Biohazard waste is dangerous to people, animals, and the planet and must be dealt with so that it is rendered harmless. Both the states and the federal government have created strict guidelines when it comes to biohazard waste. Biohazard waste is any item that contains infectious or potentially infectious agents and is generate in both medical and non-medical facilities where human or animal blood, fluids, byproducts, or tissues exist. While organizations that generate biohazard waste are responsible for compliance for handling, storing, and ultimate destruction. The question remains from many as to where biohazard waste goes and what is its journey?
Types of biohazard waste can include but are not limited to:
Human or animal body fluids: saliva, pleural fluid, amniotic fluid, vaginal secretions, semen.
Human or animal blood products: blood, body fluids, plasma, tissues that contain blood.
Microbiological wastes: Discarded live viruses or bacteria, specimen cultures, disposal culture dishes, blood that may contain pathogens that are infectious, any device that is used for culture transfers.
Sharps waste: Any item that can pierce the skin that may contain transmittable diseases including but not limited to needles, slides, glass, scalpels, knives, pipettes, and any broken glass or plastic.
Animal waste: Animal body parts and carcasses.
Pathological waste: Human tissues, organs, and body parts.
Local, State, and Federal Guidelines:
Regulated medical waste and biohazard waste came under scrutiny with the enactment of the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988. The purpose of the Act was to research, assess, analyze, and define medical waste disposal and define strict guidelines for the proper handling, storage, and disposal of medical waste. After the 2-year process, each state created their own laws regarding medical waste and coordinate working with federal agencies to enforce compliance.
The goal was to create guidelines for any facility that generates medical waste to restrict the chance of transmission of potentially dangerous diseases and reduce the amount of any medical waste so that it was harmless if placed in a landfill. One of the results of the 1988 MWTA showed that sharps made up the biggest amount of medical waste with blood and body fluids making up the second largest amount.
How is Biohazard Waste Disposed of?
Regulated medical waste, which includes biohazard waste, must be stored in pre-approved containers, and then disposed of by licensed and certified medical waste disposal companies. State and federal agencies strictly monitor the journey from the moment of generation to the required proof of destruction. There are three most common ways to dispose of medical waste:
Incineration: This is the process of burning the medical waste at extremely high temperatures at a licensed and certified incineration facility. The facility may be off-site or on-site and requires the involvement of only individuals licensed and certified in handling infectious materials. Incineration sterilizes the waste while also offering a reduction in the volume and eliminates the requirement of pre-processing or treatment to neutralize agents that may be potentially infectious. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has reported that 90% of biohazard waste is typically incinerated. The resulting residual is rendered harmless and can be taken to a sanitary landfill.
Autoclaving: This process is involving sterilization with steam and is considered to be the most dependable for totally destroying all forms of microbes that could be potentially infectious. A majority of the residue from autoclaving is placed in a sanitary landfill.
Microwave, Chemical/Mechanical, Irradiation: These methods are used based on the type of biohazard waste when autoclaving or incineration can’t be used or when local or state laws prohibit those disposal processes.
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