8 Negative Health Effects from Hazardous Waste

“Caution: No Hazardous Wastes Accepted”

Without a doubt, you’ve already seen these words in garbage bins. But have you ever wondered why there’s a need to paste this warning? Well, it says “hazardous”, so it’s not good for both human and environmental health, right? 

Perhaps, the better question to ask is: How are hazardous wastes harmful to the point that they must be especially segregated?

Under Australia’s Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989, wastes are considered hazardous when they’re either characterized as explosive, flammable, poisonous, toxic, ecotoxic, or infectious. Consequently, these wastes require an additional treatment step for safe disposal. Examples of these are clinical wastes and even your broken phone’s battery.

Although hazardous waste increases faster than any waste, with a 34% increase from 2017 to 2019, only a few people separate these from regular garbage.

Unfortunately, people tend to learn only when they’ve already seen or felt the consequences of their actions. Hence, here are eight negative health effects from hazardous waste that might make you care more about segregation. 

Skin Irritations

Among the many adverse health effects from hazardous waste, skin irritation is the most basic. This is because chemicals commonly enter the body via skin absorption, making it the most exposed organ of the body. 

Birth Defect

You might think you’re safe when you’re only exposed to small amounts of hazardous waste chemicals. But, more often than not, you’ve already been affected. You just don’t know it yet.

Approximately 300 artificial chemicals are found inside the human body, and their most susceptible target are fetuses since their organs are still developing. 

A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) examined the association of congenital malformation risk with toxic waste sites proximity. A 12% increase in congenital disabilities was observed in mothers living near the said sites.

Cancer

Numerous epidemiological researches have been conducted to relate carcinogens in hazardous wastes like pesticides and other industrial wastes.

For instance, a 2013 Elsevier study investigated waste treatment plants in Spain and their toxic emissions on neighbouring communities. Specifically, municipal mortalities caused by 33 types of cancer were studied within the 5-km vicinity of the said plants.

Results show that there’s excessive cancer mortality in the target population. Malignant tumours were mainly observed in the pleura, liver, kidneys, ovaries, lungs, and stomach.  

Respiratory Disease

If you have a history of respiratory conditions like asthma, it would be best to stay away from hazardous waste sites. Their emissions are not only toxic but are also potent irritants that might cause allergic reactions and trigger your respiratory illnesses. 

Heart Disease

Apart from respiratory diseases, hazardous wastes also contain chemicals that increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases. Specifically, toxic waste heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and cobalt, have been associated with the development of myocardial infarction, heart failure, arrhythmias, and hypertension.

Infections

Among the many activities that produce hazardous waste are healthcare operations. Although most of the rubbish they generate are just as dangerous as household wastes, some are relatively more dangerous for human health,

These wastes are primarily composed of infectious wastes like syringes, facemasks, medical gloves, and biological wastes. These constitute 15-25% of the total medical wastes.

Behavioural Abnormalities

Apart from physiological health effects, the presence of hazardous wastes also affects the psychological well-being of humans. 

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reported in one of its panel discussions how exposure to hazardous substances could cause chronic stress and a recurring pattern of anxiety and absent-mindedness.   

These effects were also observed among people who are living near hazardous waste treatment facilities.

Damaged Environmental Health

“Health” may also be interpreted in the environmental context. 

We learned earlier that hazardous wastes could be flammable and ecotoxic. These characteristics alone indicate that these materials threaten our natural ecosystems. Some of these adverse effects include water pollution, grass fires, and wildlife mutations.

To know more about these impacts, you may also visit Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Conclusion

It’s indeed tempting to simply throw our hazardous wastes in regular bins. But the little convenience we get from doing so pales compared to the harm we’re getting.

Every time you mismanage these wastes, you’re not only putting your health at risk but also that of our hardworking garbage collectors and the environment. 

If you just really don’t know how to get rid of these wastes properly, don’t be afraid to ask for expert help. Kurt’s Rubbish Removal, for instance, also offers removal services for e-wastes and automotive parts—wastes that potentially contain toxic chemicals.

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