medical waste disposal maryland washington dc virginia

All about Medical Waste Disposal Vol. 4

1. What Is Medical Waste? And Other Common Questions About Sharps & Medical Waste Disposal

For Regulated Medical Waste Disposal Services call Patriot ShreddingMedical waste is generated by healthcare facilities (human and animal), research institutions, and even at home. Each time you have blood drawn, surgery, get a filling at the dentist, or visit a pharmacy for a flu shot, you create regulated medical waste. Improper medical waste disposal has serious health and environmental consequences. Health professionals and consumers need to understand how to protect themselves and their communities.

What Is Regulated Medical Waste?

In general, regulated medical waste (RMW) is healthcare-related waste with the potential to spread disease through blood or other types of contamination if not handled properly. Serious diseases like Ebola, TB, and Hepatitis are examples of contagions that could be spread through the improper handling of RMW. Alternate terms for RMW include biohazardous medical waste and biomedical waste.

It’s critical to understand the difference between general, medical waste and regulated medical waste – for both financial and safety reasons! According to the World Health Organization, “up to 85% of waste generated by health care-related activities is general, non-[bio]hazardous waste” that doesn’t pose a threat to human health or safety. Because of the danger to health and safety, regulated medical waste disposal costs are a lot higher than regular trash collection. It costs up to 10 times as much to dispose of regulated medical waste as it does regular trash. Thus, it’s important to properly segregate regulated medical waste, which has special handling considerations, from non-biohazardous medical waste. Regulated medical waste mixed in with regular trash can spread dangerous pathogens and injure employees and the public.

What Are the Categories of Regulated Medical Waste?

Individual states often designate specific categories of regulated medical waste. They define what waste belongs in each category as well as how each category of waste must be treated. You should always refer to your state’s regulations to see how they define regulated medical waste and how it is categorized. These are the most commonly-used categories of regulated medical waste:

  • Biological waste: Any item that has been contaminated with human blood or bodily fluids (excluding urine, sweat, and feces), or with animal bodily fluids contaminated or suspected to be contaminated by a zoonotic disease.
  • Sharps waste: Sharps are anything that can pierce or cut the skin. This includes needles, syringes with needles, lancets, scalpels, wires, staples, broken glass, etc.
  • Infectious waste: Discarded materials and biological waste products that are infectious but not highly communicable. Waste creators must follow CDC isolation precautions, but often, this waste can be mixed with other, non-regulated medical wastes.
  • Pathological waste: Any recognizable human body part, organs and tissue, or any animal body part, organ or tissue contaminated or suspected to be contaminated by a zoonotic disease.
  • Isolation waste: This includes discarded materials and biological waste products from people or animals infected with dangerous, highly communicable diseases (as defined by the CDC) like Ebola and Marburg. It must be treated as regulated medical waste
  • Trace chemotherapy waste: Residual chemotherapy medications (less than 3% of the original amount), syringes, and items utilized in the preparation of chemotherapy infusions are all required to be disposed of as regulated medical waste. Note that some chemotherapy drugs are classified as hazardous waste. Learn more about disposal of hazardous chemotherapy waste.

What Is Biohazardous Medical Waste?

Generally speaking, this is a catch-all term for regulated medical waste, which is contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious substances and poses the potential danger of transmitting diseases. There is no material difference between the terms regulated medical waste and biohazardous medical waste – they’re different terms for the same substances. However, some states use the term biohazardous medical waste to refer to all of their regulated medical waste.

What Goes in a Sharps Container?

OSHA defines a sharp as any object that can pierce the skin. Those items include:

  • Scalpels
  • Needles
  • Dental anesthetic carpules containing residual blood
  • Wires, sutures, and dental files

Only sharps go into sharps containers. Other types of medical waste, such as pharmaceuticals, blood-soaked items, and pathological specimens require a different type of containment.

How Often Should Sharps Containers Be Emptied?

