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HIV and the Bloodborne Pathogen Regulation: implications for the wastewater industry

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to develop protocols to minimize occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens and, in the case that occupational exposure cannot be eliminated, to inform their employees of any risk that bloodborne pathogens may present. Compared to most bloodborne pathogens, little information is available on the potential for occupational transmission of HIV from wastewater. To assess this potential, current information relative to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) physiology, behavior, and analytical methods are reviewed. Information regarding the concentration of HIV in human waste and the survivability of HIV outside the human body is presented relative to the potential for virus transmission. From this information, it appears that the probability of such transmission approaches zero, but it cannot be ruled out entirely. It is more likely that human contact with wastewater will result in the transmission of pathogenic microorganisms other than HIV. Practices which limit or eliminate the risk of occupational transmission of “conventional” pathogens (namely, those practices prescribed under the Bloodborne Pathogen Regulation and the Universal Precautions of the Centers for Disease Control) will probably be effective in limiting HIV transmission from wastewater.

Keywords: AIDS; HIV; bloodborne pathogen regulation; wastewater

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 1994

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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