U.S. Seeks to Avert Pollution by Tracking Medical Wastes

From Associated Press

The government Monday announced a 10-state program to track medical wastes, hoping to help avoid a repeat of last summer when beaches closed after syringes and other medical debris floated ashore.

But Environmental Protection Agency officials acknowledged that the pilot program is expected to only partially address the beach pollution problem since many of the wastes that washed ashore last summer came from sources not covered by the agency’s action.

And a group of 19 congressmen criticized the EPA for excluding some categories of medical wastes, including items such as surgical gloves and bandages even if they have been used in treating patients with AIDS or other contagious diseases.

“The EPA cannot make the medical waste problem disappear by limiting the definition of the term ‘medical waste,’ ” said Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.).

The agency’s administrator, William K. Reilly, said the rules “will substantially increase” the amount of medical wastes that are given close scrutiny during disposal. Senior EPA officials said the agency excluded items if they were considered no longer to be a health threat as a waste product.