Medical waste is an umbrella term that encompasses many specific terms. Medical waste refers to a variety of materials including biological waste, clinical waste, biohazardous waste, and other waste produced in the medical profession. Medical waste is produced by hospitals, clinics, laboratories, pharmacies, dentists, veterinarians, and even in households. Disposing of medical waste is an important environmental concern, as most of it is hazardous to the biosphere and can spread infectious disease.
There are many federal agencies that have established regulations and laws concerning the disposal of medical waste. The most high profile organization involved with such concerns is the EPA.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines medical waste in this manner:
Definition: Medical waste is generally defined under state regulations. Medical waste is often described as any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production or testing of biologicals, including but not limited to:
- blood-soaked bandages
- culture dishes and other glassware
- discarded surgical gloves - after surgery
- discarded surgical instruments - scalpels
- needles - used to give shots or draw blood
- cultures, stocks, swabs used to inoculate cultures
- removed body organs - tonsils, appendices, limbs, etc.
- lancets - the little blades the doctor pricks your finger with to get a drop of blood
Proper disposal of medical waste is regulated at the state level. The EPA recommends that you look at the State Laws & Regulations to see what laws apply in your state. If the laws aren’t strictly followed, you and your organization face astronomical fines, bad press, and worse. Keep in mind that the EPA isn’t the only organization involved. There are a number of organizations who monitor the safe practices of disposing of these hazardous materials:
- Food and Drug Administration
The FDA regulates medical devices such as sharps containers which are designed to safely contain used needles.
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration
OSHA regulates medical waste and proper disposal of such in the workplace.
- Department of Transportation Office of Hazardous Materials Safety
This organization regulates medical waste transportation in 49 CFR, Sections 172 and 173.
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The NRC regulates some types of radioactive waste.
- US Postal Service
The USPS regulates biohazardous waste in the postal system.
Properly disposing of this waste is of supreme importance not just to you and your organization, but to the community. The first step in properly disposing of this waste is to have a sufficient quantity of biohazard waste containers and biohazard bags readily available.
Biohazard waste containers must be sturdy, leak-proof, and have a tight-fitting lid. The containers should be red and must be labeled with "Biohazardous Waste" or a biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard.” The containers also need to be lined with biohazardous waste bags. Once a biohazardous bag is added, the label on the container must remain be visible. Whenever waste is not being actively added, the lid must be kept on the container. Biohazardous waste must be physically separated from other wastes. Avoid mixing biohazardous waste with chemical or radioactive materials when possible. Biohazardous waste must be free from radioactive and chemical contamination. The next step in disposal is to find an organization that specializes in the disposal of it. Some companies will come and pick up your containers directly from your location.
At Medical Supplies and Equipment Company, there’s a large inventory of medical waste container and bags in a variety of sizes. For any questions or assistance, please call us at 1-877-706-4480.