Frequent Questions about the Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals Proposed Rule

Question: Which pharmaceuticals are considered hazardous waste?

Answer: As thousands of over-the-counter and prescription drugs are currently approved for sale in the United States, it is difficult to provide a precise number of pharmaceuticals that are considered hazardous waste. However, as with any other waste, a solid waste is considered hazardous waste if it meets a listing or exhibits a characteristic described in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 261.

There are approximately 30 commercial chemical products listed on the P and U hazardous waste lists that have pharmaceutical uses. As the P and U lists are based on chemical designations, this number does not completely represent the total number of brand name pharmaceuticals that may actually be listed hazardous wastes. For example, the following chemotherapy drugs, CTX, Cytotoxan, Neosar and Procytox, are all designated as a U058 hazardous waste for cyclophosamide.

In addition, waste pharmaceuticals may also be hazardous because they exhibit one or more of the four characteristics of hazardous waste: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity. For example, solutions containing more than 24 percent alcohol exhibit the ignitability characteristic. Pharmaceuticals exhibiting the corrosivity characteristic are generally limited to compounding chemicals, including strong acids, such as glacial acetic acid, and strong bases, such as sodium hydroxide.

Depending on the concentration in different pharmaceutical preparations, pharmaceuticals may also exhibit the toxicity characteristic because of the use of arsenic (D004), barium (D005), cadmium (D006), chloroform (D022), chromium (D007), lindane (D013), m-cresol (D024), mercury (D009), selenium (D010), and silver (D011).

For more assistance determining which pharmaceuticals may be hazardous waste, see the Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals Wiki.

This content, Frequent Questions about the Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals Proposed Rule, first appeared on

Comments are closed.