Green Cross project sheds light on public health, environmental risks of medical waste

Contaminated pathogens, chemical and radioactive substances and medical waste pose serious public health and environmental risks, and medical waste management must be improved, according to a Green Cross-backed project, the results of which were presented 28 March 2014 during the 5th annual Conference of Biological Safety Association for Central Asia and the Caucasus (BACAC) in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.

In 2011, Green Cross International’s Environmental Security and Sustainablity Programme initiated the two-year project, Regulating Infectious Medical Waste Management to Protect Public Health and Enhance Biosafety in Kazakhstan, which was co-funded by Green Cross Switzerland and the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC).

“The goal of our joint project was to improve the infectious medical waste management regulations in Kazakhstan in order to protect local, national, regional, and international public health, enhance biosafety, and better prepare the biomedical infrastructure for emergency situations,” according to Marina Voronova-Abrams, from Green Cross Stwitzerland.
Ms. Abrams and Dr. Alim Aikimbayev, deputy director at the Scientific Practical Center of Sanitary and Epidemiological Expertise and Monitoring in Kazakhstan, reported on the project findings during the BACAC event.

BACAC is a regional coordinating body and biosafety/biosecurity knowledge distribution institution promoting best practice and standards among members and encouraging dialogue on emerging public health issues.

Sponsored by the European Union, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Canada through collaboration with the ISTC, the BACAC event focused on bio-risk management at the workplace, global disease surveillance, bioethics and international guidelines.

According to Ms. Abrams, poorly regulated medical waste management hampers the biomedical community’s ability to cope with major disease outbreaks, which may very easily spread globally, particularly with current high levels of global travel. Therefore, medical waste management should be part of international efforts to improve national emergency planning, first response and containment capabilities.
Green Cross International chose Kazakhstan to implement the project for a number of reasons. Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world and maintains borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, Th country has more than 14,000 medical institutions dealing with the treatment and disposal of medical waste, including sharps, microbiology laboratory waste, pathology and anatomy waste, and highly toxic substances.
Besides work in laboratories and in the field, project participants have:
  • Studied international experience in regards to medical waste management, including an October 2013 visit to Washington DC medical institutions, hosted by Green Cross.
  • Published the first practical guidelines, “Organization of collection, decontamination, temporary storage and disposal of medical waste,” in Kazakhstan.
  • Developed an organizational chart of medical waste flow and distribution of responsibilities and drafted guidelines for a chief specialist responsible for waste management at a health care institution.
  • Established a database with characteristics of various classes of medical waste, equipment for storage of treated waste and disposal of treated medical waste, landfills, and training programs.
  • Prepared a training program on medical waste management.
  • Conducted a seminar for the medical community on medical waste management issues.
Green Cross International was founded in 1993 by Nobel Peace Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev and is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization advocating and working globally to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and conducts on-the-ground projects in more than 30 countries around the world.
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