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ISRN Public Health
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 497490, 5 pages
Research Article

Biomedical Pollutants in the Urban Environment and Implications for Public Health: A Case Study

International Development Program, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED), Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G1

Received 13 March 2013; Accepted 8 April 2013

Academic Editors: J. Konde-Lule, M. H. Stigler, and R. Y. Wang

Copyright © 2013 Jeffrey N. T. Squire. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study investigated the management of biomedical pollutants in the Accra Metropolitan Area in Ghana, using a qualitative case study approach involving interviews, focus-group discussions, and observation techniques. A state of precariousness was found to characterize the management of biomedical pollutants in the study area, culminating in the magnification of risks to the environment and public health. There is neither a single sanitary landfill nor a properly functioning incineration system in the entire metropolis, and most of the healthcare facilities surveyed lack access to suitable treatment technologies. As a result, crude burning and indiscriminate dumping of infectious and toxic biomedical residues were found to be widespread. The crude burning of toxic biomedical pollutants was found to provide environmental pathways for carcinogenic substances. These include polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), polychlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hydrogen, lead, mercury, cadmium, chlorobenzenes, particulate matter, and chlorophenols. The improper disposal of biomedical pollutants in open dumps and unsanitary landfills also carries a risk of providing environmental entry points for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), inorganic macrocomponents, heavy metals, and xenobiotic organic compounds.