Biomedical Waste Regulations:
What you need to know as a biomedical waste generator
After reading this information, you will have a better
understanding of how the revised regulations affect you. The
revisions to the Solid Waste Rules were made to protect
workers, families, and the public health of our community
from the transmission of infectious agents in the biomedical
waste stream. This information is part of an outreach program
by Whatcom County Health Department to educate biomedical
waste generators about the revisions to Chapter 24.06
Whatcom County Code (WCC), which include requirements for
biomedical waste handling.
A complete copy of WCC 24.06 is available online or by contacting: Whatcom County Health
Department, Environmental Health, 509 Girard Street,
Bellingham, WA 98225; (360) 676-6724; Fax: (360) 676-7646.
In response to community concerns regarding the handling
and treatment of biomedical waste, a Biomedical Waste
Community Task Force was established in October of 1998.
Out of the Task Force came many recommendations for the
generation, handling, storage, treatment, transportation
and disposal of biomedical waste.
These recommendations were used as the basis for the
revision of Chapter 24.06 WCC Solid Waste Rules.
Previously, there were no specific regulations for
biomedical waste and it could legally be handled the same
as municipal solid waste (MSW).
The rule revision, approved by the Whatcom County Council
became effective May 30, 2000, and includes specific
requirements for all aspects of biomedical waste
Generator: Any producer of biomedical waste.
Animal waste: Carcasses, body parts, etc. that have
been inoculated with microorganisms infectious to
Human blood and blood products: Waste blood and
materials containing free-flowing blood.
Cultures and stocks: Culture dishes, blood specimen
tubes, devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix
cultures that are infectious to humans.
Pathological waste: Tissue coming from biopsies,
surgery, obstetrical procedures or autopsies.
Sharps waste: All hypodermic needles, syringes &
IV tubing with needles attached, scalpel blades and
Respiratory isolation waste: waste contaminated with
blood or other potentially infectious bodily fluids
from humans isolated for disease spread by
respiratory or droplet transmission (i.e. pulmonary
suction canisters, gowns, masks, and other articles
that may have been contaminated.)
Biomedical waste must be segregated from other MSW at the
point of generation.
Biomedical waste must be treated prior to disposal into
the MSW stream.
Respiratory isolation waste must be treated prior to
disposal into the MSW stream.
Stocks and cultures containing microorganisms that may be
transmitted to humans via airborne droplet nuclei must be
treated on-site prior to transportation off-site (i.e.
tuberculosis, measles, and varicella).
A biomedical waste generator that treats biomedical waste
on-site must obtain a permit from the Health Department.
Containment and Handling of Biomedical Waste
Untreated biomedical waste cannot be compacted, ground or
Biomedical waste and respiratory isolation waste need to
be packaged in containers that are approved by the
Department of Transportation:
- The medical waste must be placed in a red plastic disposable bag clearly
labeled with the words "Biohazard" and the biohazard symbol.
These bags must be resistant to moisture and have strength
sufficient to keep from ripping, tearing, or spilling the
contents. The bags shall be securely sealed to prevent leakage
Bags containing biomedical waste will be placed in a
rigid container,including a corrugated cardboard
container or a covered reusable container. The rigid
container shall be labeled with a visible biohazard
symbol and the word "Biohazard."
Sharps shall be contained in rigid, puncture resistant,
leak proof containers made of materials such as metal or
plastic, designed to prevent the loss of the contents.
This container must be labeled clearly with a visible
biohazard symbol and the words "Biohazard" and "Sharps."
- Biomedical waste generated from self-treatment and disposed
of with residential waste from a single family residence are
exempt from these requirements.
- A biomedical waste generator may be granted an exemption
from the permitting requirements if all of the following are
- Less than 50 pounds of biomedical waste are treated per
- A biomedical waste treatment plan is submitted to the
- Generator registration is obtained from the Health Department
after the treatment plan is approved.
- Treated sharps waste is delivered to a permitted solid
waste transfer station and not disposed of in the MSW stream.
- Exempt biomedical waste generators may only treat waste
- Biomedical waste generators transporting less than 100
pounds per month of biomedical waste are exempt from transportation
requirements. However, all biomedical waste must be transported
to a facility permitted to accept biomedical waste.