Health

New opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of using PPE

Personal protective equipment plays an important role in keeping healthcare professionals safe and healthy from the dangers they encounter on a daily basis.

This became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the use of PPE increased significantly. A recent study estimates that 129 billion face masks and 65 billion inspection gloves are used worldwide each month. With this increase in use, PPE is more likely to pollute the environment and can take decades, or even centuries, to deteriorate.

According to the latest 2018-19 data collected by the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Environment, 48,652 tonnes of clinical waste were generated and 4,046 tonnes were directly landfilled. If not properly disposed of and managed, this waste poses a serious threat to wildlife and community health for decades when released into the terrestrial and marine environment. This danger arises from the long-term accumulation and persistence of plastic waste in the environment. This can allow plastic waste to enter the food chain. It is clear that new solutions are needed to reduce the impact of clinical waste on plastics.

The switch to biodegradable plastics represents a real opportunity for the healthcare sector to tackle this problem. Biodegradable plastics are plastics that decompose by interacting with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae and are converted to carbon dioxide and water over a period of months or years rather than decades or centuries. .. Confusingly, biodegradable plastics are sometimes called bioplastics. This is a general term for biodegradable, bio-based materials, or both plastics. It is important to note that not all bio-based plastics are biodegradable, but some traditional plastics do this.

There are several important factors that cause biodegradation to occur. First, the molecular structure of a material (also known as a polymer), rather than the material itself, must be gradually broken down by microbial communities into its basic components. Second, in order for biodegradation to occur, the place where the material is placed must have the proper conditions. Temperature, humidity, pH level, and oxygen content are all important environmental factors for the biodegradation of plastics. When placed in the proper combination of conditions that are friendly to certain microorganisms, the plastic is consumed and used as food for growth and reproduction by these microorganisms. Finally, microorganisms need to be able to identify plastic waste as a food source in order to be able to initiate the biodegradation process.

New technology allows the formulation of inspection gloves to be impregnated with organic additives that attract specific microorganisms in the landfill environment and initiate biodegradation through a process called mineralization. Mineralization means that a compound breaks down into its mineral constituents (ie carbon dioxide and water) and some biomass (ie inert soil). Inspection gloves in anaerobic landfill environments undergo four biological and chemical stages: hydrolysis, acid production, acetic acid production, and methane production as part of the mineralization process. Each step helps to break down the glove compound into a simpler form until it is completely consumed. Since these gloves can only be biodegraded under these landfill conditions, the quality and safety they provide is unaffected and comparable to traditional inspection gloves.

PPE will undoubtedly remain an essential way to protect healthcare professionals from the dangers they face in the workplace. In the past, clinical waste generated from the disposal of PPE has represented an environmental risk, but new innovations in test gloves in particular can provide viable options that can help mitigate this risk. ..

Image credits: © stock.adobe.com / au / desertsands

New opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of using PPE

Source link New opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of using PPE

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