Waste matter often contains material actually or potentially harmful to health. The largest category is industrial waste, mainly toxic chemical by-products of industrial processes. This is often deposited in lagoons or quarry pits adjacent to industrial sites and is a major component of brownfields or industrial waste sites. Another important category is hospital waste. This consists of used wound dressings, hypodermic needles and other sharp or cutting items colloquially known as sharps, contaminated material of many other kinds, discarded doses of diagnostic or therapeutic medications, etc. Disposal of hospital waste presents problems because incineration is usually regarded as the safest method, but this can produce dioxins and furans when plastic materials are incinerated. In some settings, notably in low-income countries, recourse to incinerators is limited, and hospital waste is dumped where scavengers can salvage and repack items such as syringes, raising other added risks.
Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.