Postal Service Revising Standards for Mailing Sharps, Lithium Batteries

The U.S. Postal Service yesterday proposed new mailing standards for medical waste and lithium batteries. The first standard will allow medical professionals to ship waste to disposal sites more easily, while the second will make it possible to mail devices powered by lithium batteries with those batteries still inside.

Currently, mail-back medical waste containers are used most often by individuals who self-inject medications to control diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases. USPS wants to increase the maximum allowable weight of medical waste mail-back containers and require additional packaging safeguards, thus giving medical offices the option of using the mail for sending medical waste for disposal. Comments on the proposal are due by May 25 to Manager, Mailing Standards, Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3436, Washington, DC 20260-3436.

Current rules prohibit mailing devices powered by lithium batteries when the batteries are in the device. "These standards are excessively restrictive because they obstruct the mailing of commonly used consumer-type batteries that are permitted to be transported by air under Department of Transportation and International Air Transportation Association regulations," USPS said. "In addition, under our current standards, it is difficult to determine which lithium batteries meet mailing standards and which do not. Therefore, by identifying all small consumer-type lithium batteries as mailable when properly labeled and packaged, this proposal would increase the safety of the mail. Our proposed standards are based on, yet more restrictive than, DOT shipping regulations for lithium batteries." Comments on this, too, are due by May 25 to the same address.

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