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Syringes, drains, catheters, hospital gloves, gauze, bandages, towels, sheets, and pillow cases. Instead of representing a list of items found in an emergency room, these objects are a selection of used instruments from American hospitals that, rather than being properly disposed, were packed into containers before being illegally shipped to Brazil.
October 2011 is a month marked by unexpected episodes coming from overseas. On October 11th, the Brazilian Federal Organization, Receita Federal, apprehended a container in Suape Port (within the state of Pernambuco) loaded with hospital trash identified as “defective cotton fabrics” that arrived from the United States.
The North American container transported about 51.4lb of hospital debris, an illegal importation in Brazil. A second container with the same amount of trash arrived two days later. The supposed “defective cotton fabrics” were ordered by a Brazilian textile company called Império do Forro de Bolso. The company’s objective: to sell the sheets and pieces of fabric as flaps in the gourmet use.
The garbage importation not only infringed the law, but also presented a threat to the people that handled the material. Most of the collected material such as the sheets and pillow cases were stained with blood. The rest of it such as the syringes, drains, and catheters were already used.
Officials from the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency, Anvisa, inspected two containers on October 15th, and discovered more sheets and pillow cases, which also showed visible blood spots. According to correiobraziliense.com.br, employees said the fabrics were cut off in a such a way as to remove the hospital stamps.
During this process, fabrics were not washed out but released to industries. The amount of fiber found had the same container capacity as the 51.4lb of hospital trash. According to Folha.com, the trash acquisitions led the fabric company three fines summating $10 million, issued by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, IBAMA.
The ship company also received a fine for $3.3 million. In addition to the fines, IBAMA ordered for the containers to return to their country of origin: the United States. The Civil and Federal Police are also involved in investigating the Império do Forro de Bolso for other environmental crimes.
The company’s owner claimed innocence in the case of the fabric purchase. According to Folha.com, the owner, Altair Moura, claimed that the garbage found in the Suape Port was not acquired by his company, and that the material collected in the containers is not hospital trash. Rather, he claims to have ordered clean cotton textile.
The importation documentation identified the content as “defective cotton fabric,” but the Federal Police found the North American hospital stamps in the dirty trash. Fabric samples were collected and are being analyzed by the Criminalist Institute, Instituto de Criminalística (IC), to verify how contaminated the textile had been.
The shipping company, Hamburg Süd, warned authorities that 14 other containers with hospital trash might arrive in Brazil from Charleston Port, South Carolina. The Federal Public Ministry, Ministério Público Federal, is already working on the case in the attempt to prevent said arrivals.