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What is a Medical Waste Incinerator?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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A medical waste incinerator is a furnace that reaches very high temperatures and is used to destroy medical waste products. This can include devices and supplies used to treat patients as well as biological waste such as blood or tissue. There are generally stringent guidelines dictating which items have to be burned and which can be contained in a disposal area. Some incinerators are located on hospital or medical center premises, while others are situated in separate locations.

When located in a medical center, the medical waste incinerator is often positioned somewhere in the basement or bottom floor of the building. The main benefit of using an incinerator to do away with medical treatment byproducts is that the heat kills any potentially harmful and infectious disease which may be present in such waste. This converts the waste materials into ash which is totally disinfected and safe for removal if needed.

When the use of a medical waste incinerator takes place outside of a medical facility, special care must be taken to prevent the spread of disease during transport. Waste is generally placed into thick biohazard bags and sealed air tight to prevent leaks. The waste is often labeled so that contractors later on know exactly what they are dealing with. There are specialized professionals who pick up the waste and transport it to the incinerator. These individuals are generally specially trained to handle such waste without spreading disease.

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Animal hospitals and medical centers also must use a medical waste incinerator because many diseases which infect pets and other animals can contaminate humans either directly or indirectly. Many vet hospitals have them on site, although sometimes pet incinerators are found in kennels and other similar locations. These locations may incinerate the waste, but also entire pets for cremation purposes. The owners can then save the ashes in an urn, much like in the cremation process of humans.

Failure to properly dispose or destroy medical waste could be detrimental to public health. Blood, tissue, needles, soiled materials, and other items can easily end up in the ground or water and pollute the surrounding areas. Waste materials, prior to the enforcement of strict laws on their disposal, have been known to wash up on beaches and other locations where their presence could be a threat to wildlife and humans.

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