Examples of Biohazardous Waste
If it comes from a medical place it is medical waste - right? What about biohazard waste or 'regular' medical waste? Waste is waste and waste goes in a bin and onto the landfill, yeah? If that's what you think, you're wrong. Medical waste is separated into a number of different categories depending on its type. Carelessness of waste segregation can result in hefty non-compliance fines and will most likely increase your cost to be serviced since over classification is happening.
Think fast: would you treat bedding materials used by an animal in a veterinary office - potentially infected with a pathogenic organism - the same as you would bloody wrappings left on the floor of a trauma unit?
What about this one: would you dispose of IV tubing that had a needle attached to it the same way you would dispose of surgical waste during an autopsy of a woman who died of natural causes?
What do you do with a paper towel potentially contaminated with body fluid such as saliva or sweat? It depends, doesn't it? Was it used to wipe out a petri dish? Or to remove secretions from a human or animal that was potentially contaminated?
Does your head hurt yet? Because mine does.
If you don't know to answer to any of these questions, it's time for a primer on biohazard waste: how it's defined and the rules regarding its segregation, transportation, collection, and disposal.
Primary categories of biohazard waste
While specific definitions of biohazard waste and biohazard waste disposal may differ slightly in regard to wording, the basic definition of biohazard or hazardous waste is anything that has the potential to cause harm, infection, or contamination of a dangerous agent to humans. Biohazard waste types include:
- Anatomical waste such as specimens or tissues removed during autopsy or surgical procedures that are also suspected of contamination of any infectious agent that may pose a danger to human health. This category is often referred to as pathological waste as well. Examples include: Body parts, organs, tissues (skin, muscle, and so forth)
- Animal parts as well as carcasses, tissues, or fluids that, like anatomical waste, has the potential to contain infectious agents that may pose a risk to humans.
- Laboratory waste such as specimen cultures, bacteria, parasites, viruses, or other microorganisms that increase the risk of contamination, morbidity, or mortality.
- Infectious waste means any type of waste that contains blood, fluids from blood products or components, or objects used in the treatment of animal or human that may be contaminated or infected with a disease communicable to humans. Examples include: Swabs, tissues, excreta
- Sharps waste doesn't just refer to just needles but scalpels, knives, infusion sets, broken glass, and syringes. Anything with a sharp edge on it that has the potential to puncture skin.
- Solid wastes can include examples such as bandages and dressings contaminated with blood or other body fluids, but may also include casts that may be contaminated with sweat or fluids such as blood.
- Drugs – this category ranges from barium enemas to trace chemotherapy drugs. Cytoxic (any type of drug that may pose a danger to living cells) drugs commonly used to treat cancers fall into this category. Also included in this category are x-rays and tar-based products.
- Pharmaceutical waste may also be included in the above category but in this case refers to bottled medicines that are either no longer needed for patient care or that have expired. Pharmaceutical waste can fall into three sub categories of: non-controlled, controlled, and hazardous.
Now, armed with this knowledge, it's important to ensure you are segregating these wastestreams accordingly. If you're unsure, be sure to check out our deep-dive into biomedical waste segregation guidlines:
In addition, biohazardous waste is also divided into two primary categories: solid or liquid biohazardous waste. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides basic information regarding federal guidelines for segregation, collection, and disposal procedures for regulated medical waste - in addition to resources to state regulations, though all states must follow federal guidelines in regard to transportation and disposal.
A liquid waste may be defined as any type of liquid drained or generated from an infected area of the body (animal or human).
A primary concern today is the collection and disposal of sharps. What about sharps container placement? Are sharps considered biohazardous waste products? The simple answer is yes, as sharps can fit under the description of potentially causing harm to humans, especially in regard to contaminants, exposure to body fluids, blood, and pathogens. Sharps must be disposed of properly, lest they end up on the beachfront which has happened in the past and is a large reason Daniels Health was founded.
Sharps of any kind should be properly disposed of in a sharps container placed in convenient and adequate locations in order to reduce needlestick injury. Any metal sharps waste should not, ever, be placed in a regular trash can or dumpster.
Any waste generator, including those that generate biohazard waste, are mandated to adhere to federal and state waste guidelines. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.
To make things a little simpler for you, we have created a Waste Segregation cheat sheet:
About biohazard safety levels
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines four biohazard levels:
- Level I: defined as those that trigger minimal threats to either humans or the environment. Think E. coli.
- Level II: something that is spread through direct contact with some type of infected material that can also cause illness in humans, such as hepatitis B, HIV, and Salmonella.
- Level III: any type of pathogen that has the potential to become airborne and cause a disease. A prime example of a biohazard level III pathogen includes tuberculosis.
- Level IV: any type of a pathogen that triggers risk of life-threatening diseases for which we have no treatments today. Consider Ebola virus.
Bottom line: Do you know how to deal with different types of biohazard waste? Do you know federal and state regulations inside and out for the proper segregation and disposal of such waste? With decades of experience in the industry, Daniels Health does. We promote waste stream segregation methods that keep you in compliance with the added benefit of CO2 emissions reduction and reduced carbon footprint.
When it comes to healthcare waste segregation and management, don't take chances.
Call Daniels Health for help setting up a workable and safe healthcare waste management system.