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Hospitals asked to stop sending medical waste to Stericycle; seek alternatives

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – A group of doctors and community advocates have launched a campaign asking hospitals in Utah and surrounding states to stop sending their medical waste to Stericycle.
SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – A group of doctors and community advocates have launched a campaign asking hospitals in Utah and surrounding states to stop sending their medical waste to Stericycle.

In a letter that described health concerns of incineration, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is asking the hospitals to cease the transportation of their medical waste to Stericycle by Jan. 1, 2014.

The group is joined by Communities for Clean Air. Alicia Connell keeps fighting the North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator for the sake of her kids.

“We’re protecting our children so if that means that I have to work and I have do this for free with all these moms and their kids for however long it takes that is what we will do,” Connell said.

On Tuesday, the State Health Department said soil samples from 2003 near Stericycle show the emission do not pose a health threat, but more testing needs to be done because the samples are old. The results are part of a three tiered study conducted by the State at the request of Governor Gary Herbert.

Dr. Brian Moench said the governor’s study isn’t looking at the big picture.

“They are not looking at enough of the potential toxins that are involved in Stericycle’s emissions, they’re not looking at how it affects populations, and they’re ignoring epidemiology evidence,” Moench said.

Governor Gary Herbert admits he is concerned with the health ramifications of Stericycle, but won’t force it to shut down the incinerator.

“We go out there each and every day and make sure [Stericycle] is in compliance and that they're not exceeding what they're allowed to as far as pollution,” Herbert said.

Moench and others are asking Utah area hospitals and the other hospitals that send their medical waste to Stericycle to consider alternatives instead of incineration.

Companies like Colorado Medical Waste uses ozone to sterilize pathogens in medical waste. The waste is shredded into confetti and shipped off to a municipal landfill without any emissions in the process. The company said this alternative eliminates environmental contamination, HIPPA non-compliance, as well as future exposure, hazards and liability.

SteriMed Medical Waste Solutions, another alternative medical waste disposal company, uses a similar method. The company said their medical waste processor converts waste into ordinary trash using a biodegradable, disinfectant-based process. The end product, called “Ploof” is reduced to about 10% of the volume of the original waste and is safe for trash disposal.

Advocates said the alternatives cost less money and are much safer for the environment.

“We are not stopping until that incinerator is shut down,” Connell added.
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