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Medical/Infectious Waste


Background Information
Medical/Infectious Waste Definition
Regulation of Medical/Infectious Waste
OSHA Regulations
Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines


Background Information

Medical waste differs from hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is regulated by the US EPA (and related state rules) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Medical waste is not covered federal environmental laws or US EPA regulations (with the exception of a medical waste that also meets the definition of hazardous waste). Rather, medical waste is mostly controlled by state law and associated regulations. In addition to state environmental agency laws/rules, aspects of medical waste management are also controlled by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (federal and/or state) and Department of Transportation (federal and state).

Each of our 50 states have developed rules and implemented regulations for medical waste. The state rules vary to some extent, including terminology. Depending on which state you live in, you may hear the terms regulated medical waste, biohazardous waste or infectious medical waste. In most cases, these terms all refer to the same thing: that portion of the medical waste stream that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials, thus posing a significant risk of transmitting infection.

Most states have regulations covering packaging, storage, and transportation of medical waste. Some states require health care facilities to register and/or obtain a permit. State rules may also cover the development of contingency plans, on-site treatment, training, waste tracking, recordkeeping, and reporting.

In most states, the environmental protection agency is primarily responsible for developing and enforcing regulations for medical waste management and disposal. Although in some states, the department of health may play an important role or even serve as the primary regulatory agency. Where both agencies are involved, typically the department of health is responsible for on-site management and the environmental agency is responsible for transportation and disposal.

OSHA, whether it is the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration or an OSHA state program (24 states operate their own program), regulates several aspects of medical waste, including management of sharps, requirements for containers that hold or store medical waste, labeling of medical waste bags/containers, and employee training. These standards are designed to protect healthcare workers from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. However, they also help to systematically manage wastes, which benefit the public and environment.

Regulated medical waste is defined by the US Department of Transportation as a hazardous material. DOT rules mostly apply to transporters rather than healthcare facilities; although, knowledge of these rules is important because of the liability associated with shipping waste off-site.

Medical/Infectious Waste Definition

Medical/infectious waste is means any waste generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals. The definition of medical/infectious waste does not include hazardous waste; household waste; ash from incineration of medical/infectious waste, once the incineration process has been completed; human corpses, remains, and anatomical parts that are intended for interment or cremation; or domestic sewage materials.  Examples of medical/infectious waste include:

  • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents and associated biologicals, including: cultures from medical and pathological laboratories; cultures and stocks of infectious agents from research and industrial laboratories; wastes from the production of biologicals; discarded live and attenuated vaccines; and culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix cultures.
  • Human pathological waste, including tissues, organs, and body parts and body fluids that are removed during surgery or autopsy, or other medical procedures, and specimens of body fluids and their containers.
    • Human blood and blood products including:
    • Liquid waste human blood;
    • Products of blood;
    • Items saturated and/or dripping with human blood; or
  • Items that were saturated and/or dripping with human blood that are now caked with dried human blood; including serum, plasma, and other blood components, and their containers, which were used or intended for use in either patient care, testing and laboratory analysis or the development of pharmaceuticals. Intravenous bags are also included in this category.
  • Sharps that have been used in animal or human patient care or treatment or in medical, research or industrial laboratories.
  • Animal waste including contaminated animal carcasses, body parts, and bedding of animals that were known to have been exposed to infectious agents during research (including research in veterinary hospitals), production of biologicals or testing of pharmaceuticals.
  • Isolation wastes including biological waste and discarded materials contaminated with blood, excretions, exudates, or secretions from humans who are isolated to protect others from certain highly communicable diseases, or isolated animals known to be infected with highly communicable diseases.
  • Unused sharps including the following unused, discarded sharps: hypodermic needles, suture needles, syringes, and scalpel blades.

Regulation of Medical/Infectious Waste

Environmental Regulations

Wyoming does not have specific environmental regulations applicable to healthcare facilities for medical/infectious wastes, except where healthcare facilities operate an incinerator for processing medical/infectious waste (see Wyoming Air Quality Standards and Regulations Chapter 4, Section 5).  These rules are enforced by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

OSHA Regulations

In addition to the state medical waste incinerator regulations there are some Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules that apply to medical/infectious waste.  Wyoming is one of 24 states operating an approved occupational safety and health program.  This program is operated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Employment

Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines

Solid Waste Management Rules (Chapter 15, Solid Waste Rules and Regulations


Wyoming Department of Health

More Information

None located.