Early this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals Rule. The proposed rule would apply to both healthcare facilities (including pharmacies) and reverse distributors. Previously, hazardous pharmaceutical waste at these facilities was managed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), along with all other hazardous waste generators.
The EPA has given three reasons explaining why separate rules for pharmaceutical waste are necessary. “First, healthcare workers, whose primary focus is to provide care for patients, are not knowledgeable about the RCRA hazardous waste regulations, but are often involved in the implementation of the regulations. Second, a healthcare facility can have thousands of items in its formulary, making it difficult to ascertain which ones are hazardous wastes when disposed. Third, some active pharmaceutical ingredients are listed as acute hazardous wastes, which are regulated in small amounts.”
When finalized, this rule will increase the safety of drinking and surface water by reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals entering waterways. The EPA estimates that currently 6,400 tons of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals are flushed annually. The new rule will ban healthcare facilities from this practice.
“These rules provide businesses with certainty and the flexibility they need to successfully operate in today’s marketplace,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “The proposals will improve the safety and health of our communities by providing clear, flexible, and protective hazardous waste management standards.”
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