Biomedical Waste Disposal in Los Angeles
Los Angeles County, California has a population of just over 10 million. The city of Los Angeles is home to approximately four million residents. Healthcare facilities abound. No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of healthcare waste. Knowing how to properly dispose of biomedical waste in Los Angeles, California, is vital. Such processes not only to protect patients, but healthcare providers, the public, and helps reduce the amount of dangerous, infectious or hazardous waste ending up in area landfills.
The number of facilities that provide health care services in Los Angeles are vast, from adult day care centers to medical offices, outpatient centers, hospitals, cancer facilities, rehabs, and down to biomedical research and development.
Biomedical waste disposal in Los Angeles, California must follow state guidelines for solid waste disposal in order to remain in compliance. As of 2014, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works determined that hospitals in the county produce nearly 6,000 pounds of solid waste on a daily basis! Medical offices and outpatient centers generate roughly 2,000 pounds of waste per day. Of course, not all of it is hazardous or infectious, but does your staff know how to segregate medical waste streams?
Do you and your staff know how to maintain compliance when it comes to handling, collecting, and packaging, storing, and transporting such waste?
California’s biomedical waste regulations
While every city, county or region within California often documents their own regulations regarding healthcare waste management, all standards must also conform to those of the state of California, and naturally, U.S. federal guidelines for medical disposal. Every medical waste generator in Los Angeles should be aware of the definitions and terms found in California’s Medical Waste Management Act of 2017. The act provides California’s health and safety codes sections 117600 through 118360. Some of the topics covered in this document include:
- Definitions (important for every healthcare employee to know)
- Requirements for small and large quantity generators that includes information regarding registration, on-site and off-site treatment, tracking records, and inspections
- A specific section for medical waste haulers (Chapter 6)
- Containment and storage specifications
Of course, the regulations also make mention of violations, penalties, and grounds for suspension or revocation of licensing and permits as well.
Within California and throughout the United States, definitions regarding medical waste often vary slightly. For example, the most basic definition of a biomedical waste is ‘something that relates to biology and/or medicine’. In fact, biomedical waste is generally defined as any type of hospital waste or a waste that contains any potentially infectious materials. Such waste is often generated from medical or biological sources such as those used in the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of diseases. In many instances, healthcare facilities encourage their staff, from top to bottom, to handle all their medical waste as if it’s biohazardous, or as defined, potentially contains any infectious material. Still, safe handling is one thing, while disposal practices must be followed to the letter.
California’s Medical Waste Management Program from the Environmental Management Branch is responsible for regulations involving the generation, handling, storage, treatment, and disposal of medical waste. This oversight is founded on the guidelines of the Medical Waste Management Act. The rules are also applicable to Los Angeles county and city.
A wealth of information can be found on the website of the California Department of Public Health under their Medical Waste Management Program. The site offers information and links to guidance documents, laws, regulations and standards of the entire state. A few to be especially aware of include:
- Blood-borne pathogens
- Medical waste generators
- Guidance document (AB 333 Final Report) which provides detailed information about local government level oversight, state-level oversight, and federal level oversight as well as a clear definition of the California Department of Health’s medical waste management program.
Of course, additional regulations and agencies are involved including Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations and standards. In many cases, state guidelines for proper biomedical waste disposal are more stringent than those of the federal government, but that doesn’t mean regulations from the federal government should be disregarded.
Other federal agencies are also involved in safe biomedical waste disposal, such as the:
- California Department of Transportation
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Note that the California Health & Safety Code provides important standards and guidelines for appropriate biomedical healthcare waste disposal practices in the state of California and Los Angeles County. It’s also important to take the time to reference the California Code of Regulations for guidance and identification of medical waste, which can be accessed within link found above for the Medical Waste Management Act.
Does your healthcare staff and support employees know the rules?
Is your healthcare staff and other ancillary support employees such as housekeepers, laundry employees, or janitors know how to differentiate colors of waste bags for biohazard, chemotherapy, pharmaceutical, or other types of waste commonly found in healthcare facilities?
As providers, have you instructed your staff on California’s definitions of what can be included as a biohazardous waste?
For example, biohazardous waste “can be regulated medical waste, clinical waste, and/or biomedical waste that is a waste or reusable material derived from the medical treatment of a human or from an animal that is suspected by the attending veterinarian of being infected with a pathogen that is also infectious to humans, which includes diagnosis and immunization; or from biomedical research, which includes the production and testing of biological products.”
Biohazardous waste can also be defined as “regulated medical waste or clinical waste or biomedical waste suspected of containing a highly communicable disease.”
Such waste can also come from laboratory specimen cultures (potentially infected with pathogens), or any waste from a generator site or waste disposal point that contains “recognizable fluid human blood, fluid human blood products, to containers, or equipment containing human blood…”
What kind of waste in such a scenario is not considered medical waste? According to the California code, “waste generated in biotechnology that does not contain human blood or blood products or animal blood or blood products suspected of being contaminated with infectious agents known to be communicable to humans or a highly communicable disease.”
Many healthcare workers are surprised to learn that b\Biomedical waste does not include urine, feces, saliva, sputum, nasal secretions, sweat, tears, or vomitus, unless it contains visible or recognizable fluid blood… (Section 117690 – subparagraph C of paragraph 1 of subdivision B)
As you can see, understanding definitions goes a long way toward maintaining compliant healthcare waste management.
Daniels Health supports your compliance goals
Daniels Health is dedicated to providing all healthcare providers with resources for compliance at federal, state, and county levels. Our sustainable products and containers ensure safety, proper waste segregation and biomedical waste disposal processes in any location that provides healthcare or medical services. We are dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint, saving tons of waste from heading to local landfills, and reducing medical waste disposal costs. For information regarding our products, services, and resources, contact us today