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Transporting infectious substances
  • Infectious substances fall into three classifications for transport: category A, category B, and regulated medical waste.

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulates the transportation of infectious substances, including regulated medical waste, as a hazardous material under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR 49 CFR 171-180). The HMR applies to any material capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce. An infectious substance must meet all applicable HMR requirements when offered for transportation by air, highway, rail, or water.

The HMR cover the classification, packaging, hazard communication, and security plans (in some cases) for infectious substances. Infectious substances fall into three classifications for transport:

  1. Category A: An infectious substance in a form capable of causing permanent disability or life-threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals when exposure to it occurs.
  2. Category B: An infectious substance not in a form generally capable of causing permanent disability or life-threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals when exposure to it occurs.
  3. Regulated medical waste: A waste or reusable material derived from the medical treatment of an animal or human.

Additional key points to remember for transporters of medical waste include:

  • States may require transports to obtain infectious waste, or special waste permits.
  • Ensure medical waste is properly packaged and labeled to the specifications listed in the DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations.
  • It is recommended to ship untreated medical waste in refrigerated box trucks.