Biohazard. When you see or hear the word biohazard, you may immediately think of some sort of high-suspense motion picture, perhaps a flick about some mysterious disease that is bringing humankind to its knees. In reality, biohazards can hit far closer to home. In fact, you may find yourself in a position where biohazards are in your home and you are in need of the services of a biohazard cleaning company.
If a member of your family has died under unfortunate circumstances in your residence, you may face a situation in which biohazardous material is at the location of where the loved one passed on. This type of situation can exist when a person dies a traumatic death or an unattended one that was not immediately discovered. The need for biohazard remediation can also arise if a traumatic, although non-fatal, event occurred in the home.
Definition of Biohazard
A biohazard is a dangerous biological substance that poses a real threat to the health of a human being. In fact, exposure to certain types of biohazards can be deadly. Biohazards include:
- Toxins (derived from a biological source)
In addition to being harmful to humans, biohazards also can be harmful to other animals and to the environment more generally.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Biohazard Levels
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classify biohazards in five levels. Biohazard cleanup typically is concerned with remediating pathogens found in Level Three and Level Four
Biohazard Level One: Pathogens at this level, including bacteria and viruses, only result in clinically mild illnesses.
Biohazard Level Two: Pathogens at this level cause only mild illness and include bacteria and viruses. These are a bit more difficult to contract.
Biohazard Level Three: Pathogens at this level can cause severe or fatal illnesses. These pathogens are both bacteria and viruses. There are vaccines or treatments for diseases caused by pathogens at this level.
Biohazard Level Four: This level includes viruses that cause severe to fatal illnesses. There are no vaccines or treatments for diseases caused by pathogens included at this level.
How Much Blood Is Too Much Blood?
Many cases in which a consideration of the need for biohazard cleanup assistance arises involves blood. An initial question oftentimes asked is how much blood is too much for an untrained person to clean up on their own? The best guideline to keep in mind is that if the blood encompasses more than the size of a dinner plate, seek professional assistance.
You also need to bear in mind that if you are cleaning up a smaller amount of blood, you need to utilize the protection guidelines outlined here. The only exception really is if you are cleaning up your own blood. Another exception may be if you are cleaning up the blood of your long-term intimate partner. However, you cannot be 100 percent certain that your partner doesn’t have some sort of bloodborne pathogen that he or she recently contracted.
Situations Requiring Residential Biohazard Cleanup
There are certain circumstances in which a residential biohazard cleanup, also known as biohazard remediation, may be necessary. Due to the dangerous nature of certain types of biohazardous pathogens, you likely lack the background and experience to safely and effectively address a biohazard cleanup. Beyond trained, experienced biohazard remediation specialists, no one is honestly in a position to undertake a safe and effective cleanup of biohazardous pathogens and materials.
The most common situations in which professional biohazard cleanup are needed include the aftermath of:
- Accidental death
- Traumatic injury
- Other types of violent crime
- Unattended death
Personal Protective Gear for Biohazard Cleaning Company Technicians
The safety of a person involved in biohazard cleanup, or biohazard remediation, is a paramount concern. The stark reality is that comprehensive biohazard cleanup demands that a person or persons come into direct contact with this harmful material.
In addition to proper training and experience, a person involved in a biohazard remediation must have proper personal protective gear or PPE. This gear includes:
- Apron, uniform, or smock
When dealing with PPE for biohazard cleanup, not any product will do. These items must be designed specifically to protect against biohazardous materials.
Consider the fact that the largest lawsuit settlement in California in 2017 involves surgical gowns designed to protect against hazardous pathogens in the hospital. While not specifically on point when it comes to biohazard cleanup, this case illustrates the importance of appropriate outer gear. In this case, a $454 million jury verdict came down because the manufacturer of these gowns misled consumers on their suitability for situations involving biohazardous material.
The reality is that a biohazard cleanup may require more than one session to complete. As a result, PPE must be removed and either properly disposed or sanitized after such a session. Fresh gear must be utilized for each session. Putting on previously used gear that has not been sanitized in dangerous and not proper procedure.
Ideally, much of the PPE used on a biohazard cleanup, including masks, gloves, and aprons or similar clothing covering, are disposed of properly at the conclusion of a cleaning session. They go into an appropriately marked biohazard bag or box and then disposed of, oftentimes through incineration. California law requires a specially licensed professional to transport and dispose of biohazardous waste.
Stages of Biohazard Cleanup
As referenced earlier, biohazard cleanup simply is not something within the realm of experience of most people. There are four essential stages associated with biohazard remediation:
The initial stage of a comprehensive biohazard remediation is the physical cleanup of biological material and items that have been contaminated by that material. At a biohazard cleanup site, the biological material comes in three forms:
- Other bodily fluids
- Other biological material
The biohazard remediation process is easier to undertake when contaminants are found on hard surfaces, like concrete. The process is far more complicated when contaminants are found on porous surfaces, including carpeting, fabric, and even many types of wood.
