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Medical Waste

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Medical Waste

Medical waste is a type of waste that is usually generated by the healthcare community. This subset of wastes may contain or potentially contain agents and pathogens that are contaminated and be infectious to people, animals, and the environment. Some medical waste is also called “regulated medical waste” or RMW as well as PIMW, “potentially infectious medical waste”. There are strict state and federal guidelines that govern the handling, storage, transportation, and destruction of these types of waste. RMW/PIMW are required by law to be collected, transported, and destroyed so that it is rendered harmless by a licensed and professional medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management.

While most medical waste is generated within medical facilities, there are a number of sources that create medical waste including but not limited to: hospitals, clinics, physician offices, dentists, veterinarians, laboratories, pharmacies, funeral homes, coroners’ offices, parks and recreation, tattoo parlors and body piercing companies.

Medical Waste Categories

Medical Waste Categories

To ensure safety and proper handling and disposal, medical waste has been divided into four categories:

Medical Waste Types Within Categories

For the purpose of safe handling and destruction, it was necessary to create an even more in-depth list of medical waste types. Each of the medical waste types has specific rules for handling, labeling, storage, and destruction prior to being placed in a safe landfill.

Who Is Responsible for Regulating Medical Waste?

The 1988 Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) was created after a “medical waste garbage slick” washed up on the beaches of some of the East Coast states. Much of this garbage contained used hypodermic needles and items that were involved in potentially contagious diseases. Until that time there wasn’t any form of regulation for medical waste which put people, animals, and the environment at great risk.

The MWTA was a federal government situation designed to create strict model guidelines and strategies for the handling, storage, transportation, and ultimate safe destruction and disposal of medical waste. The guidelines were then handed to each individual state so that they could create their own compliance laws that matched those of the MWTA. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was initially involved in establishing some guidelines and later relinquished most of the control to individual states.

There continues to be various federal agencies involved in medical waste regulations. These agencies include but are not limited to: DOT (Department of Transportation), CDC (Centers for Disease Control), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The EPA is still involved in compliance requirements as it relates to incinerator emission requirements.

Medical Waste Treatment and Disposal

Each type of medical waste must comply with specific rules for handling, storage, treatment and disposal. The guidelines are established by the individual states in conjunction with the various federal agencies.

Specific attention is given to medical waste that presents dangers and requires special treatment and disposal such as those for sharps.

Disposal and Treatment of Sharps: Accidents from sharps are the cause of many incidents that pose a risk for the transmission of diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Guidelines for safe handling, storage and disposal are very specific for sharps. There are FDA-referred containers for storage that are required to be sturdy, leak-proof, puncture-proof, have a small top opening so that only the sharps can enter, and have top that can be sealed. The containers are required to be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol and be able to stand during transportation by a licensed and professional medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management. For private use, the FDA recommends containers such as laundry detergent bottles that can be taken to approved community drop-off points or to hospitals that may have their own autoclaving facilities.

Medical Waste Incineration: Prior to 1997, nearing 90% of PIMW (potentially infectious medical waste) was treated through the incineration process. However, in August, 1997, the EPA imposed improved regulations that created more stringent emission standards for those that had incinerators used for medical waste. The purpose of the new rules was to protect human health with better air quality and reduce the potential of dangers due to the incinerators. While some states still incinerate medical waste, more states are making changes to their requirements to reduce or completely eliminate incineration as a medical waste destruction option.

Other Medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Technologies include:

The EPA governs the technologies for medical waste treatment that claim to reduce the waste infectiousness. The rules and guidelines are derived from FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

Why Compliance is Important

Compliance of the laws and guidelines for both state and federal levels is critical for any generator of medical waste. There are a variety of licenses and applications as well as maintaining complete records in the case of an audit. To maintain safety, OSHA requires that all staff and employees be completely trained on their particular job function.

Lack of compliance can result in fines and penalties per incident and often compound to the point of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many larger organizations have specific staff devoted to ensuring that their company complies with all regulations, including maintaining safety factors, permit applications, and record-keeping.

The Benefits of Using Healthcare Waste Management

The sheer volume of guidelines that change from state to state for medical waste can be overwhelming for any medical organization. Healthcare Waste Management has a team of experts that are knowledgeable on all laws for each state that is serviced. As a professional medical waste management company, we work with our clients to act as consultants to help design best practices in their facilities, offering many services to ensure that they remain compliant and safe.

As a premier medical waste management company servicing ten states in the Midwest, we bring decades of experience and assurance for our clients that are cost-effective and budget conscious:

In today’s world that involves so many regulations and guidelines, it makes sense to have peace of mind and use Healthcare Waste Management for your medical waste disposal needs

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