Disposal of Sharps That Contain Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste

Here is a run down of key regulations for disposing of hazardous pharmaceutical waste, per the federal guidelines.

With an aging population and the use of more drugs than ever to treat disease today, there is a growing concern around the amount of those same pharmaceuticals being found in the soil, drinking water and leading to human health and environmental concerns. At the state, federal and local level, efforts are being put in place to regulate and improve medical waste disposal and in particular hazardous pharmaceutical waste.

While it’s important for any industry that must come in contact with sharps to safely handle and dispose of matter, when the sharps contain pharmaceuticals such as drug formulations or other potentially dangerous chemical matter, it adds another level of specialized care throughout the disposal process.

Some of the most common sharps disposal methods include autoclaving an incineration through the help of professional haulers who know what to do with the waste once they pick it up.

Pharmaceutical hazardous waste can be liquid or solid and classified as P,U and D types. This can be anything with chemotherapy agents in it, vaccines, bulk powders, drugs with other active ingredients in them and anything containing amounts of chromium, selenium, cadmium or other chemicals in them. Some common examples include nicotine and warfarin, for example.

With hazardous pharmaceutical waste, there’s the potential of passing infectious diseases as well as the fact that corrosive chemicals and lethal medications threatening to humans and the environment are contained in this waste. This is the reason it must be handled differently than other solid waste and why simply using a common sharps container is not sufficient.

Proper Storage

Waste segregation containers play an important role in the separation of pharmaceutical waste. Yellow containers are used for tossing things like gloves, gowns and empty syringes that only have trace amounts of the original dose (less than 3 percent) in them.  Purple containers and black containers are also used. Here is where hazardous and infectious wastes are kept. This waste has live vaccines, toxic drugs and the above mentioned matter within it.

Transport Rules

Transportation and haul away of this matter is also important in the disposal process. A special tracking process – the manifest system- is used to ensure that hazardous chemical waste is in fact handled and discarded of properly with a proof on file for compliance.

Incineration Guidelines

In the final destruction steps, the hazardous pharmaceutical waste must be incinerated at an approved facility. The process includes burning the waste at temperatures high enough to break the chemicals down and releasing only water vapor into the environment, and not the toxic fumes it creates.

Regardless of how hazardous waste is being discarded, the fact remains that careful steps must to be taken throughout the entire process to keep everyone exposed to the hazardous sharps and the pharmaceutical waste contained within them safe.

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At the state, federal and local level, efforts are being put in place to regulate and improve medical waste disposal and in particular hazardous pharmaceutical waste. Read more over on our blog.

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