Observations on Infectious Waste Management

Gao ID: T-RCED-89-55 July 25, 1989

GAO discussed six states' infectious waste regulatory programs and infectious waste management issues. GAO found that: (1) 90 percent of the states regulated or planned to regulate medical wastes but did not necessarily have separate infectious waste laws or programs; (2) five of the six states had specific infectious wastes legislation, while Arizona used its general health, air, and solid waste legislation; (3) Arizona considered infected materials dangerous refuse and not acceptable for other solid waste collection; (4) three states had specific requirements to cover infectious waste handling, treatment, and disposal, two had guidelines to cover infectious waste management processes and the other recently imposed new requirements for infectious waste management processes; (5) New York routinely inspected infectious waste generators, transporters, treaters, and disposers, while the other five states did not routinely inspect handlers; (6) the states took few enforcement actions for inadequate infectious waste management; (7) 72 percent of the states had existing or proposed legislation recommending incineration of infectious wastes but lacked incineration performance standards; (8) California was the only state that had regulations for both on-site and off-site autoclave operations, while most generators followed manufacturers' operating standards; (9) the six states varied considerably in their requirements for placing infectious wastes in landfills; and (10) a medical waste tracking system would provide a sound basis for addressing infectious waste management problems.

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