What exactly does the word hazardous mean? It is used quite often in the regulatory world as a descriptor of another significant word. The word “hazardous” is an adjective, meaning full of risk; perilous; risky.
If you live in the Northern US, I am sure that you know what hazardous driving conditions signify. If you are a golfer, I am positive that you recognize the word “hazards” when on the course. So, you can easily see what using the term hazard or hazardous connotes.
We need to make certain that the regulatory definitions using the key word hazardous are understood – and that we use the terms correctly. Let’s look at the use of the word hazardous in the regulations.
Hazardous Substance is defined under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Typically, it’s used in DOT transportation applications, as there is a quantity threshold for a chemical – after which a marking or placard needs to be placed on the vessel or vehicle carrying this chemical.
Hazardous Material is defined as any substance or material, which could adversely affect the safety of the public, handlers or carriers during transportation. All DOT hazardous materials are listed in the DOT’s Hazardous Material Table. For example, in a retail store, there are several products on the shelves, which are considered Hazardous Materials (fingernail polish remover, Liquid Drano, Lighter Fluid insecticides). These may become hazardous wastes if discarded.
Hazardous Waste is waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment and is defined by the EPA. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges. They can be discarded commercial products, like cleaning fluids or pesticides or the by-products of manufacturing processes.
Hazardous Drugs are drugs that are known to cause genotoxicity, which is the ability to cause a change or mutation in genetic material; carcinogenicity, the ability to cause cancer in animal models, humans or both; and teratogenicity, which is the ability to cause defects on fetal development or fetal malformation. Hazardous drugs have the potential to cause fertility impairment, which is a major concern for most clinicians. Many hazardous drugs are chemotherapy drugs defined by NIOSH.
Biohazardous Waste, also called infectious waste or biomedical waste, is any waste containing infectious materials or potentially infectious substances, such as blood and/or sharps.