How is Biological Waste Defined in a Veterinary Practice?
Veterinarians are held to the same standards as physicians and medical facilities when it comes to the safe handling of biological waste. This starts at the source of the medical waste and does not end until it has been properly disposed of in a way that does not pose any type of risk to humans or the environment. Understanding what constitutes as biological waste in your veterinary practice is the first step towards its proper collection and disposal.
It seems easy enough, as the word waste typically refers to anything that we no longer have use or need for, but waste is more complicated at the medical level. This is due primarily to the possibility of bloodborne pathogens being present in the waste which could pose the threat of spreading an infectious disease. Animal biological waste is not exempt from the special standards in place for its reintroduction into the environment.
The EPA defines all solid waste as being any garbage or refuse generated inside of a veterinary office. This would include animal tissue, fluids, carcasses, laboratory chemicals, syringes, medical supply waste, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs and equipment, light bulbs, batteries and mercury found in thermometers. This is a very broad category, but the EPA further breaks it down into two sub-categories; hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste. Typical medical waste generated by the practices of veterinarians will fall under the non-hazardous category and would include things such as:
- Animal bedding
- Wound dressings
- Tissue samples
Where it may get confusing for a veterinarian is that while these are not considered “hazardous” wastes in the way that some solvents, drugs and batteries are, they may be considered a “bio-hazard”. Bio-hazardous medical waste is defined as material that could potentially contain infectious disease pathogens that pose a health risk those who come into contact with it. Almost all of the waste generated during routine treatment of animals in your practice should be classified as a bio-hazard to eliminate any risk of potentially spreading a bloodborne disease.
Bio-hazardous waste is also referred to as regulated medical waste and includes the following:
- The equipment, instruments and tools of a disposable nature that have been used in the diagnosis or treatment of an animal who is suspected of having a communicable disease.
- Tissues, blood samples and other excretions taken from a patient and used to help diagnose an infection or disease.
- Any specimens removed during surgery of the animal.
Special disposal practices are required for the various forms of biological waste that a veterinarian is generating in their day to day practices. The complications in definitions and various procedures necessitate a professional biological waste disposal company to assist you in segregating and disposing of waste in a way that is in full compliance with local laws, yet does not interfere with patient care.