Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that works by blocking nerve signals in the body and is commonly used by medical practitioners for a variety of procedures.  While it is considered a pharmaceutical, is lidocaine a hazardous waste?

Lidocaine Basics

Lidocaine is a numbing medication that comes in lots of forms, including gel, cream, injection, and patch.  It works by deadening the nerve endings in the skin, which, in turn, blocks the pain signal to the brain.  This agent is used in numerous medications such as Burnamycin, Lidoderm, and Xylocaine. It causes pain relief without the sedative effects of general anesthesia or narcotic pain medication.

Is Lidocaine a Hazardous Waste?

Lidocaine is considered hazardous “…if the formulation’s pH is less than or equal to 2, it is classified RCRA hazardous waste.” By example, the EPA says a syringe with epinephrine and lidocaine is not considered hazardous waste since there is more than one active ingredient. However, if the formulation’s pH is less than or equal to 2, it is a RCRA hazardous waste for corrosivity.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provides guidance regarding medications that are known environmental hazards. These are called non-DEA, hazardous pharmaceutical wastes or RCRA drug wastes. The EPA rule, “Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals” applies to pharmaceutical wastes that meet the RCRA definitions. These include:

  • P-listed drugs, such as nicotine and warfarin
  • U-listed drugs, including lindane and melphalan
  • Pharmaceuticals with heavy metals, including the preservative thimerosal

Despite the gray area when it comes to some pharmaceuticals, it is always best to err on the side of caution and speak with a licensed waste hauler to determine the hazardous nature of any and all pharmaceutical waste.

EPA fines for noncompliance can be as high as $10,000 to $25,000 per violation per day, as well as jail time. Additionally, if your facility breaks any pharmaceutical waste transportation rules, the DOT can fine you up to $15,000 per violation.

Here at Red Bags, we specialize in healthcare waste management and can provide you with a consultation based on your pharmaceutical waste needs, including the disposal of lidocaine and other anesthetic drugs.

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Lidocaine a Hazardous Waste

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