- Red Bag / Sharps: Don’t fill your red bag with unnecessary items. ONLY those items “saturated” with blood or other infectious material are placed here. Your staff should place items lightly tinged or merely in contact with blood (such as tray covers) in with regular trash. This will save space in your bag for the blood soaked items which really belong there. Proper staff instruction on this point will save you a considerable amount over the year.
- OSHA requires sharps containers to be located “convenient to the point of use”. A container in a central area is usually adequate. If you choose to keep sharps containers in each treatment room, use them only for sharps. Always place other bio-hazardous “red bag” waste into a central container only. This will eliminate any chance for odors in the treatment room. (You can also place a stick-up type air freshener on the inside cover of your central container to reduce any odors).
In-room sharps container
- Regular trash cans in treatment rooms should only be of the covered type. No matter how spotless and sterile you maintain your practice the only thing the patient sitting in the chair will notice is the uncovered can of trash and that is not the impression you wish to make.
- Empty anesthetic carpules should always be placed in with sharps. Some jurisdictions allow unbroken, uncontaminated carpules to be placed in with trash. If they break “curbside” the liability may come back to you. Always place them in sharps containers to be safe.
- Partially used anesthetic carpules and expired medications (such as those in your emergency drug kit) should be placed in appropriate containers and sent out for proper disposal as pharmaceutical waste. While currently only regulated in a few areas, these compounds are showing up in ground waters throughout the U.S.
- Radiography - While not actively pursued in many states you should be aware that used X-ray fixer must be recycled (and not drain discharged) under federal guidelines. The upper limit for drain discharge is <5mg/L of silver content. As used fixer has far in excess of this amount, proper recycling is important.
- As with silver, all lead waste from x-ray packets and old protection aprons and collars must also be recycled under federal guidelines.
- Scrap Amalgam - Amalgam separators are designed to capture the fine particulate amalgam that the traps miss. The bulk of the amalgam (75%) is caught in traps. Always recycle amalgam scraps, empty alloy capsules, teeth containing amalgam, in unit disposable traps and vacuum pump traps in order to ensure that your practice is properly recycling ALL of the amalgam waste it handles.
Chairside Amalgam Waste
Never apply heat or alkaline products (such as chlorine bleach) to any item containing amalgam. It can break down the amalgam and release otherwise bound mercury.
- Inventory your office annually and, where possible, substitute alternatives for hazardous agents which require special disposal. For example, used gluteraldehyde must either be treated with neutralizing agents or hauled off site. Sporox, or similar products accomplish the same level of disinfection but are able to be simply drain discharged.