USPS revises medical waste mailing standard

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The US Postal Service has revised its standards for mailing medical waste so that medical professionals can mail medical waste to disposal sites in larger containers.

The new standards allow a maximum weight of 35 pounds for packages approved as "Medical Professional Packaging." This became effective September 25.

"We published a proposed rule in the Federal Register (72 FR 20462, April 25) to revise the standards for mailing sharps and other regulated medical waste containers," the USPS said in its final ruling document. "Our proposal allowed for a single, larger primary receptacle that could accommodate several pre-primary sharps receptacles (sharps receptacles normally used in doctors' offices), as well as several tie-closed bags of other regulated medical waste."

The USPS received input during this process, including from both a USPS-authorized sharps vendor and a coalition of parties interested in the safe disposal of needles. Both were in support of the changes.

They offered the following comments:

"The term æMedical Professional Packaging' implies that only medical professionals can use it. Change the name so it is clear that it can be used by anyone," the first organization asked. The USPS retained the wording, however.

The second comment requested that the USPS require that pre-primary receptacles comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) approval rather than Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

However, the USPS responded in its final document, "The Postal Service believes that requiring pre-primary receptacles to meet OSHA standards as identified in 29 CFR 1910.1030 is the best method of verifying governmental compliance for sharps and other regulated medical waste receptacles containing blood-borne pathogens."

Pre-primary receptacles will be triple-packaged in accordance with further parcel preparation requirements for the mailing of sharps mail pieces. Therefore, the final rule adopts the requirement that pre-primary receptacles meet OSHA compliance standards as published in the proposed rule.

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