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Regulations (Preambles to Final Rules) - Table of Contents
• Record Type: Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens
• Section: 8
• Title: Section 8 - VIII. Environmental Impact

VIII. Environmental Impact

The provisions of the standard have been reviewed in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 [42 U.S.C. 432, et seq.], the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA regulations [40 CFR Part 1500], and OSHA's DOL NEPA Procedures [29 CFR Part 11]. As a result of this review, OSHA concluded that rule will have no significant environmental impact.

The rationale behind this assessment is based on information in the record which indicated that, although the volume of waste handled as infectious will increase under the standard, available treatment/disposal strategies are currently in use. Additionally, OSHA's survey found that most establishments are already treating the majority of their wastes in accordance with the requirements of the standard. These factors should minimize the potential adverse effects of incremental waste disposal activities associated with the rule.

As generators achieve full compliance, infectious waste previously entering the general waste stream will be shifted into one of the major treatment options used for the disposal of infectious waste, namely incineration or landfill. With regard to incineration, any incremental environmental impact resulting from the standard would be principally related to air quality and disposal of ash. However, incinerators are often operated by hospitals, and data in the record indicated that hospitals are currently complying at a rate in excess of 90 percent (see Technical Appendix C, Housekeeping). Thus, any incremental impact on environmental quality associated with this disposal method was estimated to be minimal.

Incremental impacts on landfills will result from the increase in the use of disposable items required by the standard, such as personal protective equipment, syringes, and sharps disposal containers. OSHA estimated that an increase in tonnage of approximately 50,000 tons per year will result from this requirement(11). This estimate does not take into account any shift away from disposable toward reusable items. Since total U.S. solid waste generation is about 160 million tons per year [Ex. L20-1272, p. 4], OSHA's bloodborne pathogens regulation is estimated to increase solid waste tonnage by less than 0.1 percent.


Footnote(11) OSHA assumed all additional regulated waste items generated by non-hospital sectors in response to the standard and destined for treatment/disposal, would be sent off site for landfill disposal.

To the extent that infectious waste in the general waste stream is currently handled improperly, the rule may improve environmental quality as previously mishandled infectious waste is redirected toward preferred disposal alternatives.

[56 FR 64004, Dec. 6, 1991; 57 FR 29206, July 1, 1992]

Regulations (Preambles to Final Rules) - Table of Contents

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