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Hazardous hospital incinerator

Hazardous hospital incinerator
International environmental organisation warns against threat of new incinerators
Malta, 26 June, 2001 - Greenpeace today revealed that the response to the tender issued last October by the Ministry of Health, for an alternative to the existing incinerator at St.Lukes Hospital, has once again been postponed to September, the third delay this year (1). The organisation demanded an answer as to where the rest of the clinical waste generated from clinics and hospitals other than St.Lukes is being dumped. Greenpeace also cautioned the public to be wary of new incinerator proposals in the waste management strategy to be published next week. "Is it a coincidence that the response to the tender has now been postponed to September, when the consultation process for the national waste management strategy closes in August? Is the Minister of Health changing his mind on his repeated commitments over two years to implement non-burn technologies as an immediate solution to that hazardous incinerator?" said Caroline Muscat for Greenpeace Mediterranean. Greenpeace also called on Minister Deguara to provide information on where the clinical waste generated from hospitals and clinics other than St.Lukes is being disposed of and whether this was being sent to Maghtab to add to the hazards already being posed by the ever-growing dumpsite. Greenpeace questioned the Minister of Health, Dr. Deguara, on what excuse he could provide that could possibly justify the perpetuation of health and environmental hazards by the sector responsible for public health care. With an incinerator spewing toxic fumes and the possibility of clinical waste being disposed of openly at the Maghtab dumpsite, Greenpeace stressed that clinical waste management is in crisis with unimaginable risks being imposed on an unknowing public. "Every single day that that incinerator operates, it is spreading health risks and contaminating our environment. Dr. Deguara knows the health and environmental hazards associated with incineration and the Minister also knows that there are cleaner alternatives to clinical waste management, such as autoclaving. His repeated promises prove that, although they have so far not been translated into any real action," added Muscat. Greenpeace expressed outrage at the fact that the residents in the surrounding areas and the workers at the hospital continue to be subjected to unnecessary risks because of the administrations inability to perform. The organisation said that the public should not be expected to tolerate a situation where there is no real control over the highly infectious and toxic waste being dumped into the environment, and where waste is incinerated to emit cancer-causing substances, such as dioxins, on a daily basis. "With respect to clinical waste disposal, the problem is basically a biological one concerning its infectious nature. By incinerating such wastes the biological problem is converted into a chemical one, by the creation and dispersion of toxic compounds. Dioxin is one of these toxic compounds, which has been known to cause cancer," added Muscat. The cure to clinical waste management revolves around the need to implement adequate waste reduction, a change in the procurement of materials eliminating those products containing hazardous substances, such as PVC and mercury, waste segregation and staff training. The infectious waste can be suitably sterilised by appropriate techniques, such as autoclaving. Greenpeace is demanding the immediate shut down of the waste incinerator at St.Lukes to be replaced with a clean alternative that would eliminate the hazards that the public is currently exposed to and also safeguard the environment. Greenpeace said that this is a necessary first step to the closure of all incinerators on the island spreading the disease of toxic pollution. Greenpeace stressed that it would fight any proposals for new incinerators now or in future. For more information please contact Caroline Muscat at the Greenpeace Mediterranean office on 356 490784/5 or on mobile 0942 9964
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