Archival Content: 1999-2005
West Virgina Public Health Laws and Regulations: Impact on the Safe Disposal of Used Syringes by Individuals in the Community
Content Verified on: August 5, 2002
Identified Community-based Disposal Initiatives
Disposing of contaminated medical waste, including needles, syringes, and other “sharps,” has become an important issue in public health policy. Waste generated in the health care system is highly regulated at the state and federal level. Hospitals and other health care facilities must follow special procedures for handling, transporting, and disposing of medical waste, including used needles that may contain blood. Facilities also have instituted strict safeguards to protect health care workers, housekeeping staff, sanitation workers, and waste haulers from needlesticks because of the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other bloodborne infections.
Less attention has been paid to safe disposal of used syringes that come from individuals living in the community. However, as many as 3 billion syringes are used each year outside health care facilities: It is estimated that between 0.9 and 1.68 billion insulin injections and up to 1 billion illegal drug injections occur each year in the United States. After being used and discarded, most of these syringes end up in the public solid waste system. This presents a risk of needlestick injury and infection, mostly to solid waste workers. A much smaller number are discarded in public areas, such as parks, presenting a risk to the public.
This section of CDC’s Community Syringe Disposal, Laws and Regulations, and the Public Health web site looks at the public health dimensions of this problem. It describes this state’s solid and infectious waste laws and regulations as they relate to syringe disposal. It provides background information on several key disposal options currently used in the U.S. and describes the impact of this state’s laws and regulations on the way that individuals may use these options. It also includes brief descriptions of some safe disposal programs in the state and provides contact information for the state’s public health and environmental management agencies.
This web site is designed primarily for individuals and communities who are working to build safe syringe disposal programs and improve public understanding of this important issue. We hope that the information and tools provided here will help communities move closer to the ultimate goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or in public locations such as parks, buildings, or the streets.”
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Public Health Sanitation Division, provides management guidelines for disposing of household generated syringes in a brochure entitled “A Household Guide for the Proper Disposal of Syringes and Sharps” Click on Public Health Sanitation Division, Infectious Medical Waste, Proper Disposal of Household Infectious Waste, Disposal of Household Infectious Waste).
The guidance includes these recommendations:
The guidance includes these warnings:
1. West Virginia Medical Waste Act
2. West Virginia Infectious Medical Waste Regulation
Exempts household generated sharps
– Sharps that are generated within a household are specifically
exempt from West Virginia infectious medical waste regulations so long
as people place sharps in a puncture-resistant container before disposing
of the container in the trash.
Establishes standards for sharps packaging – Facilities that handle sharps are required to package them in containers that are rigid, leak-proof, and puncture-resistant. Containers must be labeled as infectious medical waste and they must not be completely filled.
Sharps containers that are brought off-site for treatment or storage must be placed inside a leak-proof, red or orange plastic bag of certifiable strength. Orange colored bags are used if the infectious medical waste is being treated with steam. The open end of the bag must be gathered and taped closed.
Establishes labeling standards for sharps packages – Before treatment, facilities should label all bags “infectious medical waste”, “biomedical waste”, “biohazard”, or “regulated medical waste” and marked with the universal biohazard symbol.
Establishes standards for transportation of sharps – Facilities that transport infectious waste off-site must package it in “double-wall corrugated fiberboard boxes or equivalent rigid containers. The boxes or containers shall be leak-resistant or lined with a tear-resistant leak-proof plastic bag.” The outer layer of packaging must contain a label that provides information from all persons who manage the infectious waste from that point forward as well as a certification of treatment, if that waste has been treated.
Infectious waste can only be transported to permitted infectious medical waste management facilities.
Establishes treatment methods for sharps – Methods for treating sharps include: incineration, stream treatment, discharge to a sanitary sewer, or any other method approved by the Department.
Establishes storage standards for sharps – Facilities must store infectious medical waste in a secure, designated area.
Federal bloodborne pathogen rule applies – West Virginia has not established its own state plan for regulating bloodborne pathogens. Therefore, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards apply.
Sets requirements for collection sites when employees handle the sharps containers – Operators of sharps container collection sites in which employees physically accept and handle filled sharps containers from customers are required to meet the OSHA bloodborne pathogen standards. This involves developing a written Exposure Control Plan that identifies the frequency of exposure and the tasks and procedures in which exposure may occur. The Plan also must address methods of compliance, hepatitis B vaccination, hazard communication to employees, recordkeeping, and methods to evaluate exposure incidents.
Sets requirements for collection sites when employees do not handle the sharps containers – Operators of sharps container collection sites in which customers place filled sharps containers into a collection container are not subject to the bloodborne pathogen standard. In this situation, employees must not handle the sharps containers. Those involved with removing the sharps containers from the collection container must meet the standard.
Effect of West Virginia’s Laws and Regulations
Collection sites may be subject to meeting West Virginia’s infectious medical waste regulations as well as the federal bloodborne pathogen standards, depending on how the sharps containers are collected and handled.
Effect of West Virginia’s Laws
Sharps container collection programs are regulated under the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) when syringes are mailed [Ref 4]. The USPS regulations establish specific packaging, labeling, and tracking requirements for these syringes.
Effect of West Virginia’s Laws and Regulations
The state legislature and individual communities may wish to more actively encourage individuals to safely dispose of used syringes and make it easier for them to do so. Many options for state and local action exist. They range from gathering data, to developing community collection site programs and education efforts, to creating partnerships with interested groups, to considering amending laws and regulations. All will help West Virginia move toward the goal of “no syringes discarded in the trash or public locations.”
No community syringe disposal programs have been identified in West Virginia. However, this does not mean that no programs operate in the state.
Links below will open in a new browser window.
WV Department of Health and Human Resources
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
US Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Area Office (Responsible for OSHA compliance in
Links below will open in a new browser window.
1. West Virginia Medical Waste Act - West Virginia Code Chapter 20 [Natural Resources], Article 5J [Medical Waste Act] [Click on “WV Code”, then click on “State Code”, and then type in “[medical waste]” in the Search box]
2. West Virginia Infectious Medical Waste Regulation - West Virginia Code of State Rules (WV CSR), Title 64 [Legislative Rule, Division of Health, Department of Health and Human Resources], Series 56 [Infectious Medical Waste]
3. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standards – 29 CFR Part 1910.1030.
4. USPS Domestic Mail Manual [Click on “DMM Subject Index” then scroll to and click on “Sharps, CO23.85”]
5. Turnberg WL, Frost F. Survey of occupational exposure of waste industry workers to infectious waste in Washington State. American Journal of Public Health 1990;80(10):1262-1264.
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