A fresh discovery following an investigation into the dumpsite for surgical wastes in Ginti, Ewu-Elepe community, Ikorodu, Lagos Mainland, has revealed the shocking actions of scavengers who specialize in picking used syringes, needles and other surgical items for sale in the axis.
According to the expose by Punch newspaper, it was discovered after three weeks of investigations that the dangerous trade of surgical waste by the scavengers involved other nurses, chemists and health care givers who operate in their homes.
These scavengers reportedly pick the items without wearing gloves and with less awareness of the dangers in having body contact with the items. Some of these items are then sold for as low as N30 and N40 to buyers who use them for personal purposes.
It was reported that the scavengers ransacked the dump daily after waste disposal officers had set fire to the surgical waste. “They usually resell picked surgical waste like used syringes, specimen bottles and other hospital disposables to people for onward repackaging for medical uses,” Punch reports.
At the dumpsite, discarded items ranging from used syringes, specimen bottles, cartons to cans, used needles, drips, cannulas, and other items in red and yellow waste bags littered the ground.
Punch reports that the specimen bottles emptied at the dump had fresh blood, urine and water inside them. Some were as fresh as samples collected few hours before they were dumped while others had thick blood in them.
The urine in the different bottles showed yellow, brown yellow and white colours. Some of the syringes dumped in the landfill were also soaked in different samples of blood and water.
While some of the discovered syringes still had blood samples up to one millimeter, some other syringes had very red and no so red blood samples in them while the special samples were almost black like a blood pudding.
Speaking to Punch, a scavenger said while some of the items were burnt, others usually remain intact. The scavenger added that the discarded items could be picked since they were carelessly dumped. However, the refuse collector rejected a request by a scavenger to pick one of the items in the presence of our correspondent.
Meanwhile, one of the scavengers identified only as Usman told Punch that the LAWMA officials often prevented them from going near the medical waste because it’s hazardous to do so. “We pick them (showing our correspondent syringes and specimen bottles). We sell in kilos; N30 or N40 per one. Me I no know wetin dem use am for. (We sell them to some people though I don’t know what they use them for),” he told Punch.
Another scavenger, who requested anonymity, also said they often sold medical waste especially used syringes after picking them from the dump. Like Usman, he refused to disclose the buyers.
In his words; “Madam we pick the thing for night. The people wey dey bring them no know. We gather dem and sell. If we get plenty, nah big money. We pick only this one and that one (pointing at syringes and specimen bottles).
However, a LAWMA official at the dumpsite told Punch that the scavengers usually operate at night when those who monitor the dump had closed for the day.
“All the guys (scavengers) usually come for the items in the night. I am not sure of what they pick but I have seen them twice. The LAWMA medical waste bus dumps surgical waste every day. The syringes are often emptied from cartons while the rest are dumped in red and yellow bags. Those who come to dump them wear hand gloves. Once the waste are in the landfill, we set them on fire.
“However, because they are often in large quantities, they can’t all burn at once, so the scavengers usually come from 9:00 pm to pick the syringes and specimen bottles. I once asked one of them what they usually do with the items and he told me that they sell them but he didn’t tell me who they sell them to,” he said.
He further said though the dump had security men, they were not meant to monitor the dump but to control traffic and ensure safety in the area. “The security agents don’t prevent people from picking items from the dump.”