Case study: Radioactive waste management in Singapore

Hello all! I received this comment on one of my posts in the past few weeks:

“I wonder if for the case of Singapore, would this ever become an issue. Bearing in mind the limited water and land resources we possess this would be an even more delicate matter. Furthermore waste disposal is not solely restricted to nuclear and radioactive waste but other forms of toxic material as well – how do you think Singapore will handle such issues?”

Therefore, my post for this week will be regarding radioactive wastes in Singapore!

NEA defines toxic wastes as:

  • “Wastes which by their nature and quality may be potentially detrimental to human health and/or the environment and which require special management, treatment and disposal”

In this post, I would be focusing primarily on biohazardous wastes in Singapore, with particularly focus on hospitals as a site for these sources of wastes.

Infographic biohazardous waste in hospitals

According to the National Environment Agency, colour-coded disposal bags are also used in hospitals to segregate wastes that need special handling and disposal:

  • Yellow bags: biohazardous wastes
  • Purple bags: cytotoxic wastes (may be carcinogenic or mutagenic)
  • Red bags: radioactive wastes
  • Black bags: general wastes

Singapore has 4 licensed hospital waste disposal contractors:

  1. M/s Aroma Chemical Pte Ltd
  2. M/s Cramoil Singapore Pte Ltd
  3. M/s ECO Special Waste Management Pte Ltd
  4. M/s SembCorp Environment Pte Ltd

They operate with totally enclosed trucks for the collection and transportation of biohazards wastes. They also have dedicated hospital waste incinerators to incinerate the biohazardous wastes from the hospitals.

Radioactive materials generated from medical equipment typically do not pose much danger as they have short “lives”, meaning that the radioactivity will die off after some time. Therefore in most cases, the waste is stored, isolated from human environment and contact, to wait for the radioactive materials to decay. They are then safely disposed of. This is equivalent to the ‘delay and decay’ approach that I touched on in a previous post.

Hospitals are particularly vulnerable sites for radiation contamination. This is especially so where the hospital is a highly enclosed place with high volumes of human traffic. Radioactive material can be spread via human contact: via radioactive dust spread from body to body or via contact. Body fluids (blood, sweat, urine) of an internally contaminated person can contain radioactive materials – coming into contact with these body fluids can result in exposure or contamination.

This comes back to the point that indoor areas are highly susceptible to pollution – given that they are usually confined and pollutants are likely to accumulate and concentrate. With relatively little mixing of air, indoor air pollution may cause risks to human health.

A note to everyone: please ventilate your houses/bedrooms regularly!!

Thanks for reading!

YJ.

References: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, October 10). Contamination vs. exposure. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from Emergency Preparedness and Response: http://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/contamination.asp

National Environment Agency. (2015, March 4). Toxic Waste Control. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from National Environment Agency: http://www.nea.gov.sg/anti-pollution-radiation-protection/chemical-safety/toxic-industrial-waste/toxic-waste-control

Melissa Pang, P. C. (2011). Tackling Nuke Waste in Singapore’s Backyard. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from The Straits Times: http://www.nccs.com.sg/Newsroom/NewsArticlesandReports/2011NewsArticlesandReports/Documents/2011-Apr-21_The_Straits_Times_Home_pgB08_Tackling_nuke_in_Spore_backyard.pdf

 

 

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