Infectious Waste – an overview
Infectious waste is mostly found in industries that are health-related, however there are a number of other industries that can have infectious waste. Some of these facilities include, but are not limited to tattoo parlors, autopsy locations, funeral homes, experimental and research labs, university cadaver facilities, and veterinarians. Any location involved with waste that contains or could contain an organism that is capable of producing infection or any infectious diseases that can spread to humans is required to comply with local, state, and federal infectious disease guidelines.
Specially designed and labeled containers and packaging are required for each form of infectious waste so that they can be safely disposed of according to OSHA, local and state requirements.
Types of Infectious Waste:
- Blood/Blood-borne: Any/all materials that have come into contact with blood or blood products, including solid waste. Any/all blood components, plasma, and human blood products such as serum.
- Laboratory: Any/all stocks of agents and cultures that have been generated in a laboratory and could be infectious to humans. This includes but is not limited to: contaminated discards that could be used to transfer, inoculate or otherwise manage stocks of agents or cultures that could be infectious to humans; wastes that have been the result of biological agent production that are infectious to humans; and discarded/rejected attenuated or live vaccines that could be infectious to humans.
- Pathological: Any/all body parts or tissues removed during surgery, accidentally, or during autopsy that are intended for disposal.
- Regulated Human Body Fluids: These are specific types of body fluids that can include but are not limited to: synovial fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, pericardial fluid, pleural fluid, and amniotic fluid that are placed in containers/packaging or that have freely dripped from body fluid soaked solid waste.
- Research Animal Waste: Body parts, carcasses, and blood sourced from animals that have been purposely exposed to agents that could be infectious to humans for biological production, research, or pharmaceutical testing.
- Sharps: Any/all discarded items that can induce infectious agent subdermal inoculation including but not limited to: hypodermic needles, pipettes, scalpel blades, lancets, and any item that has been derived from animal or human patient care, laboratories, mortuaries, industrial operations, blood banks, and research facilities; discarded rigid plastic vials or glass that contain anything that could be infectious to humans.
Another name for some types of biohazardous infectious waste is “red bag”, due to the color of the safety container or bag. The most common treatment for this form of infectious waste is through autoclaving or sterilization at a licensed and accredited medical waste disposal facility. These are typically: items saturated with blood such as bandages, dressings, sponges, and gauze; bulk body fluids and blood fluid, wound dressings that have been infected or are infectious, disposable suction canisters, tubing or IV bags that have or do contain body fluids or blood, human-derived albumin, attenuated or live vaccines that can be infectious to humans, laboratory waste such as biological agents, cultures, and any lab associated item that can be infectious to humans.
Another name for some types of biohazardous infectious wastes is “yellow bag”, due to the color of the container or packaging. This type of infectious waste is pathological or large tissue waste and requires incineration for disposal. These are typically, but not limited to: body parts deliberately or accidently removed during autopsy or surgery and are placed for disposal, animal waste used for research including carcasses, body parts, and blood from animals that may be purposely exposed to agents that may be infectious to humans. These include but are not limited to: histology or pathology lab sources human tissues, autopsy lab discarded human tissues, birthing unit placentas and cords, animal waste carcasses from research, and waste from trace chemotherapy. Yellow bags are also used for the disposal of pads, aprons, clinical wastes, dressings, soiled gloves, and swabs that have come into contact or may have been exposed to agents that are infectious to humans.