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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Dec;108 Suppl 6:953-77.

Minimization and management of wastes from biomedical research.

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Environmental Protection Branch, Division of Safety, Office of Research Services, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-5746, USA.


Several committees were established by the National Association of Physicians for the Environment to investigate and report on various topics at the National Leadership Conference on Biomedical Research and the Environment held at the 1--2 November 1999 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. This is the report of the Committee on Minimization and Management of Wastes from Biomedical Research. Biomedical research facilities contribute a small fraction of the total amount of wastes generated in the United States, and the rate of generation appears to be decreasing. Significant reductions in generation of hazardous, radioactive, and mixed wastes have recently been reported, even at facilities with rapidly expanding research programs. Changes in the focus of research, improvements in laboratory techniques, and greater emphasis on waste minimization (volume and toxicity reduction) explain the declining trend in generation. The potential for uncontrolled releases of wastes from biomedical research facilities and adverse impacts on the general environment from these wastes appears to be low. Wastes are subject to numerous regulatory requirements and are contained and managed in a manner protective of the environment. Most biohazardous agents, chemicals, and radionuclides that find significant use in research are not likely to be persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic if they are released. Today, the primary motivations for the ongoing efforts by facilities to improve minimization and management of wastes are regulatory compliance and avoidance of the high disposal costs and liabilities associated with generation of regulated wastes. The committee concluded that there was no evidence suggesting that the anticipated increases in biomedical research will significantly increase generation of hazardous wastes or have adverse impacts on the general environment. This conclusion assumes the positive, countervailing trends of enhanced pollution prevention efforts by facilities and reductions in waste generation resulting from improvements in research methods will continue.

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