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Biomedical waste in containers, held in accumulation area awaiting treatment

Biomedical waste is waste that is either putrescible or potentially infectious.[1] Biomedical waste may also include waste associated with the generation of biomedical waste that visually appears to be of medical or laboratory origin (e.g., packaging, unused bandages, infusion kits, etc.), as well research laboratory waste containing biomolecules or organisms that are restricted from environmental release. As detailed below, discarded sharps are considered biomedical waste whether they are contaminated or not, due to the possibility of being contaminated with blood and their propensity to cause injury when not properly contained and disposed of. Biomedical waste is a type of biowaste.

Biomedical waste may be solid or liquid. Examples of infectious waste include discarded blood, sharps, unwanted microbiological cultures and stocks, identifiable body parts, other human or animal tissue, used bandages and dressings, discarded gloves, other medical supplies that may have been in contact with blood and body fluids, and laboratory waste that exhibits the characteristics described above. Waste sharps include potentially contaminated used (and unused discarded) needles, scalpels, lancets and other devices capable of penetrating skin.

Biomedical waste is generated from biological and medical sources and activities, such as the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of diseases. Common generators (or producers) of biomedical waste include hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, medical research laboratories, offices of physicians, dentists, and veterinarians, home health care, and funeral homes. In healthcare facilities (i.e., hospitals, clinics, doctors offices, veterinary hospitals and clinical laboratories), waste with these characteristics may alternatively be called medical or clinical waste.

Biomedical waste is distinct from normal trash or general waste, and differs from other types of hazardous waste, such as chemical, radioactive, universal or industrial waste. Medical facilities generate waste hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials. While such wastes are normally not infectious, they require proper disposal. Some wastes are considered multihazardous, such as tissue samples preserved in formalin.

Risk of Biomedical Waste to Human Health[edit]

Disposal of this waste is an environmental concern, as many medical wastes are classified as infectious or biohazardous and could potentially lead to the spread of infectious disease.

A 1990 report by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded that the general public is not likely to be adversely affected by biomedical waste generated in the traditional healthcare setting. They found, however, that biomedical waste from those settings may pose an injury and exposure risks via occupational contact with medical waste for doctors, nurses, and janitorial, laundry and refuse workers. Further, there are opportunities for the general public to come into contact medical waste, such as needles used illicitly outside healthcare settings, or biomedical waste generated via home health care.[2]


Biomedical waste must be properly managed and disposd of to protect the environment, general public and workers, especially healthcare and sanitation workers who are at risk of exposure to biomedical waste as an occupational hazard. Steps in the management of biomedical waste include generation, accumulation, handling, storage, treatment, transport and disposal.[3]

On-site Versus Off-site[edit]

Disposal occurs off-site, at a location that is different from the site of generation. Treatment may occur on-site or off-site. On-site treatment of large quantities of biomedical waste usually requires the use of relatively expensive equipment, and is generally only cost effective for very large hospitals and major universities who have the space, labor and budget to operate such equipment. Off-site treatment and disposal involves hiring of a biomedical waste disposal service (also called a truck service) whose employees are trained to collect and haul away biomedical waste in special containers (usually cardboard boxes, or reusable plastic bins) for treatment at a facility designed to handle biomedical waste.

The international symbol for biological hazard.

Generation and Accumulation[edit]

Biomedical waste should be collected in containers that are leak-proof and sufficiently strong to prevent breakage during handling. Containers of biomedical waste are marked with a biohazard symbol (pictured). The container, marking and/or labels are often red.

Discarded sharps are usually collected in specialized boxes, often called needle boxes.

Specialized equipment is required to meet OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1450[4] and EPA 40 CFR 264.173.[5] standards of safety. Minimal recommended equipment include a fume hood and primary and secondary waste containers to capture potential overflow. Even beneath the fume hood, containers containing chemical contaminants should remain closed when not in use. An open funnel placed in the mouth of a waste container has been shown to allow significant evaporation of chemicals into the surrounding atmosphere, which is then inhaled by laboratory personnel, and contributes a primary component to the threat of completing the fire triangle. To protect the health and safety of laboratory staff as well as neighboring civilians and the environment, proper waste management equipment, such as the Burkle funnel in Europe and the ECO Funnel in the U.S., should be utilized in any department which deals with chemical waste. It is to be dumped after treatment bio


Handling refers to the act of manually moving biomedical waste between the point of generation, accumulation areas, storage locations and on-site treatment facilities. Workers who handle biomedical waste should observe standard precautions.[6]


The goals of biomedical waste treatment are to reduce or eliminate the waste's hazards, and usually to make the waste unrecognizable. Treatment should render the waste safe for subsequent handling and disposal. There are several treatment methods that can accomplish these goals.

Biomedical waste is often incinerated. An efficient incinerator will destroy pathogens and sharps. Source materials are not recognizable in the resulting ash.

