Collections > Master's Papers > Gillings School of Public Health > Survey of Infectious Waste Management Practices in Selected Acute Care Hospitals in the United States

In July 1987, 39% (200/519) of a survey of acute care hospitals throughout the United States responded to a comprehensive solid (infectious) waste questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to identify infectious waste handling, treatment, and disposal practices in U.S. acute care hospitals. Survey responses were received from forty-three of the fifty states. Most hospitals (71%) have a written comprehensive hazardous waste management plan (includes infectious waste, low level radioactive waste hazardous chemicals, and cytotoxic waste). Only (38%) of the hospitals reported they have an EPA hazardous waste identification number. Most hospitals (90%+) consider microbiological; human blood and blood products; pathological; and sharps (e.g., needles, scalpel blades) as infectious waste. This is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation. Furthermore, most hospitals (79%) are in compliance with the CDC recommended treatment methods for these types of infectious waste. EPA recommends that microbiological; blood and blood products; communicable disease isolation; pathological; contaminated sharps; and contaminated animal carcasses and body parts be designated as infectious waste. Furthermore, EPA has identified optional infectious waste categories as waste from surgery and autopsy; miscellaneous laboratory waste; dialysis unit waste; and contaminated equipment. For all the waste categories except contaminated equipment, most hospitals (80%+) considered these waste as infectious waste. However, only (26%) of the hospitals were in compliance with the EPA recommended treatment practices for all infectious waste categories. For the EPA infectious (less optional) waste categories 52% of the hospitals were in compliance with EPA recommended treatment methods. It is hoped this information will be useful to regulators, decision makers, hospital administrators, and others as the debate on regulating infectious waste continues.