Pa Patient Saf Advis 2009 Mar;6(1):2.
Letter to the Editor: Hazardous Drug Classification

Hazardous Drug Classification

Regarding the article “Hazardous Spills: The Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs” in the September 2008 issue of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory, it probably should be added in an addendum that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies some drugs by characteristic(s). Hence, these drugs are by definition hazardous (e.g., paraldehyde, chloral hydrate). This classification bears on the proper disposal. For additional information, please see

Stevan Gressitt, MD, Medical Director
Office of Adult Mental Health Services
Department of Health and Human Services
Augusta, Maine

Editor’s Note

Thank you for your letter to the editor regarding the September 2008 Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory article “Hazardous Spills: The Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs” and for providing the additional information link to the Safe Medicine Disposal for Maine Program.The application of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency characteristics (i.e., ignitability, corrosively, reactivity, toxicity) occurs when the drug becomes a waste.1 The focus of the September 2008 article was the safe handling of these drugs during the entire life cycle, including manufacturing, transporting, dispensing, and administering, before ending at waste disposal. The article’s risk reduction strategies include cradle-to-grave considerations for hazardous drugs because many chemotherapy agents are now used for noncancerous conditions, a practice that increases exposure to healthcare providers, patients, and families. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Oncology Nursing Society, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards apply from receipt of the drug to administration and/or disposal.


  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. What makes a waste hazardous? [online]. 2000 Oct [cited 2009 Feb 13]. Available from Internet:

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