Medical Waste Disposal for Research Labs
Research labs delve into a variety of situations that involve potentially dangerous and infectious contaminants that can cause harm. The labs work with biological materials that can be plant, animal, or human, and, depending upon the type of research can expand into everything from bioresearch to genotype stocks. Research labs are held to strict local, state, and federal guidelines for the handling, storage, and disposal of all medical waste that is generated in their facilities. Almost all research labs hire a professional and licensed medical waste disposal company that is responsible for complying with all guidelines and ensuring that the medical waste is disposal of so that it has no ability to contaminate or infect people, the community, or the environment.
Types of Research Lab medical waste
Research labs employ a number of experiments and each location can have its own specific type of waste profile. These include all research labs in both the general industry and hospitals. Waste that is considered to be hazardous must be stored, treated, and disposed of using the guidelines of the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act). Any waste that is radioactive is required to be managed under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules. All biohazardous or infectious waste must be disinfected before it is disposed of.
- Microorganisms are often amplified or grown in a lab environment in vitro or glass. Whether the microorganisms are considered to be harmful or not, labs must practice the destruction of these organisms on site. The typical destruction method is through heat treatment with lab autoclave. Another method is through the use of dry ovens that are accepted for sterilization.
- Special biomedical materials are considered to be those microorganisms and animal cells that are infectious to people, plants, animals, and the environment and fall under the biohazard category. These can be natural or synthetic, or items sources from transgenic organisms. This waste can also include both human and primate anatomical waste and biological toxins.
- Animal waste is anything that is sourced from dead animals including carcasses, body parts, and fluids. Animal waste is required to be double-bagged to avoid leakage and if they must be kept onsite, they should be refrigerated. Any materials from animals that are potentially hazardous by containing pathogens, including any bedding, must be disposed of in the same way as all hazardous materials. Many research labs make use on an onsite tissue digester, however, the due to potential contaminants, fluids and chemicals used must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
- Pathological waste is anything that is derived from a human source. These can include but are not limited to: tumors that have been removed, amputated body parts, placentas, miscarried embryos, and bodily fluids other than blood. Blood is subject to compliance with OSHA regulation guidelines.
- Sharps are any item used within the research lab that may or may not have come into contact with a contaminant and could cut the skin. Sharps have specific compliance laws for handling, storage, and disposal. This category can include but is not limited to: syringes, razors, needles, scalpels, pipettes, broken glass, and lancets.
- Biological waste includes a wide variety of biological items, from microorganisms to human blood and body fluids all the way to insects and animals. Some labs deliberately grow microorganisms to high concentration cultures for the purpose of working with specimens. All biological waste must be neutralized through chemical, heat, and/or steam autoclaving sterilization before the non-contaminant remains can be safely disposed of. Some labs have specific biosafety level of BSL 3 or 4, in which they are required to treat the material before allowing facility release. At this point the material would be considered to be “decontaminated”. Those labs designated as BSL 1 or 2 are not required to decontaminate biological waste prior to shipping off-site.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers medical waste sourced at research labs to be some of the most dangerous of all medical waste that is generated.
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