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Medical Waste Generation

January 26, 2022

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Medical Waste Generation

Medical Waste Generation. Medical waste is a growing concern for both the environment and human health. In the US alone, more than 12 billion pounds of medical waste is generated every year. In addition to generating more medical waste every year, medical waste can cause serious illness, or environmental concerns if it is not disposed of properly.

Here at Healthcare Waste Management, managing medical waste is all we do. With our own drivers, trucks, and treatment plants, we can Reduce, Waste, Risk, and Cost!

What is Medical Waste?

Medical waste is a broad category of material created by businesses, medical facilities, hospitals, labs, or clinics just to name a few. This includes anything from soiled dressings, needles, to lab samples from blood tests. Medical waste can be classified into two categories:

Some Medical Waste Examples Include.

Other Types of Infectious Waste

The WHO identifies the types of waste that could be generated by a Healthcare facility or business. Waste and by-products cover a diverse range of materials, see the following list.

Medical Infectious Waste: waste contaminated with blood and other bodily fluids (e.g., from discarded diagnostic samples), cultures and stocks of infectious agents from laboratory work (e.g., waste from autopsies and infected animals from laboratories), or waste from patients with infections (e.g., swabs, bandages, and disposable medical devices).

Pathological Waste: human tissues, organs or fluids, body parts and contaminated animal carcasses.

Sharps Waste: syringes, needles, disposable scalpels, and blades, etc.

Chemical Waste: for example, solvents and reagents used for laboratory preparations, disinfectants, sterilant and heavy metals contained in medical devices (e.g., mercury in broken thermometers) and batteries.

Pharmaceutical Waste: expired, unused, and contaminated drugs and vaccines.

Cytotoxic Waste: waste containing substances with genotoxic properties (i.e., highly hazardous substances that are, mutagenic, teratogenic, or carcinogenic), such as cytotoxic drugs used in cancer treatment and their metabolites.

Radioactive Waste: such as products contaminated by radionuclides including radioactive diagnostic material or radiotherapeutic materials; and

Non-hazardous or general waste: waste that does not pose any biological, chemical, radioactive or physical hazard.

The major sources of healthcare waste are:

Harmful Effects of Medical Waste


The toxins from medical waste, that either get dumped or swept into the ocean from hurricanes. Affects the sea life and organisms that eat plants or fish who have ingested or absorbed such wastes. Such medical wastes as drug or culture dish pollution or toxins are then passed along food chains in the ocean and can affect everything from sea coral to whales. Humans who in turn eat tainted seafood or plants may also ingest harmful toxins that affect human growth, development, and health.

Closed Beaches

Beaches are often closed, reducing tourism, recreation, and revenue for ocean-side cities, when medical waste is found floating in the water or washing up on shore. One of the most common incidents is the discovery of syringes and needles, which may be contaminated or infected with hepatitis or other blood-borne pathogens and diseases.

Flushing Medications and the Environment

A recent study shows that 80 percent of US streams contain small amounts of human medicines.  Sewage and water reclamation systems cannot remove these medicines from the processed water that is released into lakes, rivers and eventually into the oceans.  Fish and other aquatic animals have shown adverse effects from medicines in the water.  And even very small amounts of medicine have been found in drinking water.

Another recent study has found that human drugs can disrupt the biology and behavior of fish and other aquatic critters at very low concentrations. “You can have measurable behavioral effects in fish and shellfish even at the parts per billion level,” says Christian Daughton, a veteran EPA scientist who studies how pharmaceuticals affect waterways.

Some drugs apparently accumulate in fish over time: One study published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Science found that male fish whose brains contained traces of Zoloft appeared less anxious. And while that might seem amusing, these fish are also less effective at seeking shelter from predators.

One of the lead researchers, Bryan Brooks, director of the environmental health science program at Baylor University, told me that antibiotic waste, which is associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in fish, also is a big problem in the wild.  The fact that the average consumer in the US eats as much as 16 pounds of seafood per year, the long-term effects on humans could be dangerous.

Throughout the US, there are several major pharmacies that have medication take back programs.

How Compliance Training Reduces Risk

Most fines levied against medical waste generators are not because a facility has a blatant disregard for the medical waste laws, it is because the employees didn’t understand, what waste, goes where. By having proper policies and compliance training in place for your employees, it will help mitigate the risk of being non-compliant with local, state, and federal regulations associated with medical waste. 

A compliance program is designed to address the various nuances of operation, function, tracking, reporting, and follow through of all aspects of compliance. The Compliance Officer should be selected based on leadership qualities so that an organization can have a streamlined yet comfortable method of reporting and implementation of any changes that are needed. Each faction of a compliance program is designed to interact with the levels of operation within a healthcare environment and to assist in enforcing state and federal guidelines.