An autoclave may also be used to treat biomedical waste. An autoclave uses steam and pressure to sterilize the waste or reduce its microbiological load to a level at which it may be safety disposed of. Many healthcare facilities routinely use an autoclave to sterilize medical supplies. If the same autoclave is used to sterilize supplies and treat biomedical waste, administrative controls must be used to prevent the waste operations from contaminating the supplies. Effective administrative controls include operator training, strict procedures, and separate times and space for processing biomedical waste.

For liquids and small quantities, a 1-10% solution of bleach can be used to disinfect biomedical waste. Solutions of sodium hydroxide and other chemical disinfectants may also be used, depending on the waste's characteristics. Other treatment methods include heat, alkaline digesters and the use of microwaves.

For autoclaves and microwave systems, a shredder may be used as a final treatment step to render the waste unrecognizable.

Regulation and Management by Country[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK, clinical waste and the way it is to be handled is closely regulated.[7] Applicable legislation [8] includes the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Part II), Waste Management Licencing Regulations 1994, and the Hazardous Waste Regulations (England & Wales) 2005, as well as the Special Waste Regulations in Scotland.

United States[edit]

In the United States, biomedical waste is usually regulated as medical waste. In 1988 the U.S. federal government passed The Medical Waste Tracking Act which set the standards for governmental regulation of medical waste. After the Act expired in 1991, States were given the responsibility to regulate and pass laws concerning the disposal of medical waste. All fifty states vary in their regulations from no regulations to very strict.

In addition to on-site treatment or pickup by a biomedical waste disposal firm for off-site treatment, a mail-back disposal option exists in the United States. In mail-back biomedical waste disposal, the waste is shipped through the U.S. postal service instead of transport by private hauler. While currently available in all 50 U.S. states, mail-back medical waste disposal is limited to very strict postal regulations (i.e., collection and shipping containers must be approved by the postal service for use) and only available by a handful of companies.


In India, The Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 and further amendments were passed for the regulation of bio-medical waste management. Each state's Pollution Control Board or Pollution control Committee will be responsible for implementing the new legislation.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reinhardt, Peter A., and Judith G. Gordon. 1991. Infectious and medical waste management. Chelsea, Mich: Lewis Publishers
  2. ^ The public health implications of medical waste: a report to Congress. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 1990; document no. PB91-100271
  3. ^ U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Finding the Rx for Managing Medical Wastes, OTA-O-459 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1990)
  4. ^ "National Research Council Recommendations Concerning Chemical Hygiene in Laboratories". United States Department of Labor. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Guidance on Closed Containers". Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  6. ^ http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/standardprecautions/en/
  7. ^ https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-waste
  8. ^ NetRegs - Current legislation lists
  9. ^ "Disposal of Medical Waste". Press Information Bureau. 25 July 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomedical_waste — Please support Wikipedia.
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48 news items

Times of India
Sat, 27 Sep 2014 13:15:00 -0700

Hospital authorities were also directed that the biomedical waste collecting company should be asked to pick up the waste regularly to maintain hygienic in hospital compound. The hospital authorities were also directed to ensure that proper hygiene was ...

The New Indian Express

The New Indian Express
Sun, 12 Oct 2014 17:35:54 -0700

PALAKKAD: At a time when the biomedical waste management system in Kerala is in a state of disarray, the government is turning a blind eye towards effective and less expensive decentralised system despite its recommendation by scientists and successful ...

Christian News Network

Christian News Network
Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:18:28 -0700

While plant officials denied that fetal remains were included in the containers brought to the facility from Canada, the outlet B.C. Catholic reported that they were advised by the British Columbia Health Ministry that “biomedical waste [which includes ...

The Times, Trenton - NJ.com

The Times, Trenton - NJ.com
Sun, 19 Oct 2014 08:00:00 -0700

The process, which includes clearing biomedical waste and other debris before securing the areas with fencing, follows a similar effort in Camden earlier this year. Marygrace Billek, Mercer County director of human services, said the state's decision ...
Times of India
Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:56:15 -0700

AHMEDABAD: With the burgeoning amount of medical waste generated from four municipal hospitals, two referral hospitals and 64 urban health centres, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has now given the work of treating the medical waste to a ...
PR Newswire (press release)
Tue, 14 Oct 2014 04:15:00 -0700

India, being one of the most populated countries in the worlds as well as one of the most rapidly developing country, is the source of a humongous amount of waste per annum, be it the municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, biomedical waste or e-waste.
The Daily Meal
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:56:15 -0700

All of the excrement is considered biomedical waste. The waste is bagged and disposed of like human waste would be disposed of. The doctors do not go into the area where Bentley is being housed and have no contact with the dog. “He's gotta suck it up ...
Hindustan Times
Tue, 21 Oct 2014 09:18:45 -0700

Their services are essential for the hospital in managing biomedical waste and various other services at the hospital. These are contractual workers and are being led by institute's contract workers' union. The strike initially paralysed the sanitation ...

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