Test Your "Red Bag" Medical Waste IQ
Select the items that you should dispose in the red bag, labeled as "biohazard waste."
- Half bag of leftover french fries from a boy with chickenpox.
- Asthma inhaler from a 35-year-old man with allergies.
- Single, uncapped syringe from a penicillin injection.
- Broken mercury manometer.
- Filled and securely closed reusable sharps container.
- One adhesive bandage that is leaking blood from a playground accident.
- Sealed vial with 2 tablets of acetominophen with codeine.
- Visibly bloody gloves used in a digital exam of a 60-year-old man.
- Leftover chemotherapy vial (90% empty) from leukemia patient.
- Orthodontic wires from a 13-year-old girl who is apparently healthy.
Only #6 and #8 should go directly into the red bag, since red bags should be used for items capable of releasing blood or other potentially infectious materials. Food and other “regular” solid waste don’t belong in the red bag.
An uncapped syringe (#3) should be placed in a sharps container, since it poses a biohazard if the needle should penetrate the red bag. Federal OSHA and most states also consider wires snipped from orthodontic appliances (#10) to be sharps waste.
Although sealed “disposable” sharps containers can be added to the red bag, “reusable” sharps containers (#5) are “green” solutions that are rendered noninfectious and reused.
Aerosol inhalers (#2), mercury (#4), and bulk chemotherapy (#9) are types of hazardous waste that must be separated from (“segregated”) and never permitted to commingle with red bag waste.
Controlled substances, such as acetaminophen with codeine, are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and their disposal and destruction must be overseen by a DEA registrant.
Always be familiar with your individual facility’s requirements.