03 Aug 2012
The District Malaria Office is dumping blood samples slides on its premises in violation of the Bio–Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, putting people in the area at risk. MPCB says it will investigate
The premises of the District Malaria Office make for a macabre sight with blood sample slides scattered in heaps along the rear end of its left wall, with some of the contaminated ware spilling onto the pavements in the front, where ragpickers rummage through them. This is the contribution of an arm of the State Health Department vested with the job of saving the city from ailments such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya. It is a clear violation of the Bio–Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, notified by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The premises besides the DMO, houses the District Employment Office. The housing quarters for 1,000 State government employees are also located there. The peons and guards of the offices also live on the same campus. All these people are exposed to contaminated slides strewn about in the area.
Vikas Patil, an environmentalist, said, "If a huge quantity of slides with blood are dumped, there is a high possibility of viruses in the blood getting transmitted to others through air, water and soil with a more virulent genome. There are many viruses like swine flu which can survive in the air also, many of the viruses survives in the water also."
When Mirror visited the premises on Jail Road at Yerwada, the slides were spied even mixed with other wastes. The 1998 rules clearly banned mixing bio–medical wastes with other garbage, laying down strict rules for the disposal of such wastes. The slides which qualify as Category No–3 on MoEF’s notification as microbiology and biotechnology waste from lab cultures, stock or specimens of microorganisms live or attenuated vaccines or infectious agents from research labs, require local autoclaving (sterilisation with high pressure saturated steam at 121°C for 15–20 minutes), microwaving or incineration.
Dr Sujata Pardeshi, the District Malaria Officer, refuses to confront the situation. "We have not dumped even a single slide. We have kept them aside for recycling. There is a procedure for sterilising the slides and they might have been kept for that purpose," she insisted, referring to the godown located behind the DMO building. This in itself is in contravention of the law which stipulates: No untreated bio–medical waste shall be kept stored beyond a period of 48 hours.
Officials at the State Health Department as well as Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (the agency tagged with the job of monitoring such transgressions), say that the strict norms on such waste disposals require the slides to be sterilised and dumped into pits made in the ground to be buried.
"To avoid infection like HIV such slides used to take blood samples should be disposed in a proper manner," Dr Satish Pawar, joint director of the State Health Services, accepted. "There is a need to dig what are called ‘burial pits’ to dispose such items. In case of failure to do so, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) can act against such violation," he added.
"Dumping slides in such a way is wrong. To the best of my knowledge, there are no pits or any other facilities to dispose such material on the DMO premises, nor has the work been handed over to any agency," said Dr R B Nigde, assistant health director of the State Health Department. The only company in the city engaged in medical waste disposal, Pasco Environmental Solution, does not have the DMO on their list of clientele.
S D Dandavate, director of the company, said, "One of the first things to do after autoclaving or chemically sterilising the slides, is to break them so they are not re–used."
"To avoid any ill–effects on the environment the sterilised slides need to be crushed for recycling in the glass industry, where they go into a furnace and all hazards are removed," echoed Patil.
"The government offices receive different funds for disposal of medical waste, but many a time they are dumped on open ground just to save money for the hospital. Some even throw them into rivers or nullahs," Dandavate revealed.
Clearly caught napping, the officials at the city office of the MPCB said they do not have a system in place for monitoring such violations. "Considering huge number of hospitals , clinics and labs in the city it is not feasible to keep an eye on all. We rely on complaints," informed A D Mohekar, Pune regional officer of the MPCB. "Even if the complaints are written in anonymity we take action as per the provision. In this case too we will act accordingly," he assured.