Biohazardous waste, also known as infectious waste (such as blood, body fluids, and human cell lines), is defined as a type of waste contaminated with potentially infectious agents or other materials that are deemed as a threat to public health or the environment.
This article will explain everything you need to know about biohazards, including what qualifies as one.
Examples of biohazardous waste
Here are several examples of what biohazardous waste is:
- Infectious waste, including blood and blood products, contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE), IV tubing, blood transfusion bags, and suction canisters
- Empty vials from vaccine use
- Waste produced in the room of a patient diagnosed with a communicable disease
- Animal waste or any waste resulting from a veterinary procedure or surgery
- Pathological waste
- Sharps waste like needles, scalpels, and broken vials
- Laboratory items, including cultures, used Petri dishes, and any items contaminated with disease
How to identify biohazardous waste
Anyone in a healthcare environment must be able to identify biohazardous waste and take the necessary steps to isolate, contain, and dispose of it. This includes everyone from housekeeping to maintenance and medical waste disposal personnel. When deciding whether to dispose of waste, it’s essential to think about anything and everything that has come into contact with that item.
Some of the first things that come to mind when classifying biohazard waste are the following:
- Sharps, including syringes, pipettes, or scalpel blades
- Soiled bedsheets and gowns
While this is just a very short list, biohazard waste can include any type of equipment that’s come into contact with potentially infected individuals.
How to handle biohazardous waste
The United States government has created strict rules and regulations regarding biohazardous waste, in addition to restrictions at the state level. Properly handling and disposing of waste from its point of origin to its final disposal is essential. Essentially, any waste that has come into contact with blood or bodily fluids must be segregated and discarded in a biohazard waste container.
Here’s more information on the general types of biohazardous waste:
- Sharps. These are any objects that can potentially puncture or cut the skin and that have been possibly contained with biological materials. Most state and health regulations require that sharps always be discarded in a sharps container following use.
- Liquid biohazardous waste. This includes culture media, specimens, and other liquids collected in vacuum flasks. The vacuum flasks, like sharps containers, are leak-proof and non-breakable. They are also fitted with HEPA filters, also referred to as overflow flasks, and discharged and cleaned when they are half-full or completely full.
- Solid biohazard waste. This can originate in any healthcare environment, from a patient’s room to a laboratory. It is usually anything that has been contaminated with infectious biological materials. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulations dictate that this type of waste must be contained in sturdy, leak-proof containers lined with a biohazard bag.
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