Glossary of Medical Waste Terms


Glossary of Medical Waste Terms

Material or cleansers that kill bacteria. Note that products that advertise as antibacterial are not required to destroy all bacteria, just to kill most with proper use.
Material or process that destroys fungus and fungus spores.
Inhibiting the development of abnormal tissue growth. Anti-cancer drugs are antineoplastic.
Material or process that is clear of pathogens and discourages growth of microbes.
Device used to sterilize laboratory and clinical medical equipment. Usually a closed chamber in which items intended for reuse - not waste, but things like scalpels - are placed for heating through either wet or dry means. The autoclave is usually a pressure vessel - meaning a metal enclosure that can be sealed and pressurized with no leaks.
Best Demonstrated Available Technology (also BAT) - Most effective commercially available means of treating waste. BDAT is different for different types of waste and may change over time.
Biological waste
this term is not used in medical waste management circles and is too imprecise to be used in the larger waste community. It is a layman’s term, not a professional one.
Best management practice
Biomedical waste. Same as medical waste
Body substance isolation - Policy of containing fluids from a sick person to reduce chances of spread of infection or of hazardous medicines and tissue
capable of causing cancer or of causing existing tumors to grow
Conditionally exempt small quantity generator. In some jurisdictions, small producers of medical waste may avoid the paperwork generation required of larger generators. Consult your regional regulatory agency.
Chemical treatment
Application of chemicals (possibly with high temperatures or pressures) with the intent of changing the waste to make it less hazardous or more stable.
clean (as a noun)
free or dirt or unwanted material. Subjective term because it does not specify a level of acceptable dirt.
clean (as a verb)
to remove dirt or unwanted material. Makes no claim about level of effort
Clean Room
Room kept free from dust. Some manufacturing or diagnostic facilities employ clean rooms in their operations. They are expensive to build and operate. Industry standard specify different levels of clean rooms. While the focus on clean is usually on particulate matter rather than pathogens, clean rooms are usually sterile also.
CSR wrap (Central Supply Room Wrap)
Standard piece of fabric many hospitals employ for handling of medical equipment. Made of tear-resistant material that lets chemicals and radiation in for sterilization.
Suppressing the growth and multiplication of the cell. Most chemotherapy drugs are cytostatic.
toxic to the cell. Traditional "old-style" chemotherapy drugs are cytotoxic.
desechos medico
Spanish for "medical waste". You might see this on warning signs or labels.
Chemical that is applied to kills microorganisms. Often in liquid form and often applied to solid surfaces although liquid waste are mixed with liquid disinfectants in some cases.
describes a cleaning that is more rigorous than sanitizing.
Disinfected means almost all the pathogens are gone. Implies a level of cleanliness lower than that of sterile; hardy spores may survive the disinfection process.
Placement of waste in place for long-term (indefinite, presumably permanent) disposal.
Environmental Protection Agency
ETO sterilization
Use of the gas ethylene oxide to sterilize or disinfect. Often used on equipment which would be damaged by high temperatures or harsh chemicals. More on EtO.
Failure mode and effects analysis
Failure mode, effects, and criticality analysis
Fault tree analysis
Can destroy or damage DNA or RNA and thereby cause mutations.
Hazardous waste
Waste that poses a credible risk to people and/or the environment. Different jurisdictions have different definitions, as specified either by law or regulations. RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) hazardous waste is the most widely used definition, being defined as waste that is corrosive, reactive, ignitable, or toxic.
Healthcare general waste waste produced at medical facility that haven't been in contact with patients and does not need to be managed as a medical waste. The HCGW stream typically ncludes paper, plastic, and food waste.
Healthcare risk waste Waste from medical facilities that poses a risk to human health and the environment. Aka medical waste.
Hospital Pollution Prevention Program - A California state-coordinated program to reduce rate of medical waste generation.
Hospital, Medical, and Infectious Waste Incinerators
Hazard and operability study
Hazardous waste
Waste that can have a harmful effect on human health or the environment. RCRA defines hazardous waste as either (1) containing materials enumerated in the federal register ("listed waste") or (2) "characteristic waste" - being ignitable, corrosive, highly reactivity, or toxic
Burning to completion with excess oxygen
Any of many pieces of equipment or processes (groups of equipment) in which combustion takes place. Medical waste incinerators are operated with the intent to burn anything that is present to completion.
Infectious Waste
medical waste that is capable of causing disease in another human if that person comes into contact
log 6 kill
desribes aftermath of disinfection or sterilization process where fewer than on in a million microbes survived.
