Biomedical waste, also known as infectious waste or medical waste, is defined as solid waste generated during the diagnosis, testing, treatment, research or production of biological products for humans or animals. Biomedical waste includes syringes, live vaccines, laboratory samples, body parts, bodily fluids and waste, sharp needles, cultures and lancets.
The main sources of biomedical waste are hospitals, medical clinics and laboratories. Because biomedical waste can be detrimental to human health, the law requires such facilities to follow procedures that protect the public from coming into contact with it. Agencies that regulate different aspects of biomedical waste include Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Biomedical wastes may be categorized as follows:
Human Anatomical Waste: Human body parts, tissues and organs.
Animal Waste: Animal body parts, carcasses, excreta, bleeding parts and wastes generated at veterinary hospitals.
Microbiology and Biotechnology Waste: Wastes from laboratory cultures, live or attenuated vaccines, human and animal cell culture used in research, wastes from biological toxins.
Waste Sharps: Needles, syringes, blades, scalpels.
Soiled Waste: Cloth containing blood stains, blood coated cotton balls, soiled plasters.
Solid Waste: Waste generated from disposable items like tubing and catheters.
Liquid Waste: Waste generated from laboratory housekeeping activities.
Incineration Waste: Ash generated from incineration of biomedical waste.
Chemical Waste: Chemicals used for disinfection.
Biomedical waste like sharps should be contained in leak proof, rigid, puncture- and break-resistant containers that are tightly lidded and labeled before storage, transport or disposal. Biomedical waste excluding sharps should be placed in leak proof plastic bags strong enough to prevent tearing, ripping and bursting open under normal conditions. The container holding the biomedical waste should be labeled with the international biohazard symbol.
Biomedical waste can be managed properly by ensuring proper segregation at the source, the use of accurate packaging (leak resistant, puncture resistant and not susceptible to degradation by cleaning agents in case the packaging is reused), appropriate color coding, proper in-house movement of waste (minimizing employee exposure to biomedical waste in a workplace), designating waste storage areas and ensuring safe disposal.
Biomedical waste can be disposed of through incineration or decontamination by heating with steam under pressure in an autoclave. Trash chutes must not be used for the transfer or disposal of biomedical waste.