What Is Biohazardous Waste?

Biohazardous waste is defined as material contaminated with potentially infectious agents that are considered to be a threat to public safety or health as well as the environment more generally. Liquid biohazards represent one of the types of dangerous biological matter a broad the public and biohazard remediation professionals face.

There are four general categories of biohazardous waste, the classifications based on the physical form of that waste. The four categories of biohazardous waste are:

  • Solid biohazardous waste (non-sharps)
  • Biohazardous sharps
  • Pathological waste
  • Liquid biohazardous waste

Solid Biohazardous Waste (Non-sharps)

Generally speaking, non-sharp solid biohazardous waste is an item somehow contaminated with biological material from a human being or other animal. Solid, non-sharps biohazardous waste can be realized at a traumatic biohazard cleanup scene in two ways:

First, different items at the scene of a traumatic biohazardous cleanup can be contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, and other biological material. This can include everything from the floor at such a scene to other items at such a location like a mattress, furniture, and other material.

Second, personal protection equipment utilized to remediate biohazardous waste can also fall into this category. This includes such things as:

  • Gloves
  • Masks
  • Aprons, smocks, or uniforms
  • Goggles
  • Masks
  • Equipment and materials used in the remediation

Biohazardous Sharps

Biohazardous sharps represent a category of hazardous biological waste that include items like:

  • Needles
  • Syringes
  • Capillary tubes
  • Scalpels

This category represents sharp instruments that become contaminated with biological material because of the manner in which they are utilized. These types of contaminated items typically are found in a healthcare or medical setting. With that said, needles and syringes are utilized by individuals who imbibe in certain types of injectable mind-altering substances. Needles and syringes become contaminated through this illicit use. Multiple individuals become exposed to blood, and possible bloodborne pathogens, through the sharing of needles and syringes.

Pathological Waste

Pathological waste is defined as unfixed human organs, tissue, or body parts. By this it is meant that pathological waste constitutes these elements of a human body that have been removed or otherwise separated from a body. The one exception is teeth, which are not classified as pathological waste.

This type of waste is most often found in a healthcare, medical, or research setting. However, there can be traumatic events, situations outside of a healthcare, medical, or research setting, that result in the creation of what technically can be classified as pathological waste.

Liquid Biohazardous Waste

Liquid biohazardous waste includes blood and other types of bodily fluids. In situations involving biohazard remediation associated with an accident, homicide, suicide, or unattended death, this type of biohazardous waste is likely to be most prevalent at the scene. Of course, blood and bodily fluids are also a primary concern when it comes to biohazard related safety in healthcare, medical, and research settings as well.

Liquid biohazardous waste can contain different types of dangerous pathogens. In addition, this type of waste can become contaminated with bacteria of different types. For example, following an unattended death, blood and bodily fluids become dangerous even if the deceased wasn’t infected with any type of bloodborne pathogen while living. Bacteria levels in blood and bodily fluids begin to increase to dangerous levels with a couple days after a person dies.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Environmental Health Services

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention is particularly involved in controlling exposure to biohazardous materials. The agency includes the Environmental Health Services, which is charged with preventing the spread of biohazardous waste to members of the public and throughout the environment more generally.

The CDC is also deeply involved in developing meaningful protocols to protect those individuals involved in biohazard cleanup, also known as biohazard remediation. The CDC provides resources for a broad spectrum of individuals who might be involved in cleaning up biological waste like blood and other bodily fluids. These include resources for private citizens with a more minor cleanup at their homes, healthcare and medical workers, and biohazard remediation specialists that address the aftermath of traumatic events or unattended deaths.

In addition to protocols for cleaning up the different categories of biohazardous waste, there are requirements to disposing of these materials. These requirements are contingent upon the physical nature of the waste. For example, blood and bodily fluids have different containment, transport, and disposal protocols than is the case for contaminated (or potentially contaminated) sharps.