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HAZARDOUS SANDS

Beachgoers warned after medical waste washes up on Wild Coast shores

Beachgoers warned after medical waste washes up on Wild Coast shores
Medical waste including needles and blood samples were found dumped on Mdumbi Beach in the Eastern Cape on 8 January 2022. (Photos: Supplied)

Hazardous medical waste has washed up on Mngcibe and Mdumbi beaches, leading to a warning to beachgoers while authorities remove the waste and track its source.

Members of the Mdumbi Surf Lifesaving Club in Nyandeni Local Municipality along the Wild Coast in Eastern Cape were shocked after finding bags of medical waste that had washed up on Mdumbi and Mngcibe beaches on Sunday.

Resident Warren Hudson said: “An assortment of hazardous medical waste  washed up on the beach on Sunday, including a bag containing what seems to be a number of medical items. These include used gloves, blood and urine samples, syringes, needles, bandages, testing equipment and lots more. The testing vials include patients’ names and dates from as recent[ly] as 24 November 2022.

medical waste beach

Medical waste including gloves, blood and urine samples, syringes, needles, bandages and testing equipment was found dumped on Mdumbi Beach in the Eastern Cape, on 8 January 2022. (Photos: Supplied)

“We suspect that this waste comes from St Elizabeth Hospital laboratory in Lusikisiki, which is far from here. We have no idea how it got to Mdumbi.”

He said the illegal dumping of hazardous waste posed a danger to the environment and to the health of humans who might become exposed to infection and toxins.

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“Medical waste that is not properly managed, especially excreta, urine, blood and other liquid and solid waste from hospitals or clinics that are dumped into communities, rivers and oceans, is a serious health hazard and a threat to people, possibly leading to the spread of infectious diseases,” said Hudson.

He said the World Health Organization estimated that about 15% of waste from healthcare activities is dangerous to humans and the environment.

“This danger is very diverse. It is a bacterial threat, a chemical one, a radioactive one and an ecological one.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Beaches at risk: Report reveals alarming pollution along Cape Town’s coast 

Another resident, Lu Hemsley, said a lot of medical waste had washed up at Mngcibe Beach.

“I don’t want the kids at the beach as they will be playing with the stuff… picking it up. I did let the ward councillor know about this on Sunday, the first time we found this.”

Hemsley confirmed that some of the medical waste had been removed on Wednesday.

Nyandeni Local Municipality said the matter had been brought to their attention through their social media page and they had escalated it to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

“We will continue to liaise with them to ensure that this matter is attended to as soon as possible,” said the municipality.

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Yonela Dekeda said the matter was being urgently dealt with.

“The medical waste has been removed. The department is currently investigating where the medical waste may have come from,” she said. DM/OBP

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