Contaminated materials that must be addressed during the cleanup stage run the gambit and include:
- Personal property
A mattress provides a good example of what is involved in the cleanup phase of a biohazardous remediation. For the sake of illustration, assume that a person died an unattended death due to natural causes, the passing on not being discovered for a week.
Because of decomposition, during that time period, blood and other bodily fluids and biological materials would have seeped into the mattress. Indeed, a considerable portion of the mattress would likely have been contaminated with biohazardous materials.
During this first stage of the remediation process, the contaminated mattress is addressed. This is typically done by cutting way that portion of the mattress that is contaminated with blood, other bodily fluids, and other biological matter. The contaminated part that has been cut out is placed in a prior biohazard bag or other containers for proper disposal.
The remainder of the mattress that wasn’t contaminated ultimately can be discarded in the manner permitted by California for mattresses more generally. (The state has specific regulations in place for where and how a mattress is to be disposed of.)
The thorough elimination of blood, bodily fluids, other biological matter, and contaminated items in the premises is only the initial stage of the remediation process. No matter how thorough a professional is at removing these contaminants and contaminated material, dangerous pathogens remain. As a result, a comprehensive sanitization of the death scene must occur.
Accomplishing the sanitization of the scene necessitates the use of medical grade chemicals of the kind that a homeowner will not likely have access. These are the types of chemical sanitization agents that hospitals use to control the occurrence or spread of dangerous pathogens in medical centers and among staff and patients.
Odors associated with a biohazardous situation can be pungent, pervasive, and seemingly permanent in the absence of professional deodorization. This most definitely is the case if the remains of a person were left in a room for more than a couple of days.
The decomposition process not only results in the release of harmful pathogens but putrid smelling gases as well. These foul-smelling odors really don’t completely dissipate on their own. Moreover, consumer deodorizing products are not sufficient to take on and defeat these types of odor.
As part of the biohazard cleanup process, a professional will utilize commercial grade deodorizing agents to address this issue.
The complete elimination of odors is required as part of the overall effort to make a residence habitable at the conclusion of the biohazard remediation process. The failure to accomplish this task has seriously negative consequences that include:
- Reduce the value of the property
- Render the premises not compatible with wholesome or enjoyable living
- Jeopardize the physical health of occupants
- Jeopardize the emotional or mental health of the occupants.
The ultimate objective of biohazard remediation as undertaken by a professional is to restore a home to a habitable condition. In the alternative, when the premises are commercial, the objective is to restore them to a safe and usable environment.
Prompt remediation lessens the damage done to a home following the presence of biohazards. Take a biohazard cleanup involving an unattended death as an example. An unattended death can result in the most challenging conditions as far as biohazardous material is concerned.
As a consequence of body decomposition, and the length of time that tends to elapse from death to discovery, fluids and other biological materials have an extended period of time in which to cause lasting damages to the premises. Depending on the circumstances, this can include everything from permanent damage to furniture to the lasting damage of flooring and walls. Prompt, thorough remediation is designed to arrest this degradation of the premises arising from biohazardous material.
You must not take the position that you can shortcut some of the steps involved in the remediation process. Safety and healthy living conditions mandate that these steps be taken.
In addition, the day may come when you elect to put your harm on the market. The failure to take all the steps necessary to fully remediate your home may leave your residence scarred in some manner by the traumatic event that occurred on the premises. This will have the unnecessary effect of lowering the property value of your home.
Privacy and Dignity
Other considerations to bear in mind when facing the prospect of a biohazard cleanup in your residence is your privacy and the dignity of your family member who passed. It’s well and good to seek out professional remediation assistance. In fact, you really must retain the assistance of a skilled biohazard cleanup specialist for the myriad of reasons discussed previously.
However, you will also want to make certain that whoever you engage for this task is committed to maintaining your privacy. In addition, such a professional must also be committed to honoring the dignity of the individual who passed under difficult and unfortunate circumstances.
Your Emotional Wellbeing
A final thought. The death of a loved one, or even an incident in your home that didn’t take a life but caused a serious injury, is an emotionally trying experience. You need not make matters worse for you by electing to undertake the cleanup of some traumatic event that occurred in your home.
The reality is that involving yourself directly in the cleanup process is only likely to further inflame the powerful emotions you already labor under. You need not add that added element of pain when you are already working mightily to work through your understandable grief in a healthy manner.
Keep in mind that you are not alone. As noted previously, there are skilled, compassionate professionals available to assist you in restoring the safety and livability of your home. In addition, there are other professionals well versed in assisting you to regain your emotional balance following a traumatic event in your home.