Hospitals Face Ebola Waste Challenges

by | Oct 24, 2014

EbolaBased on US hospital experiences to date, one Ebola patient will likely generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste per day, making storage, transportation, and disposal of the waste a major challenge for hospitals, according to the California Hospital Association.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended autoclaving or incinerating the waste to destroy the microbes, the LA Times reports. However, burning infected waste is effectively prohibited in California and banned in at least seven other states.

For those states, trucking the waste over public highways and incinerating it in another state may be the only option. However, under federal transportation guidelines, the material would be designated a Class A infectious substance and transporting it would require special approval from the Department of Transportation.

In working with Ebola, all of the following must be disposed of: protective gloves, gowns, masks and booties used by those who approach the patient’s bedside, disposable medical instruments, packaging, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, pillowcases, curtains, privacy screens, mattresses and anything that is used to clean up after the patient.

However, there is confusion about whether infected human waste can be flushed down the toilet. According to Dr. David Perrott of the California Hospital Association, the CDC has said that flushing is acceptable, though other sources have said the waste needs to be sterilized and then flushed.

The medical supplies used to treat the first US Ebola patient arrived at a Galveston, Texas, disposal facility last Saturday, according to ABC News affiliate KGTV. Once the supplies were incinerated at over 2,000 degrees, a scrubber removed all the pollutants from the exhaust gas. The air scrubbers were designed based on stringent EPA standards that went into effect earlier this month.

Andy Bartocci of Envitech, builder of the new scrubber, said somebody is probably more exposed to harmful pollutants pumping gas into their automobile than by working or living around one of the medical waste incinerators.

Photo Credit: Ebola via Shutterstock

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