed of improperly is not the result of a few lazy people, but the unintentional consequences of everyday folks.
If you have any questions about properly disposing of medical waste, feel free to share in the comments.