Waste and environmental health

Solid wastes (also known as ‘trash’ or ‘garbage’) are that which disposed of by humans or as a result of human activity. They are not merely unsightly but can also pose a serious health problem to human and animal activity. Sold wastes include unwanted material that are disposed from residential, commercial or industrial premises and consists of solids, semi-solids and liquids. It also includes the sludge from a wastewater treatment plant or material from an air pollution control unit.

It consists of things that are used routinely such as packaging material, furniture, newspapers, batteries, paint, paper, food material, bottles, plastics, clothing, appliances, etc. In the US, more than 245 million tons of solid wastes were generated in 2005 from commercial establishments and residential apartments. This leaves about 4. 5 pounds of wastes generated everyday per person. In the year 1998, more than 220 million tons of solid wastes were generated in the US. This suggests that the amount of solid wastes that are generated is increasing every year.

Such amounts of wasted generated if not properly handled can occupy the landfill. It these wastes are burned in an improper manner, it could emit toxic substances into the environment and pose a health hazard. Hence, efforts should be made not only to reduce the amount of solid wastes that are generated, but also to ensure that proper recycling management techniques are followed (EPA, 2006, EPA, 2007 & WWF Pak, 2007). Solids wastes disposed in improper manner can pose several environmental problems. It could affect human and animal health.

Usually the problems would not only affect the area in which it is disposed, but also other areas. When wastes are disposed off into the rivers or canals, they can be carried over to other areas and affect the water supply in that region. Even diseases and microorganisms can be transmitted and enter human after they consume the water. Solid wastes present may contaminate the ground water. The chemicals present in the solid wastes can dissolve in the water. Such water contains high quantities of heavy metals, iron, zinc, paint, pesticides, microorganisms, etc.

This water can have a serious impact on human, animal and plant life (WWF Pak, 2007). Solid wastes release a lot of dust into the environment at the dumpsite. This can precipitate a lot of diseases such as breathing problems. When these solid wastes are burnt, toxic fumes are released into the environment, which could negatively affect the health of the community. Sunlight can cause putrefaction of the solid wastes resulting in emission of bad odors and sometimes even reducing the visibility levels.

Rotting material present in the solid wastes can be a breeding site for flies. These flies are the vectors for several infectious diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid, jaundice, cholera, etc. Individuals who get into physical contact with hazardous solid wastes can develop infections of the eye and the skin. Solid wastes sites can cause stagnation of rainwater. This forms a wonderful breeding site for mosquito larvae. Diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, chikungunya, etc can spread to the adjoining areas.

These diseases can cause a huge toll in terms of morbidity and mortality. Solid wastes can also cause a breeding ground for several animal diseases such as plague and flea-born fevers. Several gastro-intestinal diseases and parasitic infections are also spread (WWF Pak, 2007). In order to reduce the negative impact of solid wastes on the environment efforts should be made to reduce the quantity of wastes generated from the source and use of proper waste management techniques.

Various techniques such as grass cycling, composting, reuse of waste paper, etc, can be utilized. In the year 2005, more than 79 million tons of solid wastes were recycled. This helped to reduce the amount of space occupied by the solid wastes in the landfill. Combustion is another method of handling solid wastes. It could be utilized to generate electricity. However, the combustors/incinerators have to strictly follow the air pollution regulations. Homes and businesses could also reuse several items such as bottles, glass items, plastic bags, etc (EPA, 2006).


US EPA (2006). Frequently Asked Questions About Waste, Retrieved on October 28, 2007, from EPA Web site: http://www. epa. gov/epaoswer/osw/basifact. htm US EPA (2007). Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), Retrieved on October 28, 2007, from EPA Web site: http://www. epa. gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/facts. htm WWF Pak (2007). Municipal Solid Waste Factsheet, Retrieved on October 28, 2007, from WWF Pak Web site: http://wwfpak. org/factsheets_mswf. php

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