Green Buckeye RN

Modern Healthcare: Messy Problem
September 30, 2009, 8:58 am
Filed under: News

By Shawn Rhea

Posted: September 28, 2009 – 5:59 am EDT

Early this month, Loyola University Health System took its incinerator offline just days before the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule that will require medical-waste processors to make expensive upgrades that further reduce incinerator emissions.

While Loyola’s move—mandated by a 2005 state law requiring all Illinois hospitals to shut down their incinerators—was years in the making, the timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous for the 507-bed provider in Maywood. John Scanlon, director of physical plant and grounds for Loyola, said the EPA’s new technology requirement would have been cost-prohibitive since the provider processes a relatively small amount of waste compared with commercial waste companies. “We looked at the new standards, and I don’t think the technology exists to get emissions that low,” Scanlon said. “I think this will be the nail in the coffin” for hospital incinerators.

While the possibility of banishing on-site hospital incinerators is appealing to environmentalists, and many healthcare providers as well, the EPA’s rules are likely to cause further contraction of an already downsized medical-waste processing industry and force hospitals to further consider how they will manage their garbage.

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