Piles of hazardous medical waste have been found in forests, warehouses and crematoria in Mexico as the country surpasses the limits of waste management.
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Mexico has been actively involved with their death care industry in recent years, updating regulations and laws around practices. While the progress was taking the lead, the coronavirus pandemic has upheaved the advancement as fears of contagion are leading to waste management chaos.
Environmental protection agency flags authorities
Mexico’s local environmental protection agency Profepa has said that over 3.5 tonnes of medical waste including human tissues has been found in the forests of Nicolás Romero near Mexico City.
Local authorities have not shared who dumped the waste but did share that unlicensed waste operators are responsible. The waste was dumped over a period of about two to three weeks and the company responsible will be held accountable. The environmental authorities said that the hospital waste also included partially-incinerated human remains.
Nearly exploding medical waste warehouse
Visibly bursting at the seams from the outside, Profepa discovered a warehouse being used as a medical waste storage facility. Stuffed to the ceiling with over 6,000 cubic meters of medical waste, with blood and bodily fluids leaking everywhere, due to the lack of proper sanitation. Refrigerated sections in the warehouse were out of order and to make matters worse, plastic hospital waste bags were stuffed so tightly that even the metal walls of the warehouse were bulging.
Criminal complaints have been filed with the federal Attorney General’s Office against the company responsible for the dump of the waste materials. The agency said that the improper handling of the waste represents a direct environmental and public health risk and most of it will have to be incinerated.
Mountains of coffins
To prevent waste within the death care industry, in 2019 new regulations were implemented in Mexico to allow the reuse of coffins that are used to solely transport the deceased to the funeral home or crematorium. Since this policy adjustment 100.000 coffins per year have been reused to transport the deceased. However, due to the corona crisis the government has recently overturned the ruling banning transportation coffins to be reused, even if they are disinfected.
It is obligatory to place the COVID-19 deceased inside body bags, before they are placed in the transportation coffin, authorities however are afraid that infectious fluids might leak from the bags into the transportation coffins and have updated the law to protect the community.
The result is that the reversal of the regulation has now halted reusing transportation coffins, which has led to small mountains of coffins as they pile up outside waste incinerators and crematoriums, waiting for destruction.