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Regulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know



January 5, 2022



Home » Biohazard Waste Disposal » Regulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know

Regulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know

Regulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know. Various State and Federal agencies regulate biohazardous waste. Biohazardous waste includes blood, body fluids, tissues, and other potentially infectious materials.

Biohazardous waste is regulated at the federal and state level because it can contain pathogens, bacteria, or other potentially infectious material that may be harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. These bacteria and viruses can cause deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, Ebola virus disease, tuberculosis, and more. If untreated or improperly treated and then disposed of, these organisms can spread to the environment and contaminate people near them–even if they aren’t harmed by exposure to these organisms directly.

Here are some important things you need to know about regulations for biohazardous waste disposal.

Biohazardous Waste Can Include but is Not Limited To

Human and animal specimen cultures from pathology and medical labs.

Stocks and cultures of infectious agents from research labs, defined as any bacteria, microorganism, parasite, mold, or virus that can cause or significantly contributes to the cause of increased morbidity or death of humans or animals.

Waste from the production of viruses, bacteria, spores, discarded attenuated or live vaccines in human or animal health care, discarded animal vaccines (including contagious Ecthyma and Brucellosis), culture and specimen devices and dishes used in the transference, inoculation, and the mixing of cultures.

Specimens or tissues from human surgeries removed during surgery or during autopsy which are suspected or known to be contaminated with agents that are infectious or contagious to humans.

Animal body parts, fluids, tissues, or carcasses that are suspected or known to be contaminated with agents infectious or contagious to humans.

Any waste that contains recognizable fluid blood products, fluid blood, equipment or containers that contains blood that is fluid or blood from animals that are known or suspected of being infected with diseases that are highly communicable to humans.

Examples of Biohazardous Waste Regulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know.

Human blood and blood products. This includes items that have been contaminated with blood and other body fluids or tissues that contain visible blood.

Animal waste. Animal carcasses and body parts, or any bedding material used by animals that are known to be infected with pathogenic organisms.

Human body fluids. Semen, cerebrospinal fluid, pleural fluid, vaginal secretions, pericardial fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva, and peritoneal fluid.

Microbiological wastes. Common in laboratory settings, examples of microbiological wastes include specimen cultures, disposable culture dishes, discarded viruses, and devices used to transfer or mix cultures.

Pathological waste. Unfixed human tissue (excluding skin), waste biopsy materials, and anatomical parts from medical procedures or autopsies.

Sharps waste. Needles, glass slides and cover slips, scalpels, and IV tubing that has the needle attached.

Who Regulates Biohazard Waste?

Regulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates medical waste safety in the workplace under their Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Medical waste is primarily regulated by state environmental and health departments. The U.S. Government EPA has not had authority, specifically for medical waste since the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 expired in 1991. It is important to contact your state environmental program first when disposing of biohazardous waste. Contact your state environmental protection agency and your state health agency for more information regarding your state’s regulations on medical waste.

Other federal agencies have regulations regarding medical waste. These agencies include Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and potentially others.

Handling and Labeling of Biohazard Waste

Proper handling and disposal of biohazardous waste is necessary to prevent infection of personnel (laboratory workers, custodians, laboratory visitors, etc.) and release to the environment. OSHA and State EPA programs require that biohazardous waste be properly labeled, stored, and disposed of.

OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) BBP (Bloodborne Pathogens Standard) has a variety of requirements for staff/volunteers that include full communication for many of the areas of medical waste such as labeling, storage, and containment. The BBP specifically sets requirements for a facility to:

Health and safety training should include full compliance with all regulatory conditions. Generators should also establish procedures for compliance training, incident reporting, SDS management, OSHA safety audits. Additional training recommended should include HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and DOT regulatory requirements.

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard indicates that a biohazard label is required to be affixed to all equipment and work areas that contain infectious agents, human blood or OPIM (other potentially infectious materials) as well as on all the containers for biological waste. The warning label that has the universal “biohazard symbol” must also include the word “biohazard,” and must be on all containers and bags associated with the biohazard waste.

In addition to bags and containers, the biohazard symbol and word must be placed on any laundry that is contaminated, on freezers and refrigerators that are used for OPIM or blood storage, and on storage bags/containers for biohazard materials for storage, transport, shipping, and disposal of OPIM or blood. All equipment that may be contaminated that is shipped or services must have an easily readable word of “biohazard” along with the biohazard symbol and a statement indicating which portions of the equipment may be contaminated.

