Categories of Biohazards: Biological Hazards & Contamination Levels
There are many misconceptions about what constitutes a biological hazard. On a scientific level, any substance that poses a health risk to living organisms is classified as a biohazard. In order to clarify that in simple terms, we’re taking a look at the four main categories of biohazards, as well as outlining the most common biohazards you are likely to encounter in your home or business.
Since it is impossible to tell if biological agents and pathogens are present without testing, you should treat every situation involving blood, body fluids, and tissue as potentially infectious. This includes any human tissue, animal carcasses, blood, and body fluids, as well as medical waste, drug paraphernalia, and toxic chemicals.
The Most Common Biohazards
Here are some of the most common examples of biological hazards you are likely to encounter in your home or business.
- Pathological Waste – While this includes human tissue from medical procedures, it also encompasses unattached human tissue from an accident or violent crime.
- Human Blood and Blood Products – This includes liquid blood, as well as blood products like plasma and items filled with or soaked in blood.
- Human Body Fluids – Any body fluid in a liquid or semi-liquid state, including semen, vaginal fluid, amniotic fluid, cerebral spinal fluid, and saliva.
- Sharp Items – Sharp items that have come in contact with other biohazards pose a significant risk of contamination. This includes needles, razors, knives, glass, and anything that can puncture the skin.
- Illicit Drugs and Paraphernalia – Illegal drugs pose a risk of intoxication or even overdose. Drug paraphernalia, especially intravenous needles and syringes, can spread biohazards as well.
- Pharmaceutical Waste – Although this includes any drug or medicine that is no longer needed or has expired, chemotherapy drugs and other pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of diseases post severe health risks.
- Animal Waste – Carcasses, tissue, and fluids from animals may contain infectious agents. This also includes animal excrement and bedding materials, too.
- Microbiological Waste – While unlikely in the home, specimen cultures, mixing or transferring devices, and other materials related to microbiology have the potential to spread biohazards.
Categories of Biohazard Materials
Biohazards are grouped into four categories that identify the types of materials involved and help determine the correct decontamination procedure for biohazard cleanup professionals.
Depending on the circumstances, several categories of biohazard materials may be involved. Due to the risk of contamination, you should assume that all categories of biohazards contain infected materials. For this reason, you should never attempt to clean up biohazardous materials on your own.
Pathological waste includes any type of human tissue that is no longer attached to the body, including flesh, body parts, and organs. While gums and other tissue from the mouth are included in pathological waste, teeth are not.
Outside of a medical environment, the most common cause of pathological waste are accidents and violent crimes. Although a variety of commercial or industrial accents may result in pathological waste, most residential accidents involve kitchen knives. Pathological waste also includes animal carcasses, tissue, and body parts.
Liquid waste includes any liquid or fluid from humans or animals. Most commonly this includes blood and blood products like serum and plasma.
Other biohazardous liquids include semen, vaginal fluids, cerebral spinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, and saliva. This also includes blood and fluids from animals.
Materials saturated with liquids will be treated as liquid waste during cleanup and decontamination, due to their risk of releasing liquid biohazards if squeezed or pressed. This includes clothing, carpeting, fabric, and upholstery.
Solid waste includes an extremely wide variety of items that have been exposed to potential biohazard contaminants. Any non-sharp item that has come in contact with a biohazard is included in this category.
Most building materials, like hardwood floors, walls, cabinets, and countertops, are included in the solid waste category. Also included are clothing and fabrics that are not saturated with liquid waste.
Sharp waste includes any item in the vicinity of a biohazard contamination that poses a risk of puncturing the skin. This includes medical equipment like needles, syringes, glass slides, and IVs with needles.
In residential, commercial, and industrial environments, this includes knives, razor blades, saws, broken glass, rough metal edges, and any other item that can pierce your skin. While these items may not be contaminated themselves, they increase the risk of injury and contamination during biohazard cleanup procedures.
Levels of Biohazard Contaminations
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognize four levels of biohazard threats. These levels indicate the risk of contamination or infection, how easy the agent spreads, and the safety requirements required to handle or decontaminate the agent involved. All of the categories of biohazards listed above may contain any of these levels of biohazard contaminants.
- Level 1 – Biological agents that pose a minimal threat to humans and the environment. Examples include E. coli and varicella (chickenpox).
- Level 2 – Biological agents that pose a moderate to severe threat to humans and are transmitted via direct contact. Examples include hepatitis A, B, and C, Lyme disease, salmonella, mumps, measles, and HIV.
- Level 3 – Biological agents that pose a severe and potentially fatal risk threat to humans and are transmitted via direct or indirect means, but for which treatments exist. Examples include anthrax, West Nile virus, SARS virus, MERS coronavirus, tuberculosis, typhus, yellow fever, and malaria.
- Level 4 – Biological agents that pose a severe and potentially fatal risk threat to humans, are transmitted via direct or indirect means, and for which there are no treatments. Examples include Ebola virus and hemorrhagic diseases. Although there is a vaccine, the variola virus (smallpox) is treated as a level 4 biohazard in terms of its quarantine and cleanup procedures.
The Importance of Professional Biohazard Decontamination and Cleanup
Due to the risk of contamination, you should assume every biohazard situation has the potential for contamination. Professional biohazard cleanup specialists are trained in the proper procedures for decontaminating all categories and levels of biohazard contaminations.
The biohazard experts in the Restoration Local network are here to decontaminate after an accident or violent crime involved human tissue, blood, or any other biohazard material. After an initial assessment and free estimate, we protect your property against further contamination before starting the decontamination and cleanup process.
Biohazard cleanup includes the removal and proper disposal of all hazardous contaminants. Our biohazard restoration professionals comply with all local regulations. They then disinfect and deodorize the affected areas before restoring your property to its original condition.
If you have a biohazard situation, call 1-888-443-3110 now for a free, no-obligation estimate on cleanup and decontamination. With our 24-hour emergency service and 30-minute response time, our compassionate and discreet biohazard restoration specialists give you peace of mind.