About 50 medical waste incinerators nationwide will have to reduce their air pollution under new regulations announced by US EPA. EPA said that the new rules, which require better monitoring and tighten emissions limits, will reduce toxic pollution from the burning of medical waste by 390,000 pounds annually and may result in no new incinerators being built.
EPA’s new air pollution limits that will affect most existing hospital, medical, and infectious waste incinerators. This final action will reduce about 390,000 pounds of several pollutants each year including acid gases, nitrogen oxides, and metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. EPA is also finalizing additional testing, monitoring, and inspection requirements.
This final agency action revises the September 1997 new source performance standards and emission guidelines for these incinerators and responds to the Court remand of the regulations. It also satisfies the Clean Air Act requirement to conduct a review of the standards every five years.
Medical incinerators burn biological waste, needles, plastic gloves, batteries and other items. The resulting emissions account for only a fraction of the country’s air pollution, but it is a particularly toxic mix of heavy metals, acid gases and other contaminants. EPA estimates the cost to comply with the new regulations will be about $15.5 million per year.