Containers shouldn’t be filled more than 3/4 full. Never overfill a sharps container. Make sure there are no sharps protruding from the container and that the lid fits tightly before packing it for pickup or mail back.

Who Regulates Medical Waste?

Many different governmental agencies oversee the handling of regulated medical waste. For example, the FDA regulates the manufacturing of sharps containers. OSHA regulates the handling of medical waste by employees to assure their safety. USPS regulates how regulated medical waste is shipped through the mail. DOT regulates how regulated medical waste is shipped over the road. Finally, states regulate the disposal of regulated medical waste. Learn more about how state medical waste regulations differ. Always check with your state and local government about specific requirements.

For example, state regulatory differences include:

  • Documentation requirements
  • Tracking form retention
  • Storage time limitations for sharps and red bag RMW
  • Staff training requirements
  • Medical waste management plan development

How Is Medical Waste Transported?

Transportation options vary depending upon the type and amount of waste.

Small and mid-size generators often use affordable mail-back containers. The containers must comply with USPS or DOT regulations depending upon the carrier. Larger quantity generators usually find it more economical to have their waste transported using a registered regulated medical waste hauler.

Also, we also offer high-temperature incineration for treatment of pathological, trace chemotherapy, and pharmaceutical wastes.

Make sure your staff understands the regulations – particularly paperwork and tracking requirements for regulated medical waste. Improperly segregated waste and paperwork errors can lead to large fines.

What Happens to Regulated Medical Waste?

Regulated medical waste requires special handling because it’s potentially dangerous. Red biohazard bags and sturdy containers clearly identify sharps and biohazardous medical waste, so there’s no confusion about the contents.

Once the waste is collected, the containers are moved to a disposal facility. Transportation methods depend on the type of waste and the amount requiring disposal.

  • Mail-back systems. Used to mail back your full containers of properly packaged regulated medical waste, utilizing USPS, which meet USPS regulations or UPS/Fed Ex, which meet DOT requirements.
  • Pickup services that meet DOT requirements. Sharps Compliance directly services 15 states with our route-based services. We also have a robust network of third party haulers we contract, which expands our route-based coverage nationwide. Contact us to learn more about our medical waste pickup service.

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2. 8 Eye-Opening Facts About Medical Waste 

Patriot Shredding Medical Waste Disposal ServicesWe all know that medical waste causes disease. Because it is a by-product of the provision of health care, it contains high amounts of disease-causing microorganisms (called pathogens) compared to household waste. These pathogens make medical waste very dangerous when released it is into the environment.

Studies from the World Health Organization (WHO) report on specific infections caused by the improper disposal of medical waste into the environment. Improper disposal can lead to:

  1. Parasitic Infections

Some types of medical waste, particularly the waste from diagnostic laboratories that regularly test for parasitic infections, are positive for parasites. Labs generally incubate body fluids to test for the presence of parasites and then dispose of the used culture dishes as medical waste. Some of the parasites can still thrive in waste and cause infection.

  1. Infection of the Airways and Lungs

Improperly stored and disposed of medical waste can release airborne aerosols that may contain pathogens, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other viruses that can cause lung infections like influenza, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.

Skin infections

There is also the possibility of contracting skin infections from medical waste — like anthrax. Though anthrax cases are extremely rare, there are anthrax vaccine-producing labs that may generate anthrax-contaminated medical waste. Anthrax spores are hardy and highly infectious, so the release of tainted medical waste into the environment can spur potential infection.

Candida infection

Candida infection or candidiasis is a disease caused by the yeast Candida albicansCandida albicans remains a significant disease associated with prolonged hospital confinement, so untreated medical waste may contain significant amounts of this particular pathogen.

Candidiasis can be life-threatening to the elderly, pregnant mothers, small children, and people with weakened immune systems.

  1. Meningitis

Meningitis is a serious medical condition caused by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be viral or bacterial, and both forms are transmissible via body fluids. Medical waste may contains pathogens that can transmit meningitis.