The use of orange-red or fluorescent orange as a background color for biohazard labels is required with lettering and symbols in contrasting color so that it’s easy to read. The label is required to be either an integral container part or affixed to the container with adhesive, wire, or string, or any method that can guarantee that the label will not be lost of removed unintentionally.

Red containers or red bags may be substituted for biohazard labels.

Types of Biohazard Waste TreatmentRegulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know.

Regulations for Biohazard Waste Disposal: Everything You Need to Know. Different treatment methods are needed for different types of biohazardous waste. State regulations dictate which type of treatment is necessary for specific types of biohazardous waste. Weather it is trace chemo waste, pathological waste, blood, body fluids, tissues, and other potentially infectious materials.

Biohazard waste treatment means to eliminate the waste’s hazards, and usually to make the waste unrecognizable. Treatment should render the waste safe for subsequent handling and disposal. There are several treatment methods that can accomplish this. It includes segregating the biohazardous waste, for proper treatment. Certain biohazard waste must be incinerated, while most medical waste can be autoclaved or treated with alternative methods that are more environmentally friendly than incineration.

An autoclave uses steam and pressure to sterilize the waste or reduce its microbiological load to a level at which it may be safely disposed of. Many healthcare facilities routinely use an autoclave to sterilize medical devices. If the same autoclave is used to sterilize supplies and treat biomedical waste, administrative controls must be used to prevent the waste operations from contaminating the supplies. Effective administrative controls include operator training, strict procedures, and separate times and space for processing medical waste.

Microwave disinfection can also be employed for treatment of medical wastes. Microwave irradiation is a type of non-contact heating technologies for disinfection. Microwave chemistry is based on efficient heating of materials by microwave dielectric heating effects. When exposed to microwave frequencies, the dipoles of the water molecules present in cells re-align with the applied electric field. As the field oscillates, the dipoles attempt to realign itself with the alternating electric field and in this process, energy is lost in the form of heat through molecular friction and dielectric loss.

Chemical Decontamination is the use of specific chemicals to render the biohazardous materials harmless. Some biohazard waste cannot be treated using chemical decontamination because the addition of the chemicals can create an alternative toxin.

Incineration is a process of burning specific types of biohazard wastes which include pathological, trace chemotherapy and non-hazardous pharmaceutical wastes. It is considered to be one of the safest methods of treatments as it prevents harm to the health of the population and the environment.

Transporting Biohazard Waste

The U.S. DOT regulations designate infectious and potentially infectious medical waste as a Division 6.2 hazard class. Division 6.2 hazard class does not have a placarding requirement like most other U.S. DOT hazardous materials. For medical waste, an infectious substance label is not required on an outer packaging if the OSHA biohazard marking is used as prescribed in 29 CFR 1910.1030(g). A bulk package of medical waste must display the biohazard marking shown to the right.

Under the U.S. DOT regulations, the shipper offering regulated medical waste for transport is responsible for the waste until it reaches its final destination. Moreover, to ensure safe handling, the U.S. DOT regulations requires all employees packaging medical waste for shipment and/or signing shipping papers to have function specific, safety, and awareness training to ensure compliance with the U.S. DOT requirements for shipping medical waste.

The training must be documented and made available for inspection at the producing facility along with the shipping records.

Biohazardous Waste Color Coding

A best practice is to establish a basic understanding of a color-coding system as it pertains to all waste and specifically biohazardous waste disposal.  The color-coding system is used for the containers and bags that will hold medical and biohazardous waste and is an easier way to identify as well as assist in keeping everyone safe from contamination.

Best practices require that everyone be aware of all the local, state, and federal laws. It is critical to keep up on all changes and requirements for the handling, labeling, storage, transportation, and disposal of biohazardous waste.

Contact Healthcare Waste Management Today!

Whatever your need is for medical or biohazardous waste disposal services, from questions to a free quote, we can help. We love talking to our customers and potential customers alike, and are always happy to help wherever we can. At Healthcare Waste Management, we own the trucks that come to your facility, we employ the drivers that come into your facility, and we own the destruction plants that destroy your waste. By having one company handle your waste from ‘cradle-to-grave’ allows us to bring our customers, the best process, products, and services with significant savings compared to the industry standard pricing. We do this while reducing our client’s impact on the environment which is a true win-win. Best processes, pricing and practices is what we built our company on.

We use a state-of-the-art reusable container system for medical waste and sharps waste that keeps unnecessary waste from impacting the environment. Our cradle-to-grave management process, reusable medical waste and sharps disposal containers, fuel efficient trucks and intelligent routing are all examples of our commitment to our customers and the environment.


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