The 1988 Medical Waste Tracking Act is a United States federal law, enacted in response to a series of events beginning in 1987 involving a large amount of medical waste that washed up on the shores of the east coast. The U.S. Environmental Proection Agency had congressional authority to regulate medical waste on behalf of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico until the act expired in 1991. Today medical waste is regulated by individual states who modeled their regulations after the 1988 Medical Waste Tracking Act.

Medical wastes, as defined by the EPA, is “healthcare waste that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials and is often referred to as regulated medical waste.” The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regulates household and healthcare medical wastes separately. Healthcare waste includes infectious wastes from healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes as well as medical research facilities, laboratories, veterinary practices, first aid stations and schools.

Household medical wastes such as used bandages and bloody clothing, bed linens, furniture and carpet can be tossed in the trash as is. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does recommend bagging blood-soaked items before depositing it in the general trash.

Medical wastes such as mercury thermometers, medication and sharps such as needles or lancets, cannot be disposed of in the trash or flushed down the drain per Wisconsin law.

Thermometers and sharps

Mercury thermometers should be brought to a Hazardous Waste Collection Event or handed directly to a Dunn County Solid Waste & Recycling site attendant for proper disposal.

Residents in Dunn County can easily and responsibly dispose of sharps, needles and lancets with our free sharps disposal program. Thanks to the generosity of the Menomonie Lions Club for purchasing sharps containers and the Red Cedar Mayo Clinic Health System for properly disposing of the collected sharps, residents don’t have to pay a disposal fee or buy a sharps container. Sharps containers can be picked up and properly disposed of at any Dunn County Solid Waste & Recycling Facility. They can also be picked up at the the Dunn County Health Department.

Funding for this program is not intended to subsidize sharps containers or disposal for businesses such as nursing homes, clinics, hospitals, assisted living homes or treatment centers. For large facilities or multiple generators of sharps, please contact Stericycle at (715) 835-6250.

It is imperative to use correct containers when disposing of sharps. An unintentional needle prick leads to expensive testing and potential exposure to diseases such as Hepatitis or HIV, and can create tremendous emotional stress in whomever it happens to.

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