What is Considered a Biohazard, Anyway?

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Key-Points

  • Biohazard Definitions

  • Bodily Fluids Are Biohazardous

  • Animal Waste Examples

  • Microbiological Waste Is Also Biohazardous

  • Contaminated "Sharps" Are Biohazard Waste


PPE for Biohazard Spills

Biohazards that involve crews dressed in full PPE suits, gowns, and masks appear to only be seen on television, but they are very real and can affect you. So what is a biohazard, and why does it call for some standard of personal protection?

Purdue University defines a biohazard as “… an agent that is biological in nature, capable of self-replication, and has the capacity to produce [destructive] effects upon biological organisms”.

Biohazards are part of an  environmental crisis. If it can spread and endanger the public health of a living organism, it’s a biohazard. Yes, that means some plant pathogens are biohazardous as well.

Equipment, like the personal protective equipment (PPE) for biohazards we mentioned earlier, can also be included in this definition. Since they are the outermost layer of protection exposed during a job, they must also follow strict biohazard waste disposal guidelines.

Defining Biohazardous Waste

What can spread and pose a threat to living organisms, particularly humans? It’s rather vague, so you might sometimes see the definition broken into three categories:

  • Liquid biohazards, such as bodily fluids and blood of animal or human origin.
  • Dry biohazards, like Petri dishes exposed to harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, or vaccine waste; items contaminated by infected excrement or secretions (both human or animal). Dried contaminated paper, towels, and wipes included.
  • “Sharps” biohazards, including needles, syringes, urine cups, blood vials, and other medical supplies.

Unlike radioactive or chemical waste, there are no federal guidelines as to what constitutes as biohazardous waste. You might think this makes rules more lenient, but it’s just the opposite. All categories must follow detailed and intricate OSHA biohazard waste disposal guidelines.

Yes, Human Blood (or Dried Blood) is a Biohazard

As human blood, tissue, organs, etc. are vital to our lives, it’s difficult to imagine them being hazardous to us and others. But in fact, blood contains bloodborne pathogens or potentially dangerous infectious diseases.

Beyond that, the human body attracts parasites and microbes that can infect other beings. Your own body draws the same microbes and parasites, which is part of the reason why we still advise hiring a professional, even when it’s your own fluids.

A common misconception is that blood is safer once it’s dried, but this is wrong. Blood that has been left to dry has had even more time to attract parasites and dangerous microbes.

Any time a trauma happens to a body (such as a gunshot to the head), hazardous biomatter is splattered around the room and can be spread without realizing. When this happens, the danger to other living things is present but not always apparent.

When contact is made, biohazardous infectious materials can be transmitted without realizing.

How Many Bodily Fluids are Potentially Infectious?

There are certainly more biohazardous bodily fluids than the ones we’ve listed below, but here are the ones that you absolutely should know:

  • Saliva, known to spread infectious diseases (e.g. mononucleosis)
  • Semen, which can pass transmissible contagious enveloped viruses
  • Vaginal secretions, also liable to transmit contagious viruses
  • Vomit, feces, and urine
  • Amniotic fluid (clear, slightly yellow fluid released during childbirth)

During a trauma scene, equally dangerous body fluids are at risk of exposure, such as:

  • Cerebral spinal fluid, completely clear like water
  • Joint (Synovial) fluid, which varies greatly in thickness and color, from red to yellow
  • Lung lining (Pleural) fluid, which can be a cloudy or translucent greenish-yellow
  • Heart lining (Pericardial) fluid, generally a milky yellow
  • Peritoneal fluid (Abdominal), varying greatly from a highly translucent to opaque yellowish-orange

If you recognize these fluids by these colors, please call us on our 24/7 hotline right away.

Animal Waste is a Biohazard too!

Animal waste poses health risks to humans as well. According to the Fred Hutchinson, Cancer Research Center, animal waste is defined as “All animal carcasses, body parts, excrement, fluids, or bedding material from [infected] animals [… that can pass infectious disease …] to humans.”

Examples of Biological Hazards from Animal Waste include:

  • buildings that were not completely treated for a rodent problem
  • places where dead pets were not been properly disposed of
  • hoarder homes overwhelmed by pet excrement

All of these can spread infections or diseases to anyone that comes in contact with them. Hoarding home cleanups are more complicated, requiring crews specialized in more than just animal waste removal services.

What is Microbiological Waste, and How is it a Biohazard?

Microbial waste is a biological hazard unseen by the naked eye that endangers public health while spreading in the surrounding environment. This includes all outbreaks, infections, and pandemics, whether they are bacterial or viral in nature.

Any items used to study microbes in a lab, such as Petri dishes or test tubes, are additionally considered hazardous waste. When handled improperly, these items can be spread accidentally into the house, infecting the upholstery, cars, and carpets.

Viruses and bacteria evolve to spread rapidly, which makes it even more important to sanitize areas that come into contact with microbial waste in a proper manner. For outbreaks like that of Ebola, professionals need to disinfect the contamination.

Examples of microbial waste include:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Prion
  • Fungi
  • Rickettsia
  • Parasites
  • Chlamydia
  • Recombinant products
  • Allergens
  • Cultured human and animal cells

What Does “Sharps” Refer to?

Sharps waste is any biological hazard capable of piercing the skin. These biohazardous items put you at risk of coming in contact with potentially infectious material like blood or bacteria.

Examples of sharps waste include:

  • Needles (whether attached to a syringe or covered by a plastic guard)
  • IV tubing with the needle attached
  • Glass Pasteur pipettes
  • Disposable glass pipettes;
  • Scalpels, razor blades, and lancets
  • Broken glass and splintered plastic when contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious material

Sharps hazards are often found at the scene of drug overdoses. As the meth crisis in this country increases, it has become increasingly common for people to come in contact with drug needles and other paraphernalia. This can be extremely dangerous and should be left to professionals.

Landlords are also finding that homes and apartments they’ve rented out have been turned into Meth Labs. These labs often contain broken glass and other sharps hazards, which could be dangerous to human health.

Drugs found on these premises pose a threat to living organisms even though they cannot self replicate. Therefore, they are considered chemical hazards that must be disposed of in a safe and responsible manner.

If you’ve discovered your property may have meth lab residue, please call our 24/7 hotline for a cleanup.

Do You Have a Biohazard Concern?

Biohazard cleanups are never timely. A loved one may have committed suicide suddenly in their apartment, and you need it to be cleaned safely.

Maybe you’ve discovered your property has been used as a meth lab, and you may need to make sure there are no hazardous substances left in the area.

Life throws us curve balls that we’re not expecting all too often. You may never have expected something like this to happen, but it does, and you’re not alone.

The good news is that Bio Recovery is here to help. As an expert in biohazard remediation with over two decades of experience and numerous accolades, we’ve cleaned a variety of undesirable scenes of every scope and size, some even worse than the movies.

Our goals as professionals is to ensure all surfaces and structural components are sterilized and safe to live in again. We know how difficult a time this is for you, and our teams will work quickly, quietly, and discreetly so you can get on with your life and return safely to your home, property, or workplace.

We can’t stop these issues from happening, but we can help prevent further damage by cleaning your home or workplace so you can get a jumpstart on normality, usually with little or no out-of-pocket cost to you.

Our Teams are Available 24/7

If you have a biohazard concern, call us at 1-888-752-5001, or have us call you for information on how we can get you through this difficult time.

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