New fears of risks to health with dumping
NEW fears were voiced this week over the potential risk to human health from the uncontrolled dumping of rubbish, including medical waste.
Remzi Gardiyanoğlu, head of the Private Doctors’ Union, reiterated concern that waste disposal workers could be at severe risk because no precautions were being taken while moving unsterilised medical debris at the Güngör tip or at Lefkoşa State Hospital, where a unit intended to make the waste safe has been out of order for more than two years.
Photographs published this week in Cyprus Today’s sister Turkishlanguage newspaper, Kıbrıs, showed bin bags full of waste from the hospital piled in a lorry, with debris littering the ground and liquid seeping across the floor — going on to trickle from the lorry throughout the route to Güngör.
Claims were also reported that one bin man had suffered a swollen leg and eye after a used syringe stuck in his leg while unloading bags at the tip.
Dr Gardiyanoğlu said the practice was a “huge scandal” that was putting local authority refuse collection workers unwittingly at risk of diseases including hepatitis or even Aids. “It is very sad that in our country no-one feels the need to take up and solve this important issue. No-one is aware that they are playing with the health of municipal workers, who don’t know what they are collecting, [even though] we have visited the mayors and told them of the gravity of the situation.”
Cyprus Today revealed more than three years ago that medical waste from the country’s hospitals and clinics was being dumped in landfill because an EU-funded sterlisation unit had broken down just six months after being installed.
Health Minister Filiz Besim announced last month that EU funds would be used to buy a new unit, since it had been established that the broken facility was beyond repair. Asked to comment again this week, she confirmed that the replacement would be in place “in a couple of months”.
Dr Besim said she had “knew nothing” about a worker having been injured, but said she had already met her Cabinet colleague for environmental issues to organise training for those who would man the new unit. Meanwhile Environmental Engineers’ Chamber chairman Doğuş Veysioğlu claimed rubbish dumped around the country was “poisoning” people by polluting the soil and air and contaminating underground water reserves.
Mr Veysioğlu said half of “more than 50” tip sites were “devoid of control”, with animals also entering and leaving to spread disease, and fires breaking out which gave off carcinogenic smoke.
He claimed waste management regulations which would force the closure of all but the Güngör landfill had yet to be approved by government. However he warned that municipalities using “transfer” stations to hold waste before transporting it to Güngör would not be able to stop the practice under their existing income from cleaning charges.