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Management of Pharmaceuticals at Healthcare Facilities

Medicines improve our quality of life, but there are some important issues regarding the proper disposal of unneeded or unwanted medicines. The disposal of pharmaceuticals when no longer needed poses a threat to our environment. Glycon LLC has developed a program to manage these unwanted pharmaceuticals safely and in compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

One of the ramifications of mismanagement of unused medications is the environmental effects resulting from poor pharmaceutical disposal practices. Through the years, pharmaceuticals have been largely discarded through either flushing or “sinking” them into the wastewater stream or discarding them into the solid waste stream. In the first instance, the wastewater is treated to remove physical, chemical, and biological contaminants, such as sediment, bacteria, and viruses. However, this treatment does not remove all organic molecules, which are inherent in pharmaceuticals. Thus, many of these molecules remain entrained in the treated waste water which is discharged into reservoirs, rivers, or lakes. Likewise, drugs disposed of as solid waste (into landfills) may leach these organic molecules into aquifers and into the fresh water supply.

Once these “trace drugs” are in the water supply, they present dangers to aquatic life. Dangers also result from water being collected for treatment at water treatment plants and then piped to consumers. Most treatment plants are not designed to remove all drug residue.

The Environmental Protection Agency established the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, commonly referred to as RCRA, in 1976. RCRA is the federal law that governs the disposal of solid and hazardous wastes. Discarded pharmaceuticals are solid wastes, and it is estimated that between 5% and 10% are also classified as hazardous wastes when discarded.

Under the current federal hazardous waste regulations, until a pharmaceutical is actually discarded, or the decision is made to discard the material, the pharmaceutical is not subject to the RCRA hazardous waste regulations — since a material must first be a solid waste before it can be considered a hazardous waste. When a pharmaceutical is no longer usable, or the decision is made by the generator to discard the material, the RCRA regulations apply, and the generator must determine whether the waste is a RCRA hazardous waste. When faced with the question of whether or not a waste is regulated as hazardous under RCRA, turn to 40 CFR 262.11. This regulation will remind you of the four steps in the RCRA hazardous waste identification process.

Hazardous Waste Types

Listed Wastes – Wastes that EPA has determined are hazardous. The lists include the F-list (wastes from common manufacturing and industrial processes), K-list (wastes from specific industries), and P- and U-lists (wastes from commercial chemical products).

Characteristic Wastes – Wastes that do not meet any of the listings above but that exhibit ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity.

Universal Waste– Batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment (e.g., thermostats), and lamps (e.g., fluorescent bulbs).

Mixed Wastes – Waste that contains both radioactive and hazardous waste components.

Verify whether the discarded pharmaceutical waste appears on any of the hazardous waste lists and/or exhibits at least one of the four characteristics, and if it does, manage it under RCRA subtitle C hazardous waste regulations.

Because of the size of our current pharmacopeia and the many different formulations, dosages and modes of administration of these many drugs, healthcare facilities often face a daunting task when attempting to properly classify their waste pharmaceuticals for disposal purposes. The EPA believes many healthcare-related facilities are unaware of their RCRA obligations. RCRA hazardous waste management requirements often are unfamiliar to healthcare workers, retail pharmacists, and other generators prompting them to dispose improperly of hazardous pharmaceutical wastes as municipal or bulk wastes.

How often should I schedule pick up for my medical waste disposal?

As a matter of fact, there aren’t any Federal infectious medical waste disposal regulations at this time. This issue was left for each State to decide what their regulations will be.

OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard does not address this issue either.

In California, the storage times are different for biohazardous waste disposal and sharps disposal.

A facility that generates less than 20 pounds of biohazardous waste per month may store it for 30 days.”

That means pickup for a small medical waste generator should be scheduled for about once a month.

The waste may be stored for up to 90 days if kept at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Good storage habits may allow a less frequent pickup schedule.

Good storage habits would mean storing the medical waste containers in a place that is easily cleaned, not permeable (in case of spills) and made of durable materials that would provide protection from water, rain and wind so the containers remain dependably intact. Good storage would keep the containers in a place with limited access, preferably in a place where only trained employees can enter, so that the chance of damage, leakage or spills is minimal.

Good storage would be a place where the floor is not carpeted, has no open seams, and if there are floor drains, they must discharge to a sanitary sewer disposal system. The area should be kept clean and well-maintained, be in good repair, and if there are biohazardous waste containers in there, the international biohazard symbol needs to be posted at the entry.

Once a medical waste disposal box is filled, it needs to be packaged. Then, it should be picked up within 30 days. The countdown begins once the box is packaged.

However, sharps disposal containers have a different time frame. They can remain in place until they are ready to be changed, which is just slightly before the level reaches the “full” line. So, if you are a generator of mainly sharps disposal, like a tattoo parlor, the frequency of the medical waste pick-up would depend on the frequency of your sharps disposal containers reaching the full lines.

Hospitals and Nursing Homes are under other State regulations that require biohazard and regular trash to be removed every day or sooner, if needed. This is to protect patients and visitors, who are also at risk of exposure, especially little children, who are curious and may try to check out any unfamiliar things in their environment. Other people at risk for contamination and infection are support service workers. Cleaning personnel and laundry workers are the first people exposed to medical waste that is improperly disposed of or left around.

Again, the sharps disposal containers are not included in the daily removal requirement.

If you’re a small medical waste disposal generator, and you’re still not sure how often to schedule pick-up for your medical waste, here are some indicators:

To determine how frequently your facility needs to schedule pickup by a medical waste disposal company, you should weigh the amount of biohazardous waste (sharps not included) that your business generates in a month, and call to consult with our OSHA-trained experts.