Land Disposal Restrictions
Low-level radioactive waste - waste contaminated with radioactive materials but at a radiation level low enough that the waste is not classified as intermediate-level waste or high-level waste. Almost all radioactive waste generated in medical facilities is LLRW.
Large Quantity Generators - facilities that produce 1,000 kilograms per month or more of hazardous waste
Mean time to failure
Medical wasre
Medical Waste Treatment Act - 1988 federal law that gave the EPA authority to regulate medical waste in a few states - Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico - for two years. It was a response to medical and other waste washing up along the shore in New Jersey and New York. The hope was federal leadership by the EPA would produce model regulatory frameworks and rules that state could emulate.
Living being too small to be seen with the naked eye. Often single-celled or smaller. Includes bacteria, viruses, and some fungi. A challenge to those who disinfect or sterilize equipment and places because they cannot be seen easily.
Material Safety Data Sheet - document - usually one or two pages - summarizing potential hazards of materials stored at a facility. An important part of hazards communication to employees and visitors to a building or operating site. In recent years these are sometimes calls SDS (safety data sheets.)
Causes mutations at the genetic level
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Occupational exposure limit - highest concentration in air in workplace for a given compound, to protect worker health
Occupational Safety and Health Administration - US federal agency that promulgates standards and rules around workplace safety
Organic waste
Waste with organic (carbon-containing) materials. Usually refers to waste that is biodegradable and comes from either a plant or animal. Much of medical waste is organic waste, but the term organic waste is too broad to be of use in most management scenarios.
P-listed waste
Acutely toxic waste containing compounds specifically enumerated in the federal register under RCRA “p list” auspices. Includes some medicines.
Pollution prevention. Systematic work and operational processes to reduce creation of pollution.
Living organism - usually a single-celled organism or virus - that causes disease in a larger organism.
Putrescible Waste
Waste that contains organic matter which decomposes by microorganisms, resulting in strong odors. This organic material often includes food waste, used diapers, and pet waste. This term is not used by medical waste professionals.
Pathological waste
Recognizable human or animal body part, organs and tissue that is waste. Definition has been expanded to include bodily fluids generated in during surgery or autopsy.
Privately owned treatment works
Personal Protective Equipment - Phrase used in industrial hygiene circles to describe equipment to protect employees from hazards. PPE includes gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits
Heat treatment process sometimes used for waste. Raises temperature of waste with insufficient oxygen to allow complete combustion. Heat nevertheless alters chemical constituents.
Q-listed waste
Hazardous waste containing compounds specifically enumerated in the federal register under RCRA “q list” auspices. Includes some medicines.
Regulated medical waste
See regulated waste.
Regulated waste
OSHA's term for blood, blood product, and blood-contaminated waste generated in healthcare facilities, and for some other potentially infectious material. This includes sharps and pathological and microbiological wastes containing bodily fluids.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act - 1976 US Federal law that defined hazardous waste and gave some rules on management.
Regulated medical waste
Reliability and Probabilistic Risk Assessment
Small Quantity Generator - facilioty that produces less than 1,000 kilograms of non-acutely hazardous waste in that month
Structured What If Technique
to clean. This word is used in food regulations. It generally means to remove visible dirt and evidence of animal, fecal, and urine waste, It makes no claim about viruses,
Dormant, reproductive cell formed by certain organisms. Hard to kill because it evolved to is survive harsh conditions. Most spores are not pathogenic, but some are. Food poisoning is sometimes produced by spores
Standard precautions
Methods and practices for controlling release of bodily fluids to prevent transmission of infection.
Cleaned to remove living organisms and spores. Implies cleanest level normally achieved in commercial operations and a standard in some management schemes for medical waste.
To kill living organisms or at least to disable their ability to reproduce. The most extreme form of cleaning as far as leaving biological residues.
Treatment, storage, and disposal facility
capable of causing birth defects
The amount of waste a system or process moves from creation to disposal in a period of time. Maximum possible throughput is called capacity.
Universal precautions
Methods and practices for controlling release of bodily fluids to prevent transmission of infection.
Infectious agent that typically consists of DNA and/or RNA in a protein coat, A virus replicates only within the cells of living hosts which can be bacteria, plants, or animals.




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