Choices for Medical Waste Disposal

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					Believe it or not, all medical waste was not created equally. The Medical
Waste Tracking Act of 1988 defines medical waste as, "any solid waste
that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human
beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production
or testing of biologicals." However, to keep waste in an orderly fashion,
it became classified into four different categories: infectious,
hazardous, radioactive, and general.

Infectious waste, like its name implies, is waste that has the potential
to cause infections. These items are what we generally think of when
talking about medical waste. They include items such as bloody bandages,
cultures, discarded surgical gloves, and swabs. Hazardous waste is a
little more inclusive and sometimes tricky to differentiate from
infectious. Hazardous waste can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges
that are harmful to your health. These can include pesticides, discarded
syringes, or by-products of a manufacturing process. Hazardous waste
isn't limited to the confines of medical waste.

Radioactive waste is, for obvious reasons, very dangerous. This is waste
doesn't just come from nuclear power plants. It is also a form of medical
waste. It can result from radioactive medical treatments, cancer
therapies, and medical equipment that uses radioactive isotopes. Most of
the waste produced by medical facilities is actually general waste. This
waste isn't deadly or harmful at all. It includes paper, plastic, food,
and any other "normal" garbage that people produce. Unfortunately, many
don't separate their wastes and general waste is unnecessarily going
through medical waste treatments.

No matter which type of waste your facility is producing, you can't just
throw it out with the normal trash. Without proper medical waste
disposal, both humans and the environment are at risk. There are
facilities all over the country implementing different methods of medical
waste removal. One of the most common methods is incineration. However,
it is also the least safe for the environment. It is effective because
waste doesn't need to be separated. It is simply placed on a belt and
burned. Any resulting waste is safe to put in a landfill. The emissions,
though, produce a vast amount of pollution.

Another form of treating medical waste is through mechanical and chemical
disinfectants. Chlorine bleach has been used for years. The EPA believes
this to be a good method for treating liquid waste. Another alternative
to incineration is the use of microwaves. The medical waste is shredded,
mixed with water, and then placed in large microwaves. They internally
heat the waste and neutralize it. These medical waste services are much
more environmentally friendly than incineration.

No medical waste is ever safe and that's why it's important to use
medical waste management to properly discard it. Medical facilities need
to be aware of how to handle the waste and how to dispose of it to ensure
our safety.

For responsible medical waste disposal, and medical waste management,
hospitals and medical offices trust to provide
thorough disinfection without significant environmental impact.

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