inhaler disposal

Inhalers save lives and improve the quality of life for millions of people. Since the metered dose inhaler was invented in the 1950s, inhalers have become so much a part of daily life that many don’t realize that they require specialized handling and disposal after use. That’s why Sharps Compliance has developed the Inhaler Disposal System to provide for the compliant packaging and safe transportation of unused and partially used pressurized inhalers.

Pressurized Inhalers Save Lives

The advent of inhalers for people with respiratory issues was a godsend. According to Breathefree, a Cipla initiative:

“Inhalers are not the last but the first resort medicine for treating breathing problems such as asthma and COPD. Across the globe, inhalers are considered to be the most effective, safe, and convenient way of treating most of the breathing problems. With inhalers, the medication reaches the airways in the lungs directly, exactly where it has to act, in a matter of seconds and provides relief. On the other hand, tablets and syrups need to be ingested, which means they reach the stomach and bloodstream first and the lungs later. Thus, they do not provide quick relief.”

Types of Inhalers

Medical News Today states that “Rescue inhalers dispense a type of medication called a bronchodilator, which expands, or dilates, the airways, known as bronchioles.”

An inhaler may be considered “long-acting” or “short-acting,” and the active pharmaceutical differs per these types of devices.

  • Short-acting inhalers use the medication albuterol in products such as ProAir, Ventolin, and Proventil. It’s delivered from a pressurized device, which is considered an aerosol per the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.
  • Long-acting inhalers are used to control chronic conditions, not provide quick relief from an asthma attack. Common long-acting inhaler products include Advair, Dulera, and Symbicort.

Pressurized Inhalers Are Considered a DOT Hazardous Material

The DOT defines an aerosol as a non-refillable receptacle containing a gas compressed, liquefied, or dissolved under pressure, the sole purpose of which is to expel a non-poisonous liquid, paste, or powder and fitted with a self-closing release device (nozzle or actuator) allowing the contents to be ejected by the gas. Furthermore, the DOT defines a “hazardous material” as any substance or material that could adversely affect the safety of the public, handlers, or carriers during transportation – and is listed on the DOT’s Hazardous Material Table (HMT) at CFR 172.101.

Since the inhaler, as a compressed gas, is considered a DOT Hazardous Material, the proper shipping and the ultimate disposal must meet compliance with the regulations.

Sharps Compliance has developed the Inhaler Disposal System for the compliant packaging and transportation of unused and partially used pressurized inhalers. This system complies with 49 CFR §173.306 for the safe and compliant shipment for Limited Quantities of compressed gases over-the-road. Sharps will receive the inhalers and manage these to high heat incineration for the ultimate disposal of the compressed gas device and the pharmaceutical therein.

Inhaler Disposal System Helps LCTFs Simplify Their Medication Disposal Processes

Sharps Compliance’s team of regulatory experts monitors new regulations in order to provide guidance to its customers on how to simplify waste disposal. In February 2019, the EPA published a new pharmaceutical rule: Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals and Amendment to the P075 Listing for Nicotine. When adopted, the rule allows long-term care facilities that meet the EPA’s definition of a “Very Small Quantity Generator” to manage their residents’ DOT compatible pharmaceuticals in DEA-approved collection receptacles. This means DEA-controlled substances, hazardous waste pharmaceuticals, and non-hazardous pharmaceuticals can all be collected in one receptacle.

DOT regulations do not allow inhalers to be packaged with solid and liquid medications in the DEA-approved collection receptacles, such as Sharps’ MedSafe. By combining the MedSafe collection receptacle with the new Inhaler Disposal System, LTCFs can streamline their medication disposal processes.

Please contact us to learn more about Inhaler Disposal System.


Joe Jordan has a Bachelors of Arts degree in Chemistry from Washington and Jefferson College. He is certified in RCRA and DOT as well as 40 Hour HAZWOPER certified. Joe has been in the hazardous waste industry since 1990 and has managed industrial, healthcare, retail, and governmental clients, both large and small.

published in Medication Disposal