Diseases Caused by Improper Waste Disposal

There is a variety of types of waste, including household waste and biomedical waste. Each type of waste requires proper disposal. With improper disposal of any form of waste comes increased chances of pollution to the environment and food sources and increased risk of exposure to disease.

High-risk waste

While all waste that is improperly disposed of carries a risk of spreading disease, some waste has been identified as having a higher risk of spreading disease than others. At the top of the list is medical waste and bio-waste. This includes any waste that has been used in a medical procedure. The general criterion of classification of these categories is simply whether the waste has biological material on it. Typically this might be blood or internal tissue. The quantity of biological material is also a factor. It is important to consider that even a bandage that has been used on an individual infected with specific diseases may require disposal very similar to hospital medical waste. Some household waste may present increased risk of spreading disease. Among these wastes are deposits of mold that are removed from the house. If you have any doubts, check with authorities before disposing of the waste in question.

The What and How of Spreading Disease

There are multiple ways that improper disposal can result in the spread of disease. The first of these is by introducing pathogens into the environment. This is when bacteria or viruses are transported in the waste and introduced to new areas. There is a chance that perhaps a human may be exposed to the waste. More likely, though, is that another animal, such as:

  • a rat or bird
  • may be exposed to the pathogen
  • then return to a larger population infected

This can create diseased populations that can spread the disease, possibly to other species. The other way that improper disposal of some wastes can result in the spread of disease is from waste acting as a food source or breeding ground for pathogens that might not have reached such high population otherwise. This creates a very specific risk when the waste is human biological material or other bio-waste. Bacteria and viruses are high-risk causes of disease that are found in some waste. Of particular concern are viruses that cause hepatitis and HIV and bacteria that cause tuberculosis. These are more commonly found in medical environments but may exist in common waste and can grow in bio-waste from any source.

Proper Disposal

Disposal regulations vary from place to place. Locations that dispose of high-risk waste daily should integrated disposal methods. If any of the products that you have at home have special disposal instructions, be certain to follow them when disposing of the product. Wherever you are, if you have questions, ask someone that is knowledgeable of the details of your situation.


General protection is avoidance. When possible, do not handle or touch waste. If required, be certain to use medical-grade gloves to prevent exposure. Also use adequate equipment to prevent puncture by sharp items that may have been improperly disposed of. Drink water only that is treated for drinking, and never eat from waste deposits.


If you witness improper disposal or see waste that has been improperly disposed of, informing the proper authorities can help to limit environmental pollution and the risk of spreading diseases. Most local governments have departments or personnel trained in these procedures.