The containment, transport, and disposal of infectious and biological materials is a process that companies across the healthcare industry must complete daily.
Due to the potential health hazards associated with handling medical waste, it is crucial the risk of infection from these substances is minimized to ensure the safety of anyone responsible for handling it.
Biohazardous waste is contained and transported in packaging that is specifically designed to create a reliable barrier between these materials and their external environment. A sturdy design minimizes the risk of punctures or tears, zip lock seals prevent air from getting in or out of the bag, and prominent labeling makes contents explicitly clear.
The design of infectious and biological A&B packaging is sufficient to protect handlers from infection during containment, transport and, ultimately, disposal.
What is Infectious and Biological A&B Packaging?
Infectious and biological A&B packaging is specially designed to safely contain and transport potentially contagious material that contains known pathogens from one facility to another.
The categories for this packaging (A and B) are assigned based on its intended contents and reflect the risk factor associated with the different types of pathogens found in biohazardous waste.ha
- Category A: This category is assigned to packages containing pathogens that could potentially cause illnesses for which there is no known treatment or cure. These pose a significant danger to anyone who may come into contact with them and, due to their infectious nature, could also endanger the wider The full list of these pathogens includes highly dangerous microorganisms such as Ebola and Polio, and any packages containing viruses such as these must be handled with the utmost caution.
- Category B: Category B packages are defined as containing ‘an infectious substance that does not meet the criteria for category A.’ This refers to potentially infectious pathogens known to cause treatable diseases, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and HPV. Although these diseases are less dangerous on an individual level and unlikely to cause widespread sickness, they still pose a significant threat to anyone who may come into contact with them.
Transport and Disposal of Infectious Waste Materials
Due to the hazardous nature of their contents, infectious and biological A&B packages are subject to strict procedures and protocols when it comes to their transport and disposal.
These regulations ensure the packages are not compromised and their contents do not come into contact with anyone who may be handling them.
Handling of category A and B infectious materials requires an advanced level of training and certification due to the high risk for infection if the package becomes compromised during transit. These measures ensure the handlers understand and execute appropriate protocols throughout all stages of the shipping process to prevent exposure to the pathogenic agents within the package.
Once the package reaches the disposal facility, it is usually broken down or otherwise disposed of either by incineration or in a specifically designated sanitary landfill. This process must also be performed with extreme care to prevent infectious materials from making their way into the external environment.
- Incineration: Incineration is a popular method of sterilizing and disposing of infectious waste. It involves applying intense heat to the package, reducing it to ash. This method is commonly used to kill the infectious pathogens within the waste while also reducing its volume before any remains are disposed of in landfills.
Although incineration is effective in sterilizing and reducing the mass of infectious materials, this method produces dangerous pollutants, which are then released into the atmosphere. For this reason, sanitary landfilling is often considered to be a more environmentally friendly option for disposing of biohazardous waste.
- Sanitary Landfilling: Sanitary landfills are a more controlled disposal option than the traditional open dump, where disease-carrying organisms such as rats, mosquitoes, and flies can potentially interact with and carry pathogenic agents from the waste into the wider
By first compacting the waste, then covering it with earth to create a physical barrier, the waste is sealed and separated from the external environment. Over time the waste will biodegrade in the landfill, a process known to kill most human pathogens. Their numbers are further reduced by soil filtration and other hostile environmental factors, gradually reducing their numbers to benign levels.
Materials transported in A&B packaging are known to contain pathogens harmful to human health, and so must be handled and disposed of properly. If the packaging is compromised, its contents have the potential to cause severe illnesses in those who are exposed, and even among the broader community.
By ensuring handlers have proper training regarding the transportation of infectious waste, that packages are labeled clearly and explicitly, and that strict guidelines and regulations are followed, biohazardous waste can be disposed of safely. Through incineration and containment in sanitary landfills, these infectious materials can then be disposed of so they don’t pose any significant threat to human health.