TB Spread at Medical Waste Plant

Oct. 5, 2000
For the first time, three workers at a medical waste plant appear\r\nto have contracted tuberculosis from working with contaminated\r\nwaste, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the first time, three workers at a medical waste plant appear to have contracted tuberculosis (TB) from working with contaminated waste, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Inadequate safety measures at the plant put the workers at risk for the potentially deadly lung infection.

The medical waste, collected from hospitals, clinical laboratories and medical and dental clinics, was shredded, blown and compacted before it was finally decontaminated.

The investigators also found equipment failures, inadequate training, and sub-par protective gear at the facility, according to a report in the Oct. 4 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

TB is the most deadly infection in the world, killing some 3 million people each year, according to CDC.

While it was once thought to be controlled in developed nations, TB has rebounded in the United States.

Healthcare workers comprise one of the groups at high risk of the airborne infection.

But researchers said there is no way of knowing yet whether medical waste workers are also at increased TB risk.

While medical waste facilities must meet local environmental regulations, little is known about the safety of the workers inside, the study said.

The investigators found conditions at the waste facilities that likely caused the three workers'' infections.

Processing equipment worked in such a way that when it became clogged, air particles blew back toward employees. Two of the infected workers were not required to wear protective respiratory gear.

Researchers noted the importance of decontaminating infectious waste before discarding it.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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