There are seven basic tools involved in a compliance program.

Establishing Standards: This is a code of ethics and operations that are created as part of the operational environment for all procedures and policies. It also includes maintaining updated information on all compliance changes as well as the issuance of compliance alerts, and communication with staff/employees to assure compliance maintenance.

Training & Communication: Training should be completed prior to hiring a new employee. Each employee is required to be trained on compliance as it pertains to the work that he/she does with updated review training at least annually.

Discipline: Part of the documentation involved in a compliance program involves a written procedure and policy that dictates the disciplinary actions involved for all levels of employee non-compliance. It should be clearly stated that disciplinary actions for non-compliance will be enforced regardless of organizational position or title.

Internal Investigations: A healthcare organization must have commitment to the investigation and follow through of all compliance notifications and concerns with sensitivity on confidentiality. The HCO or team representative will then coordinate, document, and report any investigative results.

Self-Disclosure (Personal Reporting Obligations): This is a condition of honor requiring any employee or staff member to be responsible for reporting any activity that they have noted by anyone within the organization, including vendors, that has the appearance of compliance violations. The compliance program should include the method(s) that an employee can inform of violations without fear of retaliation of any sort and/or in confidence whenever possible.

Third-Party Payor Audits: Any healthcare provider that participates in any of the government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, as well as a commercial insurance network can be audited by the state and federal organizations as well as their contractors at any given time.

A Plan for Corrective Action: When an investigation results in a compliance violation there should be corrective actions initiated. The actions will be dependent upon the violation but could include but are not limited to overpayment restitution, notification of appropriate government agencies, and immediate changes that prevents violations in the future. It can also include a “CAP” (Corrective Action Plan) that will be used as an agreement so that payors can continue to work with the healthcare organization.

Establishing Standards

A healthcare organization needs to establish specific procedures, policies and standards of conduct that demonstrate commitment to compliance regulations. These policies should be clear, concise, and written so that they are easily understood and are reviewed for updates or changes on a regular basis (typically annually). The Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services indicate that this portion of the healthcare compliance program should assist staff in the performance of their job duties in a way that ensures compliance with the requirements of federal health care programs. The written procedures, policies, and standards of conduct should act to improve the objective and mission of the healthcare facility.  The standards set in a compliance program should be meaningful to the employees.

The standards set in the program need to be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that they include all information that is pertinent, relevant to the healthcare organizational environment, the jobs and duties accomplished, and are up to date to reflect all state and/or federal regulation changes.

The leader and/or team/committee members of the compliance program should have a complete view of what the standards are, establish the rules for the methods of how they should be followed and ensure that the standards are being met. Every department should be analyzed for compliance accommodation on a regular basis.

The Dangers of Medical Waste

When it comes to medical waste there two critical factors that pose the greatest risk, they are,

Needle Sticks – According to the CDC “Healthcare personnel who use or may be exposed to needles are at increased risk of needlestick injury. Needlestick injuries can lead to serious or fatal infections with bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, or HIV.”

Exposure to Pathogens – As potentially infectious agents continue to increase in the healthcare setting so does the risk to the healthcare worker. As stated on PubMed

To help prevent needle sticks and accidental exposure to dangerous pathogens proper training and personal protective equipment must be utilized. Here at Healthcare Waste Management, we have a dedicated online training portal that will keep your staff educated and up to date with the latest safety methods.

Medical waste is generated at the time of treatment whether it is from a preventive flu shot, a blood draw to perform a test, or cleaning and dressing a wound, medical waste is usually created during the treatment or diagnosis of a person or animal. This is the time that the healthcare worker is most at risk and precautions must be taken.

Once the medical waste is generated it is placed into the proper container, a sharps container or biohazard bag, box, or colored bin (depending on the waste classification) to be disposed of.

From there, once the container is filled to the full mark it is taken to a properly marked storage location. Most states have a limit on how long medical waste can be stored before it must be removed for destruction. If you have any questions on your specific state laws, you can contact Healthcare Waste Management and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Healthcare Waste Management provides medical waste disposal, compliance training services, and secure shredding services to 10 states in the Midwest including Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.

How Healthcare Waste Management Can Help

Healthcare Waste Management is proud to bring a first-class medical waste disposal experience to our customers. From the local medical office to national healthcare systems, we bring innovation and customer service that is unparalleled.

That’s a strong statement but we back it up by owning your medical waste from start to finish. 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.

Call Healthcare Waste Management today to experience the difference 888-427-5797

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