You are likely already familiar with the terminology biological waste, and those bright red bags that yell out “handle with caution”. But do you know exactly what is supposed to go inside (and not), and what happens to it once it leaves your office? There are risks associated with the handling of biological waste in doctor’s offices, and severe consequences if not completed correctly.
Biological – or biohazardous – waste is defined as being any waste that contains potentially infectious agents. These are found in any area where human blood and tissues are exposed, such as in your doctor’s office. Some common examples include:
- Bodily Fluids – This includes amniotic fluid, semen, saliva, pleural fluid and vaginal secretions.
- Microbiological Waste – Usually the byproducts of laboratory testing, such as live viruses, blood samples, specimen cultures and the devices used to transfer them.
- Blood Products – Blood, plasma and any other tissues or fluids containing blood residue.
- Pathological Waste – Pathological waste refers to any organic object that is identifiable as being human in source, such as body parts, tissues and organs.
- Sharps Waste – Items, such as needles, that not only potentially contain harmful pathogens from biological waste but that also have the potential to pierce skin and transfer those pathogens into the blood stream of another individual.
In 1988, the US Congress enacted the Medical Waste Tracking act, which allowed them to study the methods of medical waste disposal for doctor’s offices and begin regulating it. As a result, all medical waste must now be collected by a company with a specific license for handling hazardous products. They are then held responsible for rendering it harmless by using one of the following methods:
- Incineration: The EPA estimates that up to 90% of all biohazardous waste is being incinerated. This must be done by a licensed contractor, either on or off of the site where medical waste is collected. Incineration offers many benefits besides sterilizing, such as reducing the overall amount of waste and avoiding having to sterilize it before breaking it down.
- Autoclaving: When medical waste from doctor’s offices is subject to an autoclave, this usually entails two steps. The first is the sterilization of the waste using intense steam, followed by shredding the materials. This usually allows for the waste to then be disposed of in a typical landfill.
As the administrator for a doctor’s office, you have the responsibility of ensuring that medical waste disposal is being conducted in a manner that reduces its risk to your patients, staff, and the environment. Your optimal choice in guaranteeing this is by working with a professional medical waste disposal company. Not only can a company like MedWaste Management sterilize and destroy medical waste generated inside of your doctor’s office, they can help you to put a system in place for its safe collection and storage.