You’ll know if your medical waste has been lying around for too long. One indicator that it’s beyond time to schedule a pickup is odor. Odors can indicate improper storage of your medical waste disposal (like a hot, moist boiler room), or be indicative of the type of waste you’re disposing of, but it’s a pretty reliable yardstick for the frequency of your pickup.

Don’t wait until it becomes that clear, though. Contact us for help to determine how often you should be scheduling pickups before the situation gets smelly.

The problem of treatment of medical waste pollution in the US.

Your home now produces medical waste that cannot go into the regular trash. it’s a more convenient option to manage care from home.

It’s a more convenient option to manage care from home. From diabetes to renal failure that requires dialysis treatment home medical care is an important aspect of managing a variety of diseases. It means your home now produces medical waste that cannot go into the regular trash.

It can be risky if you don’t dispose some items such as syringes, soiled bandages, used dialysis filters, needles, lancets, disposable sheets/clothing properly and safely.  Even old medication can seriously harm family, friends, and sanitation workers.

The primary type of at-home medical waste consists of sharps. Hypodermic needles, lancets, IV tubing with needles, glass tubes, and syringes no longer in their original containers are all considered sharps.

Medical sharps can poke through garbage bags causing injury to sanitation workers and others if you improperly throw them into household garbage. Children and pets may come in contact with the household garbage. Used needles can transmit serious diseases.

Managing Medical Waste At Home

Place needles, syringes, lancets and other contaminated sharps in any puncture-resistant and disposable household container. Medical waste management at home isn’t so difficult. However it still requires precision and care. Containers should be made of plastic or metal and have a small opening so no one can stick their hands into it.

An empty bleach bottle, laundry detergent bottle, or metal coffee cans can also be there.

At home, depending on your state, you can treat your own medical waste by filling the container with one part bleach solution and ten parts of water and allow the solution to soak for 20 minutes to sterilize your sharps. This solution can be poured into the sink, but then you must seal the cap with heavy-duty tape before placing the disposal container into the garbage. Not all municipalities may allow this, however. Many states have collection sites for sharps disposal.

Before you place soiled bandages, dialysis machine filters, disposable sheets, clothing, and medical gloves in the regular trash dispose of separately in securely fastened plastic bags.

Home medical care means making life as easy and convenient as possible for you and your home health aids. We know it well. Our company has safe and effective methods of medical waste disposal so you can do nothing but leave the medical waste worry to us. Don’t treat medical waste yourself, or if you’re unsure about collection sites.

No job is too big or too small for us.

Contact us today to discuss an option plan that works for you! (844) 494-8222

Medical Waste Requirements

Medical waste is often referred to as regulated medical waste, biohazardous waste, or, more merely, hazardous waste, medical waste is more known as biomedical waste.

According to DEEP, medical waste, or biomedical waste is defined as “…infectious, pathological and/or chemotherapy waste generated during the administration of medical care or the performance of medical study involving humans or animals.” State law eliminates hazardous and radioactive waste from biomedical waste.

There are very specific rules for medical waste disposal depending on the type of waste. Infectious waste, such as sharps and body fluids, must be disposed of via incineration or autoclaving. Per DEEP, chemotherapy waste and pathological waste, including human tissue must be disposed of by incineration.

Storage of medical waste is rather stringent. Medical waste must be stored away from other waste materials and only accessed by authorized transporter, personnel, and treatment facility operator.

The most unusual regulation is what happens when a patient asks to keep a limb or organ, whether it’s for religious or personal reasons. The limb or organ in question is created at a hospital, the hospital is considered “generator,” the facility bears the responsibility of proper disposal. While it’s not exactly outlawed to pass these artifacts to patients, the state endorses that healthcare specialists caution patients about disposal practices and dangers of infection.

As a medical waste generator, your best development of action is to hire a compliant medical waste disposal company to take care of the complicated disposal process. Our program helps your staff treat with new and revised procedures.

Contact today to discuss how we can help you comply with your state medical waste requirements.

Choosing The Right Sharps Containers For Your Facility

Regulations State That Healthcare Facilities Must Follow Specific Criteria When Choosing Sharps Containers.

The best defense against sharps-related injury is implementing a sharps safety program. OSHA recommends that institutions look at their needle devices. It helps to determine safety and check how you handled and disposed of sharps. Part of this process includes choosing the right sharps container to keep sharps out of the trash and held in a safe receptacle prior to disposal.

Sharp disposal guidelines state:

  • Used sharps can only be disposed of in a sharps container
  • Sharps containers may be purchased from supply companies
  • Sharps containers must be rigid, puncture-proof, and have lids that seal securely

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. There is a list of questions product evaluators should ask when selecting a sharps container that manufacturers should consider in the design process. These include puncture resistance, mounting systems, safety features, opening and closing mechanisms, safe transport, autoclaving capability, potential for spillage, ease of use, handling procedures, overfill protection, container access, container color and warning labels, and cost effectiveness.

Outlining what is required for safe containment and accessibility the CDC also offers a “performance criteria” for sharps disposal containers. This factors includes visibility, accessibility, functionality, and accommodation.

Aside from regulations, facilities should determine how quickly they will accumulate sharps waste, how many sharps areas they will require, or, if applicable, will they be mobile or fixed sharps containers?

Working with a certified and responsible medical waste disposal company is an easy way to select the right sharps container. We can ensure your staff’s safety and your company’s regulatory compliance When you work with a company like ours you are working with a company who can help you manage all of your medical and pharmaceutical waste disposal needs, including purchasing the right sharps container for your facility.