Some steam sterilization indicator products, such as cards, peel pouches tabs and tapes, contain sufficient lead or barium to render them toxic hazardous wastes when discarded. Generators wishing to manage sterilization indicators and items to which the indicators are attached, such as sterilization wrap, commonly known as blue wrap, as non-hazardous must evaluate each indicator/wrap combination separately. For more information on sterile indicators, see MPCA hazardous waste fact sheet #3.35, Regulatory Consensus on Health Care Issues [PDF 213KB].
Waste Reduction Tips
Lead-free indicator tape is available from Sterilization Products and Services (SPS) and VWR - VWR Autoclave Indicator Tape (VWR#: 73390-064). However, there have been instances of the tape not adhering well to the package.
Another option is the use of sterilization hard cases, which not only reduce the lead waste associated with indicator tape, but also reduce the waste and costs associated with blue wrap. Sterilization containers, also known as hard cases, are stainless steel boxes into which the sterilized instruments are placed. They can be reused hundreds of times and can substitute for blue wrap in many applications. The use of hard cases minimizes the quantity of blue wrap and tape used and disposed of, thus greatly reducing costs. Hard cases are also better for protecting instruments from damage. They improve efficiency and are safer for patients because surgical procedures are not delayed and instruments are not flash sterilized due to tears in blue wrap. Hard cases also use lead-containing indicators. However, the tags and filters with lead indicator dots are smaller in quantity and easier to manage than tape adhering to blue wrap. Hard cases can be cost effective when the purchase and disposal expenditures are considered.