Medical waste

Medical waste is any waste that is generated as a by-product of healthcare work at doctor’s surgeries, dentists, hospitals and laboratories. It includes any material that could come into contact with the body during diagnosis, research, drug administration or any type of treatment.

Medical waste is primarily regulated by state environmental and health departments. EPA has not had authority, specifically for medical waste, since the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 expired in 1991. It is important to contact your state environmental program first when disposing of medical waste. Contact your state environmental protection agency and your state health agency for more information regarding your state’s regulations on medical waste.

Other federal agencies have regulations regarding medical waste. These agencies include Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and potentially others.

There are generally 4 different kinds of medical waste: infectious, hazardous, radioactive, and general.

The harmful chemicals from biomedical waste may pollute air, water, and land that in turn may cause health problems to the residents. Medical waste is considered as a source of contamination of land and water sources if not rendered harmless before it is buried in land or disposed in water. Health-care waste contains potentially harmful microorganisms, which can infect hospital patients, health workers, and the general public. Health-care waste in some circumstances is incinerated, and dioxins, furans, and other toxic air pollutants may be produced as emissions.

Air pollution, climate change, soil and water contamination.Poor waste management contributes to climate change and air pollution, and directly affects many ecosystems and species. Landfills, considered the last resort in the waste hierarchy, release methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas linked to climate change.

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