Domestic waste: the looming health hazard in our homes

Most of the biologic waste generated in our homes has the potential to be toxic. The cooked food scraps, fruit and vegetable peels may be organic but that doesn’t mean they are free from harbouring dangerous bacteria. Clostridium perfringes, enterococci and fecal coliforms, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are all strains of bacteria which have been isolated from urban domestic garbage and are multi resistant to antibiotics. These are the kinds of bacteria that hospitals and cruise ships go to great expense to prevent.

This cost cutting exercise by cash-strapped local councils is a potential time bomb.

Just last week WHO called for new antibiotics to fight these resistant bacteria. At the same time our local councils are forcing us to keep our spoiled products, cleansing wipes, disposable diapers and a wide variety of other items in our homes for much longer periods of time. Local governments everywhere are reducing the frequency and amounts of domestic waste collection without knowing how detrimental it might be to the health of the ratepayers who pay for the services.

It reeks of the avoidant leadership, we have witnessed for so long in health care. This time it is not patients, but ratepayers, who are becoming the scapegoats for the systems which are under extreme duress. Decreasing garbage services is a potential time bomb. With world temperatures on the increase, these little incubators, whether they are under sinks, or the streets and yards where our children play, are ripe grounds for a range of infections – the kinds the developing world is trying to eradicate.

Separating recyclable products from other wastes and quarantine food wastes may help our Western landfill problems, but what about the potentially infectious biological waste we generate at home, such as syringes used by diabetics, tampons, disposable diapers, used condoms, wipes and bandages? All of which may contain infectious blood, exudates and secretions.

At least with frequent collection we could be assured that we wouldn’t be incubating infectious material and placing more people at risk.  Most of us aren’t trained in public health. Foisting a potentially dangerous change to our environments, without educating us about suitable preventive measures, is negligent. Councils and health services have a duty to provide educational programs to raise awareness of the importance of proper storage of potentially infectious waste generated in our homes and to prevent the possible risk of contamination through improper contact.

Or perhaps, councils rather than providing us with smaller garbage bins could replace our freezers with bigger ones to safely store the waste until it is removed.

One thought on “Domestic waste: the looming health hazard in our homes

  1. Biological waste and the inherent potential dangers are really not understood by the general public. If you think that even now some health care providers are still very remiss with waste disposal ( check out some CQC reports of general practices and care homes), the average person is unlikely to be well informed about the dangers. Then there is the next step to change habits. For cash strapped councils there is little incentive to raise awareness as it will mean more work for them at a time when budgets are being cut mercilessly. Unless there is a strong message from central government individual councils will only act from a position of conviction. For the rest, rightly or wrongly, there is not the cash, the knowledge or the will to develop prevention programmes.

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