The AVMA List of Hazardous Substances Found in Veterinary Clinics

Written by melissa vega
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The AVMA List of Hazardous Substances Found in Veterinary Clinics
Hazardous veterinary waste must be disposed of properly (Siamesa image by quicolopez from

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has not yet compiled a list or database of veterinary hazardous materials. The AMVA began the process of developing a task force to this purpose that will present its findings as early as November of 2010. In the mean time, state environmental agencies usually identify and regulate hazardous materials in veterinarians' offices.

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Infectious Waste

Any needles, scalpels or syringes used by vets need to be disposed of in a hard plastic sharps container. These types of instruments may carry germs and bacteria that could pose a potential health threat. The container is marked as a biohazard so that it can be disposed of properly and safely. Infectious waste includes any item that came in contact with an animal's bodily fluids. This may include bedding, dressings or bandages. While many of the diseases that your cat or dog may get do not infect humans, it is important to dispose of this waste properly to keep other animals safe. Many of these diseases such as Parvo are potentially life threatening and highly contagious.


Veterinarians must assure they are regulating and disposing of their pharmaceuticals properly. This includes discarding expired medications in a timely manner. There are various reasons why a drug may be considered toxic. One reason is that some drugs are environmental hazards. For instance, equine vets sometimes treat horses with aerosol inhalers that are potentially combustible if not disposed of properly. Another concern is that some veterinary drugs are considered controlled substances in certain states. Tramadol is one example. It is a pain medication used for both dogs and humans. It has the potential to be habit-forming in humans and should be disposed of properly by veterinary offices to ensure no one who is unauthorised uses it.


Part of keeping a veterinary practice sanitary is properly cleaning and disinfecting examination, operating or kennel areas. However, cleaning products must be disposed of properly to avoid any dangers. For instance, 70 per cent or higher isopropyl alcohol is a flammable substance that is commonly used in a vet's office to disinfect surfaces. Pay attention when using alcohol wipes and make sure they are dry before discarding them. Even liquid hand sanitisers have the potential to catch on fire under the right circumstances. Just keep in mind that cleaners are chemical solutions, so use care when disposing of them.

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