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Does Your Facility Dispose of Pipettes as Biological Sharps Waste?

The Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, 105 CMR 480, defines sharps as discarded medical articles that may cause puncture or cuts, including, but not limited to, all needles, syringes, lancets, pen needles, Pasteur pipettes, broken medical glassware/plasticware, scalpel blades, suture needles, dental wires, and disposable razors used in connection with a medical procedure.

Everyone can agree that scalpels, needles/syringes, and razor blades have the ability to puncture a biowaste bag and/or cause cuts. However, there are other items that leave some room for interpretation, including pipettes. The appropriate disposal practice for pipettes and tips is a topic that can be controversial, with some treating them as sharps, and others treating them as standard red bag waste. Please trust me when I caution you that pipettes have the ability to puncture double red bags used to collect biohazardous waste. It does happen. And once the pipette is through the red bags, it only needs to find a corner or soft spot to make its way out of a biobox to create an exposure potential. When consolidating biohazardous material, staff cannot always see what waste is contained in the red bags. Pressure may advertently be applied to the red bag waste, again creating the potential for exposure to the pipette.

Putting aside creating a situation where a person could be exposed to biohazardous material, including human blood, disposing of pipettes directly into red bag waste has the potential to create a leaking biobox. The potential for the pipette to puncture the bags, but remain within the biobox exists. In this case, any liquid that may be contained within the red bag waste now has a means to leak out of the bag. If you have not ever had the pleasure of cleaning up a leaking biobox, let me tell you it is not fun. Remember generators of waste are responsible for that waste!

So if your facility policy is to dispose of pipettes directly into the red bag waste, please think about whether or not it might be more appropriate to use sharps containers instead.

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