Ebola-Associated Waste Management

Page Summary

Who this is for: Hospitals and healthcare providers that care for patients under investigation (PUIs) for Ebola virus disease (EVD) or with confirmed cases of EVD.

What this is for: To help hospitals and healthcare providers safely handle, transport, and dispose of waste generated by the care of patients under investigation (PUIs) for or with confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD).

How to use: This guidance is intended to provide key information about procedures and regulations regarding waste associated with the care of patients under investigation (PUIs) for or with confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD).

Key Point

    • Waste generated in the care of PUIs or patients with confirmed EVD is subject to procedures set forth by local, state, and federal regulations. Basic principles for spills of blood and other potentially infectious materials are outlined in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030)external icon.
  • Waste contaminated (or suspected to be contaminated) with Ebola virus is a Category A infectious substance regulated as a hazardous material under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR, Parts 171-180). Requirements in the HMR apply to any material DOT determines is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce1. For off-site commercial transport of Ebola-associated waste, strict compliance with the HMR is required.
    • If a person requires a variance to the HMR, that person must apply for a Special Permitexternal icon under 49 CFR § 107.105. DOT may grant a special permit if the applicant can demonstrate an alternative packaging will achieve a safety level that is (1) at least equal to the safety level required under the HMR, or (2) consistent with the public interest if a required safety level does not exist. DOT has granted multiple special permits authorizing the transportation in commerce of certain Ebola-associated wasteexternal icon.
    • Ebola-associated waste that has been appropriately incinerated, autoclaved, or otherwise inactivated is not infectious, does not pose a health risk, and is not considered to be regulated medical waste or a hazardous material under federal law. Therefore, such waste no longer is considered a Category A infectious substance and is not subject to the requirements of the HMR.
  • Inactivation or incineration of Ebola-associated waste within a hospital system may be subject to state, local, and OSHA regulations.
    • On-site inactivation
      • Ebola-associated waste may be inactivated through the use of appropriate autoclavesexternal icon. Other methods of inactivation (e.g., chemical inactivation) have not been standardized and would need to consider worker safety issues, as well as the potential for triggering other federal safety regulations.
    • On-site incineration
      • Ebola-associated waste may be incinerated. The products of incineration (i.e., the ash) can be transported and disposed of in accordance with state and local regulations and standard protocols for hospital waste disposal.
  • Ebola-associated waste disposal is subject to state and local regulationsexternal icon. Ebola-associated waste that has been appropriately inactivated or incinerated is not infectious and is not considered to be regulated medical waste or a hazardous material under federal law.

Relevant CDC guidance

Interim Guidance for Environmental Infection Control in Hospitals for Ebola Virus

Interim Guidance for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems and 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) for Management of Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the United States

Guidance for Collection, Transport and Submission of Specimens for Ebola Virus Testing

For questions on CDC guidance, contact 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).

Relevant DOT guidance

Department of Transportation: Transporting Infectious Substances Overviewexternal icon

Department of Transportation: Packaging of Ebola Contaminated Wasteexternal icon

Safety Advisory: Packaging and Handling Ebola Virus Contaminated Infectious Waste for Transportation to Disposal Sites pdf icon[PDF – 2 pages]external icon

Interim – Planning Guidance for the Handling of Solid Waste Contaminated with a Category A Infectious Substance pdf icon[PDF – 82 pages]external icon

For questions on DOT guidance or the HMR requirements, contact DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA’s) Hazardous Materials Information Center at 1-800-467-4922, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Relevant OSHA guidance

OSHA/NIOSH/EPA Fact Sheet: Safe Handling, Treatment, Transport and Disposal of Ebola-Contaminated Waste {PDF – 6 pages]pdf iconexternal icon

OSHA PPE Selection Matrix for Occupational Exposure to Ebola Virus pdf icon[PDF – 3 pages]external icon

OSHA – Ebola Websiteexternal icon

For questions on OSHA guidance, contact 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

 

1 The HMR applies to interstate, intrastate, and foreign commerce.