Every dentist and dental practice comes in contact with pharmaceutical waste. Not only is it important for office employees to properly handle pharmaceutical waste, but it is also important that they ensure the waste is disposed of properly per regulations.
As with any form of waste handled by dentists, which can include dental amalgam, x-ray waste, sharps and more, pharmaceutical waste is closely regulated. It must be handled and disposed of with care and according to those regulations. But this is always easier said than done when there are so many rules and standards that practices must adhere to.
With that in mind, here is an overview of why pharmaceutical waste is rightly regulated and how dental practices can ensure that they are following proper handling and disposal procedures.
The American Dental Association says the most challenging aspects of operating a dental practice is keeping track and in compliance with all current regulations.
There are many regulations from a number of different agencies on the federal, state and local levels. Keeping tabs on all of these regulations, while incredibly important, can be terribly daunting. However, to create a working environment that is safe for both employees and clients, dental offices and their managers must follow regulations. These regulations are in place to keep everyone involved safe.
The regulations also can help keep communities safe. Healthcare facilities, including dental practices, must dispose of their waste correctly so that none of the potentially hazardous materials that waste may contain can enter water sources, landfills and other places where it could pose environmental issues.
Dental practices can also protect themselves from negative legal consequences and liability by making sure they follow regulations.
Pharmaceuticals are regulated because of the ingredients that make them effective in the first place. Some of the ingredients in certain pharmaceuticals can be hazardous. The potency of these ingredients don’t change once the materials enter the waste stream, either, which is why much care needs to be taken regarding their disposal.
In fact, some pharmaceuticals are very toxic and can do harm if not used correctly or encountered outside a healthcare setting.
Additionally, some pharmaceuticals are not soluble in water because they have to be administered in liquid form. That can be useful for healthcare professionals, but it can be a problem outside of that setting. For example, some pharmaceuticals must be dissolved in solvents that could pose flammability risks.
If not carefully disposed of in the correct manner, pharmaceutical waste can pose serious risks once it leaves the dental practice. Not only could the waste come into contact with people not meant to be exposed to the materials, but there are also environmental concerns.
The materials, if not handled properly, can enter wastewater systems and make their way to landfills where they can enter the environment through water sources or even the air if burned.
Some preservatives and other ingredients, for example, can be even more toxic than the primary ingredient’s function. There are also concerns regarding corrosiveness, flammability and radioactivity of ingredients in some specific materials.
Common pharmaceuticals in dental offices can include over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs for specific patients and drugs taken in emergency situations.
Pharmaceutical waste is closely regulated. In some instances, the waste can be hazardous. Other times, it is not. It is important to dispose of both hazardous and non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste in clearly labeled containers so that the contents can be handled properly.
According to the EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, hazardous pharmaceutical waste is considered both acutely hazardous and toxic. Hazardous pharmaceutical waste can be unused material that has expired, partially used, spill residue or residue that is still inside the container.
This hazardous pharmaceutical waste must be disposed of in a container, labeled as hazardous. It has to be separated from non-hazardous materials because it is handled differently for proper disposal. Unlike some types of waste, hazardous pharmaceutical waste is incinerated. The ash from the waste is then disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill.
Non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste should still be disposed of as medical waste, still separate from regular trash, and placed in a labeled container. These containers are often sterilized and then end up in landfills, which is why a dental practice’s employees must always separate hazardous from non-hazardous.
Learn more about how specific pharmaceuticals are classified.
Every dental practice has pharmaceuticals on hand that are needed to perform the services their clients need. Once these pharmaceuticals are partially used or expired, they become waste and must be disposed of. It is important to keep records of all pharmaceutical materials and equipment on hand.
Not only can this help keep track of every inventoried item, which serves as a log of what is and what is not on hand, but it can also help more easily determine when it is time to dispose of any expired items.
Knowledge of pharmaceutical waste regulations, like all regulations, can and do change often. It’s a dental practice’s responsibility to ensure that its team is aware of these regulations. However, practices don’t have to take on this responsibility alone.
The best way to rest assured that your dental office is in compliance with all waste management regulations is to partner with a provider whose services encompass all forms of waste found within the office. Now more than ever, as the Environmental Protection Agency’s dental amalgam regulation effective date approaches, dental practices should take a close look at their waste management practices.
DRNA is the dental community’s complete regulatory solution provider, offering not only pharmaceutical waste disposal products, but also amalgam, sharps, medical and x-ray waste disposal solutions. DRNA also makes it easy for dental practice partners to remain educated about and in compliance with all regulatory requirements.
By partnering with DRNA, dental practices can focus less on compliance and more on clients.