Isko Moreno insists Manila complied with environmental laws on proper disposal of medical waste

September 2, 2020 - 5:45 PM
Isko Moreno
Manila Mayor-elect Isko Moreno (Facebook/Isko Moreno)

The Manila City government launched a probe over an incident wherein rapid test kits were not disposed of properly.

In an ambush interview with reporters on September 2, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso warned of possible closure of health facilities and businesses in Manila that they find disposing of hazardous materials such as test kits for the virus that causes COVID-19.

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Posted by Manila Public Information Office on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Domagoso cited a surveillance video that captured a bicycle with a sidecar that seemed to accidentally drop used rapid test kits along M. Dela Fuente Street in Sampaloc, Manila last Tuesday night, September 1.

“Mayroong responsable sa sitwasyon na ito and we are now looking kung saang nanggaling yung improper disposal of hazardous materials,” Domagoso said.

“We can locate maybe the clinic, maybe a private office, maybe a hospital, or maybe a laboratory. [The MPD said] they are looking already at sinisiyasat na ‘yung nangyari,” he added.

Domagoso stressed that the Manila city government strictly complied with environmental laws such as the Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1999) and the Republic Act No. 9003 (Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000).

In line with this, he noted that the Manila Department of Public Services had already disposed of the scattered test kits. He also confirmed that what happened was an accident.

“Hazardous waste disposal is done through DENR-accredited hazardous waste service contractors, which is in charge of the treatment, storage and disposal of all hazardous and infectious waste generated in all health centers and district hospitals in the City of Manila. All wastes generated are properly handled and treated prior to its final disposal,” Domagoso said.

He explained that biohazard waste materials such as syringes and test kits are placed in puncture-proof plastic containers with 10% Clorox.

Other materials such as test tubes, gloves and used personal protective equipment are placed in a yellow plastic bag.

No more rapid tests 

Domagoso clarified that the city government had stopped using rapid test kits to detect infections since last July 15 wherein they started the free drive-thru COVID-19 testing.

“The City Government of Manila, which includes the Manila Health Department (MHD) and its six district hospitals, has halted the use of rapid test kits since July 15, 2020, which is when the city has already started its free drive-thru serology testing,” he said.

This COVID-19 drive-thru procedure can be availed at the testing facility in front of the Andres Bonifacio Monument in Ermita.

Guidelines on medical waste

In the disposal procedures for COVID-19 related medical waste, the World Health Organization advised that all health care waste produced during the treatment of suspected or infected patients, including PPEs, should be collected and placed safely “designated containers and bags, treated, and then safely disposed of and/or treated, preferably onsite.”

“Put medical waste into a double-layer medical waste bag, seal the bag with cable ties in a gooseneck fashion, and spray the bag with 1,000 mg/L chlorine-containing disinfectant,” the WHO said.

“Put sharp objects into a special sharps box, seal the box, and spray the box with 1,000 mg/L chlorine-containing disinfectant. 4. Put the bagged waste into a medical waste transfer box, attach a special infection label, and fully close the box,” the organization added.

The guidelines issued by the Department of Health are also similar wherein all medical supplies, including PPEs and test kits “shall adhere to existing guidelines on the management of healthcare wastes.”

Meanwhile, environmental advocacy group Environment Coalition found 33 brands of single-use protective face masks with no Certificate of Medical Device Notification (CMDN), which may not be effective against the deadly pathogen, and not listed in the Food and Drug Administration’s Notified Face Masks.

In a statement last August 30, the group urged the FDA to regulate the distribution of these face masks given that wearing them is part of the minimum health protocols of the government.

“We request the FDA to exercise regulatory flexibility and consider these products as de facto medical face masks for source control that should be regulated for consumer protection,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.