Logo

Identifying and Handling Biological and Radioactive Wastes

Author: admin
Date: February 3, 2024

We’ve written several posts about how to determine whether your waste is actually waste and if it’s hazardous waste, using the four EPA lists (F, K, P, U) and testing for the four EPA characteristics of hazardous waste (toxicity, reactivity, ignitability, corrosivity [TRIC]). These are the steps you take to determine if a waste is hazardous using its chemical properties, but there are other types of hazards, including radioactive hazards and biological hazards. It may be surprising, but hazardous waste requirements only apply to listed or characteristic wastes; they don’t apply to radioactive or biohazardous wastes.

Radioactive waste

Radioactive wastes are produced by the nuclear industry (high-level spent fuel, low-level wastes), in medicine (such as radiation cancer therapy) and in life sciences research. Radioactivity is not included as one of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) TRIC hazard characteristics; radioactive waste is not regulated under RCRA or state hazardous waste regulations. Even though they are not regulated as “hazardous waste” under RCRA, radioactive wastes are potentially hazardous and are regulated at the federal level by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). NRC sets standards in Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) that are enforced by each state.

Radioactive materials decay over time. Some materials with short half-lives (fewer than 120 days) can be stored until radiation decays to background levels (typically 10 half-lives or more). These include radioisotopes used in life science research and nuclear medicine, such as phosphorous-32 (P32; half-life of 14 days) or sulfur-35 (S35; half-life of 87.4 days).

Longer half-life materials can be accumulated on-site for disposal at a regulated radioactive waste disposal site. Because radioactive waste is not regulated under RCRA, specific RCRA accumulation time limits and other hazardous waste management requirements do not apply. Of course, there are other radiation safety requirements that do apply to storage and handling of radioactive waste.

Biohazardous or medical waste

Biohazardous or medical waste refers to wastes containing blood, bodily fluids and potentially infectious materials produced at medical facilities, as well as to wastes potentially contaminated with infectious agents associated with biomedical research. The hazards of these wastes are biological, not chemical, in nature. These wastes are also hazardous, but as with radioactive wastes, they are not regulated as “hazardous waste.”

Medical waste is primarily regulated at the state level, including definitions for what is and isn’t considered medical waste, requirements for accumulating and managing medical waste on-site, and treatment and disposal. For example, California medical waste regulations are found in the California Medical Waste Management Act (CA H&SC Sections 117600–118360), which is enforced by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Definitions of what constitutes medical waste vary among states, but general categories of medical waste include:

  • Biohazardous or potentially infectious substances, such as blood or other bodily fluids, as well as potentially infectious micro-organisms (BSL-2). Debris contaminated with these materials would also be considered potentially infectious.
  • Pathology waste, including human and animal body parts, specimens and tissues.
  • Sharps waste, including needles, syringes, razor blades and scalpels, and other items capable of cutting or piercing skin.
  • Many states also regulate other materials, such as chemotherapy waste or certain waste pharmaceuticals as medical waste.

Medical waste is different from hazardous waste and radioactive waste, in that the hazard can be removed through thermal methods (such as heat or steam) or by chemical means (such as the use of bleach or other disinfectants), as well as by incineration. Once “killed” through heat or chemical disinfection, the biological hazard has been removed, and the waste is no longer potentially infectious — therefore, it is no longer considered a biohazardous waste. The EPA regulates disinfectants and substances that claim to have anti-microbial properties through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Additionally, many states have regulations requiring medical waste treatment technologies to be certified, licensed or regulated.

ACTenviro has experts available to help you with your waste at each step along the way, from determining what you have to proper disposal. Please reach out to us at [email protected], and let us know how we can help.

James Kapin is Principal Advisor for safety, health and environmental compliance for ACTenviro.  Jim is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with over 25 years of workplace safety and environmental protection experience.   Do you have any hazardous waste questions for Jim?  Or any other workplace safety or environmental compliance questions?  Let us know at [email protected]

ALL LOCATIONS

California
San Jose (Corporate Offices and Working
Facility)
967 Mabury Road
San Jose, CA 95133
Phone: (408) 548-5050
24.7 ER: (866) 348-2800
Fax: (408) 548-5052
Dixon
6940 Tremont Road
Dixon, CA 95620
Phone: (800) 559-3274
Los angeles
12235 Los Nietos Road
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Phone: (714) 545-2191
SUNNYVALE
1210 Elko Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Phone: (408) 548-5050
Fax: (408) 548-5052
san diego
2010 W Mission Road
Escondido, CA 92029
Phone: (858) 925-2500
sacramento
4 Wayne Court, Building 9
Sacramento, CA 95829
Phone: (916) 299-4228
inland empire
600 Iowa Street
Redlands, CA 92373
Phone: (909) 406-4400
merced
265 Riggs Avenue
Merced, CA 95341
Phone: (209) 722-4228
Fax: (209) 722-8228
Oregon
portland
13600 SE Ambler Road
Clackamas, OR 97015
Phone: (971) 279-6780
New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE
208 Murray Road SE
Albuquerque, NM 87105
Phone: (505) 445-9400
Fax: (505) 445-9401
ACTreatment (TSDF)
6137 Edith Boulevard NE
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Phone: (505) 349-5220
Fax: (505) 344-7986
El Paso
511 Highway 213
Chaparral, NM 88081
Phone: (575) 824-0164
ARIZONA
Phoenix
6212 S 75th Avenue #4
Laveen Village, AZ 85339
Phone: (602) 842-9160
Tucson
5568 N Camino De La Tierra
Tucson, AZ 85705
Phone: (520) 471-4672
Texas
dallas
4730 Bronze Way
Dallas, Texas 75236
Phone: (469) 518-6400
Fax: (469) 518-6402
HOUSTON
1700 North E Street
La Porte, TX 77571
Phone: (713) 568-2500
Fax: (713) 568-2501
Colorado
denver
4295 Kearney Street
Denver, CO 80216
Phone: (720) 386-2900
Pennsylvania
Fort Washington
500 Office Center Drive
Suite 400
Fort Washington, PA 19034
Phone: (626) 224-1666
Washington
spokane
1809 E. Houston Ave
Spokane, WA 99217
Phone: (509) 503-1300
Fax: (509) 503-1301
seattle
2923 S J Street
Tacoma, WA 98409
Phone: (253) 357-5200
Fax: (253) 357-5201
Copyright © 2024 ACTenviro. All Rights Reserved
Anthem MRF | Resources | Glossary | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy
footer logo
crossmenu