If it weren’t for modern medical waste disposal laws, regulations, and technologies, our communities and our environment would be in serious danger.
Modern medical waste removal is governed by many laws, so much so that most take for granted just how long it has taken us to arrive at safe and effective medical waste management processes.
Medical waste removal became a hot button topic sometime in the late 1980s; at the time, beaches were being littered with disposed syringes, medications, and other healthcare-related waste. Laws such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 further advanced the Solid Waste Disposal Act, and with modern technologies such as incinerators and autoclaves, microwave units, and various chemical systems, we are healthier and better for it, and the same goes for our environment.
With that said, we should be thankful for the laws and governing bodies to help deal with our medical waste, and here are just a few reasons why.
We have proper labels and containers to keep us safe.
Red bags are red for a reason, just as sharps containers are rigid and puncture proof and are affixed with the proper labels. This alerts staff and waste haulers to the contents, and also potential contagions within the medical waste container. Many states categorize waste into sub-categorizes, such as cultures and stocks, human blood, blood products, sharps, and animal waste. Keeping types of medical waste separate and using properly marked containers is not only mandated by law, it helps you choose how and when, not to mention whom removes the waste for you. Once medical waste is discarded in its proper container, it must be handled and transported in accordance with the law not only for compliance reasons, but also for health and safety reasons.
We’ve come so far in educating medical waste generators.
A compliant, safe, and efficient medical waste removal program is only as strong as the people who implement and follow it. In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promulgated the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. This standard is designed to protect approximately 5.6 million workers in the healthcare and related occupations from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). There are other resources and training programs for medical waste producers to help prepare a program that will ensure the safety of workers, as well as decrease the chances of infection and contamination.
Overall, infection control is optimized through better treatment options.
Medical waste treatment is the most important part of safely disposing of medical waste. Nowadays, most medical waste is autoclaved. Autoclaves produce no toxic material. They only need electricity and water to run, and the only thing that comes out is steam and sterilized waste. By the time the waste is sterilized, all micro-pathogens have been destroyed.
Sharps management has come a long way.
Sharps is actually the medical term for a sharp-pointed object that can cut or puncture the skin, and this includes needles, syringes, lancets, auto-injectors, and connection needles. Under the FDA, we have a stringent set of guidelines and laws on how to deal with sharps waste. Sharps containers are regulated by the FDA as a Class II general hospital medical device through the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
According To The FDA, Sharps Disposal Guidelines State:
- Used sharps can only be disposed of in a sharps container
- Sharps containers may be supplied by companies such as Red Bags
- Sharps containers must be rigid and puncture-proof
Without these regulations, we seriously run the risk of harming healthcare staff and the communities they serve.
Other industries benefit from modern medical waste disposal laws, too.
Healthcare facilities like hospitals, dental clinics, nursing homes, and physicians’ offices generate a large amount of daily medical waste, but other industries are also subject to medical waste laws. Tattoo parlors, veterinary practices, and funeral homes, all of which deal with instruments that come in contact with bodily fluids and other regulated medical waste, are just as likely to spread infection if not for modern medical waste laws.
For centuries, we have had to deal with the problem of what to do with the solid waste we generate. As technology, science, and public health has evolved, so, too has the knowledge of proper disposal needs, and for public health and safety reasons, we should all be thankful for these advancements.
Want to learn more? Follow Red Bags’ blog to be up to date on the latest happenings in the medical waste industry.
You Might Also Like:
- Getting to Know the Common Medical Waste Agencies and Their Roles: CDC, EPA, DOT, OSHA
- Personal Waste vs. Regulated Medical Waste: What’s the Difference?
- The Scariest Medical Waste Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
- Sharps Fact Sheet