Defining biohazardous waste includes any waste products that have the risk of carrying human pathogens. Biohazardous waste is present all around us — in our doctor’s and dentist’s offices, in public restrooms, and in the wastebaskets of our schools and businesses
The Definition of Biohazardous Waste
According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, biohazardous waste is “any waste containing infectious materials or potentially infectious substances such as blood. Of special concern are sharp wastes such as needles, blades, glass pipettes, and other wastes that can cause injury during handling.”
Examples of Biohazardous Waste
- Human blood and blood products. This includes items contaminated with blood that will release blood in a liquid or semi-liquid form when compressed.
- Human body fluids. Examples include, but are not limited to, semen, vaginal secretions, amniotic fluid, saliva, and pleural fluid.
- Pathological waste. Waste biopsy materials and any human tissues or body parts from autopsy, surgery, or other procedure.
- Microbiological waste. Discarded live and attenuated viruses, discarded specimen cultures, and disposable culture dishes.
- Sharps waste. Used needles or any sharp object (scalpels, glass slides, broken glass) that have been contaminated with potentially infectious materials.
Unlike hazardous chemical or radioactive waste, there is no one federal agency that clearly defines or regulates biohazardous waste. To prevent infection, it is recommended to apply a universal precautions approach to all blood and body fluids. This means handling all biological materials as if they contain an infectious disease.
If you are facing a blood spill, unattended death, or other trauma cleanup, know that you don’t have to face it alone. Biotrauma is an industry leader in bioremediation and trauma scene cleanup and maintains the highest standards in cleaning, sanitation, and safety compliance.
The 4 Levels of Biohazards Defined
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) groups biohazards into 4 distinct groups:
- Biohazard level 1: Agents that do not generally cause disease in healthy humans. An example of a level 1 biohazard would be bacillus subtilis, a soil bacterium that can sometimes cause illness in individuals with weakened immune systems.
- Biohazard level 2: These agents can cause severe illness in healthy humans, but can only cause infection through direct contact with infected material or through ingestion. Examples of a level 2 biohazard are HIV, salmonella, and hepatitis B.
- Biohazard level 3: Pathogens that cause serious diseases and can become airborne. An example of a level 3 biohazard would be tuberculosis, a lung disease that can be passed from person to person through the air.
- Biohazard level 4: Pathogens that cause diseases for which there are no treatments. An example of a level 4 biohazard would be marburg virus, a fatal form of hemorrhagic fever that is transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids or contaminated objects.
How to Protect Yourself: The best way to prevent illness is to eliminate your exposure to biological agents. Under normal circumstances this can be as simple as washing your hands often, staying up to date on your vaccinations, and regularly sterilizing surfaces in your home and at work.
However, if an extreme circumstance presents itself (a co-worker is involved in a traumatic accident, a friend commits suicide, a loved one falls victim to a violent crime) and you find yourself faced with the cleanup, you should turn to a professional for help.