UN investigator says medical waste risks ignored

Posted Sept. 14, 2011, at 6:55 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 14, 2011, at 9:15 a.m.

GENEVA (AP) — A U.N. human rights investigator says up to a quarter of the world’s trash from hospitals, clinics, labs, blood banks and mortuaries is hazardous but largely unregulated.

Calin Georgescu says nations pay “too little attention” to mountains of wastes contaminated with pathogens, blood, low levels of radioactivity, discarded needles, syringes, scalpels, expired drugs and vaccines.

His report Wednesday to the U.N. Human Rights Council said “at times, medical waste is illegally shipped to other countries” but more often dumped illegally or combined with household discards.

He cited an incident in 2009 when Brazil returned 89 containers to Britain that were shipped as recyclable plastic but held used syringes, condoms and old medicine.