Local hazardous waste programs available for dentists

Dentists should be aware that many counties across the state allow small businesses to use their household hazardous waste collection programs. CDA recently updated its Household Hazardous Waste and Small Quantity Generator Programs resource that outlines the availability of local household hazardous waste programs for the disposal of hazardous waste.

A household hazardous waste program is a good alternative to hazardous waste pickup, especially due to the fact that dental practices generate small quantities of the waste. Each county determines what it will accept. Hazardous and universal waste in a dental practice includes photographic fixer, lead foil, dental amalgam, batteries, mercury bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, chromimum-containing cleaners and glutaraldehyde. Medical waste (sharps, pharmaceuticals, contaminated items) are not accepted.

Dental offices should contact their respective county, to determine which wastes are accepted, fees charged and dates and locations of waste collection. County programs require businesses to set up an appointment to drop off waste and to have EPA ID numbers. If a dentist does not have an EPA ID number, go to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control website to begin the process.

State and federal laws set rules for how long generators can accumulate and store hazardous waste. CDA recommends that dental practices accumulate and store hazardous waste for no longer than 12 months. Also, note that local enforcement agencies may require shorter accumulation and storage times.

Medical waste accumulation and storage rules differ from hazardous waste rules. If accumulated and stored in separate containers, pharmaceutical waste must be disposed of within 12 months, sharps waste when the container is three-fourths filled, or full, and bloody items, kept at room temperature, within 30 days. If any of these three items are combined in the same container, the shorter accumulation and storage time applies. The rules and management options for both hazardous and medical wastes are outlined in CDA's Dental Office Waste Management Options resource.

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California’s Medical Waste Management Act (MWMA) was amended earlier this year. As a result of this amendment, there are changes dental practices need to make. It has come to CDA’s attention that there has been some misinformation circulated which is causing confusion. Here are the facts of the MWMA changes that impact dental practices.