U.S. hospital-waste shipments uncovered in Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When customs agents opened two shipping containers this month in Brazil’s northeastern port of Suapé, they discovered that the “defective cotton fabric” described on the manifests actually consisted of 46.6 metric tons of U.S. hospital waste.
The waste, shipped from South Carolina by an as-yet undisclosed company, included bloodied and soiled bed sheets, pillow cases, bath towels and gowns as well as used syringes, rubber gloves, bandages, gauze and tape.
Anvisa, the Brazilian Health Ministry’s enforcement arm, determined the containers were brought in by a textile importer in Pernambuco state and contained material that “has the potential to infect” whoever handles it.
The agency declines to identify the U.S. exporter, but said in a written statement that the bed sheets, pillowcases and towels bear the names of U.S. hospitals.
Karla Baeta, Anvisa coordinator in Pernambuco state, where Suapé is located, says the importer will be fined, “by Anvisa for crimes against public health; by Ibama, [the enforcement arm of the Environment Ministry] for environmental crimes; and by federal tax authorities, for fraudulent importation.”