Risky Business: Bloodborne Pathogens

June 27, 2018

In medical settings across the nation bloodborne pathogens and Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIMs) are taken very seriously. While there has been significant innovation in the sanitation of public restrooms, one area has been swept under the proverbial rug; safety instruments for the disposal of menstrual items, and the menstrual receptacles that contain them. Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) (among several OPIMs) can all be transmitted through exposure to menstrual blood. On December 6th,1991 the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) officially promulgated the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Although there has been attempts in the past to solve this problem, no product on the market has succeeded in providing a truly sanitary, user friendly solution for the disposal of feminine hygiene items, until the invention of the MaskIT pouch.

Bloodborne Pathogens is an umbrella term that covers a myriad of pathogens; However, the most common are HIV, HBV, and HCV. Bloodborne Pathogens are defined as, “Disease-producing microorganisms transmitted by means of blood, tissue, and body fluids containing blood,” and are a lot more common than one might think.

HIV affects more than 1.2 million people in the United States alone. What’s more concerning is that 1 in 8 of them don’t know it. This virus is very dangerous. No effective cure exists for HIV.” HBV and HCV doesn’t get as much attention as HIV, but Hepatitis should not be overlooked. HBV is 50 - 100 times more infectious than HIV. In 2014, there was an estimated 19,200 new HBV infections that contributed to an estimated 850,000 - 2.2 million persons infected in the US alone. In the same year, there were an estimated 30,500 cases of acute hepatitis C virus infections reported that may contribute to the estimated 2.7-3.9 million people in the United States that have chronic hepatitis C. “Even dried blood can present risk to others.” HBV can live outside the body at least seven days, while HCV can live outside the body for up to three weeks.

OSHA was established over 45 years ago for one purpose, “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” For over 25 years, OSHA has officially recognized the dangers of Bloodborne Pathogens. Their goal of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard is to protect workers from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens in the work place and have developed a series of procedures like universal precautions, and engineering controls to achieve this goal. Thanks to OSHA the workplace has become safer for workers. But what about guests, customers, and the employers that don’t strictly abide by OSHA’s guidelines?

Unfortunately, there is an immeasurable number of people being exposed to bloodborne pathogens every single day in women's restrooms. Often times, in high traffic public restrooms, menstrual receptacles are filled past capacity with tampons, sanitary napkins and copious amounts of saturated toilet paper. This is a huge safety threat to the public, and working staff, in terms of exposure risk to bloodborne pathogens because menstrual blood can contain bloodborne pathogens, and contracting one is easier than one might think.

Previously, feminine hygiene disposal bags have attempted to solve this problem e.g. Sani Sac, Nap Sack, Scensibles, Tidy Girl, etc., but all have failed to provide a viable sanitary solution. These products are typically difficult to use, and do not seal properly. Often times they end up with blood on the outside of the bag, defeating the purpose of it’s use. To fully address the situation at hand, businesses should look for a product that is designed to be placed on the woman’s hand prior to removing her item, and is capable of inverting. This way, the woman’s hand never becomes contaminated during the change out process, and the outside of the inverted bag remains uncontaminated. Last but not least, the product should be able to seal shut so that the contents of the bag remains safely contained before the item is placed in the menstrual receptacle. This process of inverting and sealing shut would provide optimal protection for customers, guest, employees and cleaning staff against exposure risk to bloodborne pathogens.

Joshua D. Mozingo, 28, received a B.S. from the University of Oregon back in 2015 and is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of the manufacturing company MaskIT LLC. Josh has spent the last 5 years raising awareness on the importance of proper feminine