Re: block disposal and -heads

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From:Tim Morken <>
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It turns out that most of the problem is one of perception. If people find 
human remains in any form in a public disposal site they go beserk - even if 
there is no harm in it. "Medical waste" has a  bad connotation and people 
assume the worst - some sort of infectious or harmful material. Some just 
don't like the idea of disposing of human remains in such a way.

Here at the CDC we don't use red plastic bags for our autoclaved waste 
because the local authorities see anything in a red bag as an infectious 
threat - despite assurances it has been autoclaved. Instead we use clear 
bags with biohazard markings that turn from red to brown during autoclaving. 
I guess the clear bags don't attract as much attention.

My pet peeve is that we must dispose of pipet-tip boxes in autoclave waste, 
instead of sending them back to the manufactuer for re-use, because they may 
have been 'infected' during use. No matter that we don't deal with any live 
infectious material in our lab!

My lesson from all this is that people don't trust the medical/research 
establishment any more than they do the average business so maximum 
precautions are prescribed at all times.

Tim Morken, B.A., EMT(MSA), HTL(ASCP)
Infectious Disease Pathology
Centers for Disease Control
1600 Clifton Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30333


Phone: (404) 639-3964
FAX:  (404)639-3043

----Original Message Follows----
From: "J. A. Kiernan" <>
To: Histonet <>
Subject: Re: block disposal and -heads
Date: Sun, 02 Jul 2000 01:06:43 -0400 (EDT)

On Sat, 1 Jul 2000, Becky Scholes wrote:

 > Just as with slides, our local waste system considers paraffin blocks
 > biohazard waste.

   How do they justify this? When a person dies with a horrible
   infectious disease the body is put in a box and planted in the
   ground to be consumed by worms. A box (or plastic bag) of old
   paraffin blocks at a landfill site is buried at a similar or
   greater depth. Each individual block is entombed in wax providing
   yet another layer of "protection." Furthermore, the tissues
   were fixed and processed before they ever went into the wax,
   killing everything except possibly some prions. Objects in the
   landfill are even less likely to be eaten by people than corpses
   in the graveyard.

   It is even more crazy to consider slides hazardous, with every section
   encapsulated in glass. Even the sarcophagous nematodes aren't going
   to be able to eat these, however hard they try.

   Who are the ignorant fools who get away with making such regulations?
   They must have their bosses, or some chain of command whereby they
   could be gently and politely influenced: to reverse their rulings or
   find themselves lining up in the labour exchange for jobs cleaning
   out public lavatories. ("This job has prospects, lad. If you work
   hard for three years, we'll give you a brush.")  It should not be
   necessary to spend public money on expensive disposal of harmless
   materials that have been declared "biohazardous" by some public
   servant who is either a half-wit or a director of a hazardous waste
   collection company. At a local level it should be possible to
   overcome this problem by approaching senior municipal officials
   and politicians, and writing letters to local newspapers that name
   those who made the silly rules and explain the unnecessary costs to
   the taxpayers.

   Good luck, and happy campaigning.

  John A. Kiernan,
  Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology,
  The University of Western Ontario,
  LONDON,  Canada  N6A 5C1

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