When you’re considering healthcare facilities including clinics and hospitals, there’s an enormous amount of waste. Of this waste, the World Health Organization estimates about 80% is categorized as general waste, and 20% is defined as biohazard waste.
That 20% is further classified into three primary categories, which are infectious waste, hazardous waste, and radioactive waste. Infectious and anatomical waste makes up the largest majority of these subcategories, with estimates showing about 15% of hazardous waste is infectious or anatomical in origin.
These anatomical waste items are described as pathological, and they’re one of the most difficult for clinics and care facilities to handle, often.
Here are a few fast facts and tips that can help navigate the handling of pathological waste.
Pathological waste is described as human-derived materials, such as tissue, cells, and even teeth. It’s often produced during surgery and includes bodily fluids that might be removed. According to the World Health Organization, this type of waste can also include contaminated animal carcasses.
Who’s Impacted by Pathological Waste Regulations
While pathological waste isn’t commonly produced in primary care practices, it’s seen in most other care facilities and clinics. Of course hospitals product a significant amount of pathological waste, but so do centers where cosmetic surgeries occur, dental facilities where there may be surgery, and even vet clinics. Pathological waste may be produced by blood banks, labs, and mortuary centers as well.
State Regulations Dictate Handling of Pathological Waste
Some federal guidelines and regulations explain how clinics should deal with pathological waste, but much of the guidance comes from the state level, and it may vary pretty significantly between states. In Michigan, as an example, dealing with pathological requires the marking of waste with a biohazard tag and an “Incinerate Only” label. There are also specific guidelines, such as a requirement to place pathological waste in an opaque bag inside a fiber drum. The total weight of the drum under law in Michigan can not be more than 55 pounds unless there’s a single heavy animal in the drum.
It’s important for clinics to understand their state laws and regulations to have a proper protocol in place for handling pathological waste.
When employees work in a clinic or facility that deals with any level of pathological waste, it’s important they’re trained on how to handle it. Many clinics will make the mistake of not training part-time employees or administrative staff they might believe won’t be exposed to the waste, but this can become problematic. There can be situations that arise in which an employee may be required to deal with the disposal of pathological waste, and if they haven’t been trained it can expose the entire facility to possibly infected pathogens.
While chemotherapy waste, such as syringes that once held chemotherapy medication, may not be something produced by the body, clinics and healthcare facilities should treat this waste in the same way they treat pathological waste.
It’s viewed as being hazardous and has to be disposed of as such.
The best way for clinics, doctor’s offices and healthcare facilities of all types to most effectively deal with pathological waste is to partner with a licensed, experienced disposal company that can provide them with training, as well as the proper disposal containers and services that ensure disposal is done safely and correctly.