Conventional and Alternative Technologies for the Treatment of Infectious Waste

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The limited scientific information about infectious waste, and the heightened public awareness of this special component of the waste stream, have contributed to the implementation or strengthening of the regulations in this area. This paper proposes a general working definition of infectious waste, and describes the systems used to limit its potential occupational and public health impacts. Although incineration and autoclaving are the most widely used methods of treating infectious waste, the introduction of more stringent air-quality standards for incinerators, and the inherent limitations to the application of autoclaves, have created a demand for other methods of processing this segment of the solid and liquid waste streams. These alternative technologies use one or more of the following methods: (1) heating the waste to a minimum of 90 - 95°C; (2) exposing the waste to suitable chemicals; (3) subjecting the waste to heated chemicals; (4) irradiating the infectious waste with ionizing sources. The advantages and disadvantages of each of these alternative forms of treatment are discussed in this paper.

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