Online Program

Is Autoclaved Waste Sterile?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nnamdi Maduabum, M.B.B.S., MPH, CPH, School of Public Health, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX
Terry Capone, B.S., Department of Environmental Health and Safety, UTSouthwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Alisa Rich, Ph.D, School of Public Health, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX
Autoclaving is a cost-effective means of sterilization that works by generating high pressure and temperature steam over a set duration of time. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) regulations mandate proper disposal of biohazard waste generated by hospitals. Such waste may be incinerated and the ashes disposed of in sanitary landfills, or sterilized by autoclave and disposed of as municipal solid waste. However, we wondered if every item that makes it out of the autoclave is sterile.  The aim of this project was to validate the effective use of autoclave for cost effective sterilization and disposal of biohazardous waste and to establish a verification system insuring autoclaved waste were properly sterilized according to protocol and in accordance with TCEQ regulations. We determined that there were four methods of verification of sterilization of biohazardous waste: autoclave tapes, autoclave print-outs, chemical integrators, and biological indicators. The first two methods were required by law; the fourth method was only required where there was incomplete documentation of any of the first two. However, after repeated test-running of the four methods we determined that use of autoclave tapes and print-outs were unreliable and that in addition, frequent use of biological indicators should be mandated, to ensure the validity of autoclave cycles. Autoclaved waste can be said to be sterile only if biological test spores are rendered non-viable.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
List the four methods of verifying autoclaving. Differentiate between the verification and the validation of an autoclave cycle. Identify ineffective autoclave sterilization. Analyze health policies and regulations regarding disposal of biohazard waste. Discuss the limits of the various means of verifying sterilization using an autoclave.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a background in Medical Sciences and I'm in the last semester of my MPH program, concentrating in Environmental and Public Health. On this project I worked closely with my Academic Advisor and Professor of Environmental Toxicology Dr Alisa Rich, and practicum site supervisor, Terry Capone, an Environment Compliance manager at UTSouthwestern Medical center, who has over a decade of experience working with environmental regulations and policies.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.