Animal Waste Exposure Risks

Thesis on Feces

The UW-Madison campus has a huge variety of biomedical and agricultural animal research utilizing a wide variety of species. The animals receive radioactive materials, experimental chemical compounds, and biological agents; all of which can end up in their waste products. How is that waste safely handled and where does it go?

The majority of animal waste produced on campus goes into the normal waste stream, similar to human waste. The processing before sewer or landfill disposal varies based on agent and animal species. Animal waste handling is categorized into four types of exposure risks:

  • Allergies 
  • Experimental Biological Agents
  • Experimental Chemical Compounds 
  • Radioactive Materials 

In general, allergen exposure is more significant in terms of the health impact on workers than any experimental agents used. Protecting yourself from allergens greatly reduces your exposure to any agents that may have been administered to the animal. Engineering controls such as biosafety cabinets and animal transfer stations are the first step in reducing your exposure to allergens and agents. When engineering controls are unavailable, a properly fitted respirator is highly recommended when working with rodents or any other animals that have dusty bedding or create aerosols. Dedicated clothing in addition to personal protective equipment is recommended in all animal facilities to protect yourself and those you live with from exposure to allergens and agents.

Occupational Health Risk Management Specialists from the Department of Environment, Health & Safety can provide additional information about allergy, experimental chemical compound, radioactive material, and experimental biological agent exposure risks.