Liquid Waste Technology Fluid
Hospitals Have Many Disposal Options
By Kelli M. Donley
Regulations for the disposal of medical waste are different depending on each city and state's laws. However, the risk of exposure to medical waste is constant for healthcare workers (HCWs), even though the field of disposal offers a variety of options.
Ultimately, the goal with all liquid waste products is to keep hazardous material from infecting anyone else before being properly destroyed. This includes: having efficient equipment to clean up a spill, place the liquid, dispose of the liquid, and clean the canister. There are also human aspects that need to be taken into consideration. For effective liquid waste disposal, the HCW working with the waste must be sufficiently covered with personal protective equipment (PPE). Where the disposal takes place is also an issue; a non-patient area should be designed and equipped for disposal to eliminate any possibility of a patient becoming infected during the process.
The HCW also must know whether the canister used to dispose of the waste can be reused, or whether it also needs to be disposed. Also, a clean canister always should be available for backup.1
One option when disposing of liquid waste is solidification. Physical and chemical treatment of hazardous waste can turn liquid into a fixated and stabilized cement matrix. Once solid, the mixture cannot release any potential infectious pathogens.2
OSHA guidelines clearly support standard precautions to treating blood and other bodily fluids, as though they are all infectious. Considering all patients have not been diagnosed with potential bloodborne diseases, each spill and container of waste should be handled as though the liquid being disposed is HIV and hepatitis positive. 1
The 1910.14.a.i. guideline concerning liquid waste states: "Any receptacle used for putrescible solid or liquid waste or refuse shall be so constructed that it does not leak and may be thoroughly cleaned and maintained in a sanitary condition. Such a receptacle shall be equipped with a solid tight-fitting cover, unless it can be maintained in a sanitary condition without a cover. This requirement does not prohibit the use of receptacles which are designed to permit the maintenance of a sanitary condition without regard to the aforementioned requirements."3
Yet, the best equipment for disposing of liquid waste is a matter of opinion.
Mark A. Ceaser, the president and GM of Omni/Ajax in Great Meadows, says a debate surrounding solidification is a matter of perspective. While one product is said to solidify liquids, the result may actually be more gel-like and leak infectious materials when moved.
He argues that education is crucial for both HCWs and those developing the technologies, to prevent people in both areas from being exposed to potentially fatal waste.
"People think, 'If I can just throw it into a container, then I can throw it in a dumpster.' That is no longer the game. You can't play that and not risk the possibility of being fined due to improperly treated materials," he said. "Hopefully, as time goes on, people will become more educated on the risks of improper medical waste disposal so they treat medical waste--infectious waste--with respect and have an understanding that it is a ticking time bomb. How do you know when you were at work and you brushed up against a (sharps) container and possibly got clipped that the waste inside wasn't HIV infected material? You are trying to avoid these circumstances so that workers don't have these exposures and possible risks."
To eliminate these risks, a plethora of medical companies offer their solutions to minimize the amount of waste and also methods of protecting HCWs.
Ceaser's company, Omni/Ajax, produces OMNI-KAP a fluid solidification powder that was specifically designed for containerized wastes.
Metrex Medical offers a Vital 1 Safety Kit for liquid medical waste clean-up spills. The kit, following Universal Precautions, contains several products to handle a spill, including a solidifier and a large towel. There are also several PPE elements included. The kit has instructions on how to handle a potentially hazardous spill and make sure the materials are disposed of properly.
The company, based in Orange, Calif. also manufacturers a canister and several chemical products specifically for proper disposal of liquid waste. The Premicide biohazardous fluid sanitizer/solidification system works with the PremiGuard Closed Delivery system so blood, urine, and vomit are not aerosolized, sprayed, or splattered on any HCWs. Instead, the liquid waste is transformed into a solid substance that can be safely taken to an incinerator for disposal.
Metrex, which recently acquired OBF Technologies, uses one of the most widely known sterilants in their solidification products--glutaraldehyde. They successfully converted liquid glutaraldehyde into dry crystals. This allows liquids to become encapsulated by the sterilant, further reducing the infectious potential of the waste.1
The Red Away system, created by Dornoch Medical Systems, Inc., has a design slightly different than others on the market. The disposal unit allows the reusable suction canister to be flushed out by a jet that pushes on a rod and dislodges a cap that is located on the bottom of the canister. Blood and other liquid waste can then exit directly into the sewer drain. The system reportedly eliminates any risk of splashing or aerosolization with the 60-second flushing cycle.
Chris Hosler, vice president of marketing for Dornoch, said the system was designed for staff safety.
"Dornoch's unique reusable suction canister will help eliminate more than 4,000,000 pounds of red bag waste this year. More importantly, the Red Away's innovative engineering control design is protecting employees in more than 130 facilities from the splash, aerosolization, and clean-up risks associated with traditional suction canister disposal options," he said.
Another perk of the system is the convenience of installation. The company reports that no conversions are necessary to connect the system because sterile field and the vacuum sources are identical.
Mirotek Medical also has a line of products specifically for liquid waste cleanup. Their LTS-PLUS treats and encapsulates liquids at the point-of-generation. Their method of collecting the liquids reportedly reduces the HCWs potential exposure risk to the waste.
The company also produces ISOSORB, a solidification product that the company says is a faster polymer than others on the market.
Infection control practitioners and hospital administrators who are interested in updating their system of liquid waste disposal should research which company would best fit their healthcare center. With their decision, the top priority should always be ensuring HCW safety.
For more information on OSHA guidelines concerning liquid waste, long onto: www.osha-slc.gov/OshStd_data/1910_0141.html.
Need More Information?
|1. Bemis Health Care Products||www.bemis.com|
|2. Colby Manufacturing||www.colby.com|
|3. DiSorb Systems||www.disorb.com|
|4. Dornoch Medical||www.dornoch.com|
|5. Microtek Medical, Inc.||www.microtekmed.com|
|6. Metrex/OBF Technologies||www.metrex.com|
|7. Safetec of America||www.safetec.com|
|7. Stryker Instruments, Neptune Division||www.strykercorp.com|
|8. Waterstone Medical||www.waterstonemedical.com|