Dark side of hospital incinerators

Sabir Hussain

In almost all hospitals across Pakistan, incinerators are employed for the purpose of burning medical waste. These waste materials encompass a range of items like used syringes, bandages, and other items contaminated with bodily fluids or infectious agents. The areas in which taking care of our environment is really important, how we handle waste has become a big deal to discuss in detail.

According to the European Commission, incineration is a way to treat waste by using heat to change it into ash or slag, making it smaller before throwing it away involving different methods like burning, heating, or using special gases. According to Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) findings, this only changes the type of pollution but does not really solve the main problem of getting rid of the waste.

One really worrisome thing about burning the waste is that it creates harmful stuff like dioxins and furans. These are super strong and dangerous chemicals made when certain materials are burned. These bad chemicals can travel far in the air, stick around for a really long time, and get into the food we eat. Even a tiny bit of these chemicals can cause big health issues, like cancer.

Studies show that places where waste is burned have more cases of cancer, which is really concerning. But the worries about incinerators do not end with dioxins. They also let out many other bad things like carbon monoxide, special chemicals called polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and tiny particles that float in the air.

These small particles can cause problems in our breathing, making our heartbeat fast, and even lead to heart attacks and dying early. Surprisingly, incinerators let out more mercury than even coal plants. In addition, burning waste is not actually helping stop climate change like it claims to.

Research has shown that these burning places let out more carbon dioxide for the energy they make as compared to the regular fuels in use. On the other hand, while the world is trying to fight pollution, groups like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have integrated incineration as a key approach in its strategy for solid waste management in Asia.

The ADB promotes incineration as an option for cities and municipalities, often emphasizing its appeal when funds are available. Amazingly, the ADB’s do not publish comprehensive information in its documents about the bad things that burning trash can do to people, the environment, and money.

To conclude, taking care of our environment is really very much important, and how we deal with trash matters a lot. Burning trash sounds like a good idea, but it actually causes problems. It releases harmful stuff into the air, soil, and water, making people sick. On the other side, zero waste strategy minimizes the amount of waste that is generated and sent to landfills or incinerators. It focuses on reducing, reusing, and recycling materials to keep them in circulation and prevent them from becoming pollution. Thus, the goal of zero waste approach is to create a sustainable system where very little or no waste is produced, and resources are used efficiently for the welfare of human beings.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and Editor S&T of Sunrise Today. He covers science and technology, environment, agriculture, climate change, global warming, energy crisis and public health. He can be contacted at: lectureonline14@gmail.com.

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