(EnviroNews Utah) – “DO NO HARM”: That is the essence of the Hippocratic Oath uttered by roughly 98% of all American medical students upon graduation, but at that point, little do many of them realize that a dirty and downright sinister corner of the greater medical complex is already undoing and undermining that great promise of responsibility, the very minute they open the doors on their medical practice.
The dark corner referred to here is not a back-alley operation. Rather it is the medical-waste incineration business, a “legitimate,” sanctioned industry raking in billions by taking the dirtiest of medical byproducts and simply burning them directly into the open air and environment.
The long list of waste includes needles and syringes, cancer-treatment leftovers, diseased human cadaver tissue, aborted fetuses, tumors, infectious-disease agents and veterinary and wildlife waste. The list goes on and on.
Stericycle, an Illinois-based company, is a giant in the medical-waste business, and it has achieved its financial fatness by taking the dirtiest junk out there and dumping it directly into somebody else’s backyard.
Dr. Brian Moench is an anesthesiologist at LDS Hospital who is vehemently opposed to any burning of hospital waste. The problem with the incineration process, Moench says, is that heavy metals, since they are elemental in nature, are not destroyed by burning but merely vaporized, made airborne and distributed for hundreds and hundreds of miles. The vaporized toxins accumulate in the environment, food chain and human beings.
Moench has demonstrated the backward nature of the entire practice of medical waste incineration by holding up signs that read, “HYPOCRITIC OATH — HARM DONE” at community protests in front of the old waste burner — which sits in the heart of an extraordinarily dense residential neighborhood with dozens of homes backed up right next to the facility.
By way of their Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste permit, Stericycle is allowed to emit 9.5 tons of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) per year, resulting in a “harm done” hypocrisy that Moench says the medical industry simply can’t stand for.
Last week on Capitol Hill, citizens demanded that Utah Governor Gary Herbert shut down the incinerator immediately by executive authority on emergency grounds. In addition to their participation in a coordinated press conference on Capitol Hill, the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, a group founded by Moench, is also planning to address health care providers on the Stericycle’s client list, pressuring them to boycott Stericycle and the practice of burning medical waste altogether.
A few of the pollutants emitted legally by Stericycle under their Title V air pollution permit include mercury, lead, cadmium and deadly dioxins — a byproduct of the incineration process itself. Autism rates have skyrocketed in recent years and have been tracked to one in 32 boys in the State of Utah, giving it the highest rate in the United States. This leaves many people angrily pointing the finger directly at Stericycle and the five surrounding oil refineries.
“Dioxins are likely the most toxic manmade substance known, after plutonium,” Moench said at the press conference, further reinforcing his point pertaining to the “do no harm” philosophy adhered to by doctors in the U.S. and abroad. How can modern-day physicians feel entirely good about their work when the very waste associated with their healing practices is transformed into deadly dioxins that are then spread far and wide? These dioxins directly poison the entire Salt Lake Valley and beyond with carcinogenic and mutagenic substances, directly causing myriad fatal and debilitating diseases.
Stericycle is now under state and federal DOJ criminal investigations for allegedly falsifying records, and it has been brought to light by EnviroNews Utah, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, the Standard Examiner and several others that Stericycle is also almost certainly emitting deadly prions and radiation into the open environment.
The waste “excluded” from the Stericycle permit, according to the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) website, is: “Hazardous waste, municipal waste, radioactive waste, PCB waste.” Considering the substantial amount of radioactive byproduct produced by cancer wards and other medical sectors, this clause in their permit leaves one to wonder if the DEQ has been up on Stericycle’s roof lately with a Geiger counter, testing for radiation.
In addition to cancer byproducts, nearly all humans, and animals for that matter, carry radioactive isotopes in their bodies from numerous nuclear meltdowns, bomb tests, uranium mining and processing and more. Although Utah is only one of eight or nine states that send waste to Stericycle, the concentration of radioactive isotopes in human tissue is likely greater in Utah due to its directly downwind proximity to Nevada’s nuclear bomb testing areas.
It has been made clear, in the view of the determined doctors at Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, that the creation of HAPs and the dispersal of these horrendous disease-causing poisons — including dioxin and furan — is simply too great of a conflict of interest for the medical industry to bear and must cease as soon as possible.
The physicians group has also announced a forthcoming plan that will detail the hows and wheres of waste disposal for hospitals and health care providers on the Stericycle client list. This, they say, is in an effort to create a better immediate alternative while accomplishing the complete and total shutdown of one of America’s last-remaining medical-waste incinerators.