What is medical waste?

Frequently asked questions about medical waste

What is “medical waste” or “potentially infectious” material?

The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 broadly defined medical waste as any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals. It excluded hazardous waste and household waste. Specifically, the law stated that medical waste included, but was not limited to, the following:

  • Items that are freely dripping liquid or semi-liquid blood or “potentially infectious materials” or could readily release infectious materials if compressed
  • Items containing dried blood or “potentially infectious materials” that could release flakes if compressed or otherwise handled
  • Human blood and blood products, including serum, plasma, and blood components
  • Hemodialysis waste of all items that were in contact with the patient’s blood (tubing, filters, towels, gloves, aprons, lab coats) and any other contaminated disposable equipment)
  • Human or animal isolation wastes (blood, excretion, exudates, secretions, and items contaminated with these) from humans or animals that have been isolated to protect others from communicable diseases
  • Sharps waste
  • Surgery or autopsy tissue, organs, or body parts (eg, adenoids, appendix, tonsils, amputated digits, hands, feet, arms or legs), also known as pathological wastes
  • Surgical and autopsy wastes (eg, soiled dressings, sponges, drapes, lavage tubes, drainage sets, underpads, and surgical gloves) that were in contact with infectious agents
  • Cultures or stocks of any virus, bacterium or other organism including discarded live attenuated vaccines and the items used to transfer, inoculate or mix cultures
  • Tissues, organs, body parts, bedding, carcasses, and body fluids from experimental animals that were exposed to infectious agents
  • Teeth in dentistry
  • Laboratory wastes that have been in contact with infectious wastes, including gloves, coats and aprons
  • Discarded medical equipment and its components that have been in contact with infectious agents
  • Any other discarded item or waste that an administrator believes poses a threat to human health or the environment
  • Potentially infectious body fluids (see below)

Which body fluids are considered infectious?

  • Amniotic fluids
  • Blood and its components
  • Cerebrospinal and synovial fluid
  • Dialysate and dialysis waste
  • Pericardial and pleural fluid
  • Peritoneal
  • Saliva in dental procedures
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions

What is a biohazard?

In general, the term “biohazard” describes any biological material (ie, plants, animals, microorganisms, or their byproducts) that may present a potential risk to the health and well-being of humans, animals, or the environment 29 CFR 1910.1030 (g)(1)(i)(A).

What goes in the Medmentum red bag?

  • Visibly bloody gloves, plastic tubing, or personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Gauze, bandages or other items saturated with blood
  • Securely closed disposable sharps containers
  • Pathological waste
  • Trace chemotherapy waste

These DON’T go in the Medmentum red bag:

Compressed gas cylinders (they’re hazardous waste, not biohazards)
Loose sharps (they must be packaged in sharps containers)
Hazardous and chemical waste
Radioactive waste

How do I package my red bag medical waste?

Check out our video:

  1. Line your container with the red bag prior to use.
  2. Tie the bag when the container is full.
  3. Each bag must be hand-tied by gathering and twisting the neck of the bag.
  4. Secure the lid on the container.
  5. Red bags must not be visible once the container is closed.

What Goes in the Sharps Disposal Container?

  • needles
  • lancets
  • syringes
  • broken glass
  • scalpels
  • culture slides
  • culture dishes
  • broken capillary tubes
  • broken rigid plastic
  • exposed ends of dental wires