  1. Diseases from Improperly Disposed of Waste with Traces of Vaccines

Vaccines protect us from a multitude of diseases. Several vaccines are made from attenuated pathogens, which are pathogens whose virulence is reduced but is still alive, so they possess the potential to cause disease.

Some examples of attenuated vaccines include measles, mumps, and certain types of influenza, chicken pox and polio vaccines. Untreated medical waste with traces of vaccines with these pathogens may result in infection.

  1. Bacteremia

Bacteremia is a life-threatening infection. Bacteremia infection occurs when bacteria are present in the bloodstream, where it can easily infect other organs and cause inflammation. A particular type of medical waste, sharps, can introduce pathogens into the bloodstream that may result in bacteremia.

  1. Infections of Reproductive Organs

Medical waste can be contaminated with genital secretions that may harbor pathogens that can cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some easily transmissible STIs include herpes, human papillomavirus, and syphilis; these STIs can enter the body via minor breaks in the skin.

  1. HIV and Hepatitis B and C Viruses

Medical waste can contain sharps that may contain blood contaminated with viruses that cause AIDS, Hepatitis B and C.

Puncture injuries from contaminated sharps can result in HIV and hepatitis B and C infections, which is a major reason why sharps are disposed of in rigid, sealed and clearly marked containers. Health workers, waste collectors, and scavengers are vulnerable to puncture injuries from sharps and are therefore at risk for these blood-borne infections.

  1. Hemorrhagic Fevers

Ebola, Lassa and Marburg disease are transmitted by viruses that cause violent fevers and internal hemorrhaging. (All of these conditions are found in Africa and/or small areas of Europe.) Because people infected with these very serious viruses are treated in hospitals, the viruses can be present in medical waste.

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3. Some Unknown Facts Relating Sharps Medical Wastes

Patriot Shredding Regulated Medical Waste Disposal Services Call (240) 206-6030If you are asked to name the type of medical waste that causes the most number of injuries, you would definitely say sharps without a second thought. And you are not anywhere in the wrong.

Even the best medical waste disposal services, healthcare employees,and other people have admitted that sharps are the most dangerous form of medical wastes, accounting for hoards of catastrophic injuries.

As per a report by The World Health Organization, almost 16 billion injections are used worldwide annually, but not all of these receive their due treatment.

Apart from this, here are some more interesting but alarming facts about sharps wastes that you really need to know:

Sharps Wastes Include Lots And Lots Of Products:

It’s not just the needles and injections that constitute sharps wastes. In fact, this category of wastes includes products such as:

· Scalpel blades and suture needles

· Glass and plastic vacutainer tubes

· Insulin needles and lancets

· Phlebotomy needles

· Intravenous catheters

· Dental wires and files

· Glass and plastic capillary tubes

· Used or unused epinephrine auto-injectors

Sharps Wastes Have Lethal Consequences:

When you do not ensure proper sharps waste management in Richmond VA or any other area you thrive, this could lead to several environmental concerns.

Sharps could be contaminated with infectious diseases and not disposing them properly can lead to infections. Sharps are even capable of clogging sewers and causing diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis etc.

Sharps Have Their Own Disposal Regulations:

According to the sharps disposal guidelines from FDA, the sharps can only be discarded in sharps containers only.

And all such sharps containers should be fully approved, made of leak-proof and puncture-resistant plastic and having a similar sturdy lid.

Current Regulations And Laws are Governed By Sharps Wastes:

It was in the late 1980s that some of the US beaches experienced massive outwash of syringes and other healthcare wastes.

All this led to the formation of acts such as Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in the late parts of the 1980s.

Sharps Containers Should Not Be Overfilled:

If you are waiting for your sharps container to get brimful before disposal, you are actually making a big mistake.

In fact, sharps containers should only be 3/4th filled before they are picked up by an experienced and dedicated waste management organization.

As is clear from the facts, sharps are no child’s play and need to be handled well by only the experts. Consult the best medical waste disposal services in your local vicinity and get the best solutions relating effective and eco-friendly sharps waste disposal.

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