What is OPIM and Why You Should Know about It

what is opim needles and syringes

With increasing awareness of contagious and infectious materials, more people are looking to figure out what poses a danger to their health. People are asking ‘what is OPIM' and ‘what does OPIM stand for?’ Continue reading to find out about what makes OPIMs so crucial to proper medical waste disposal. 

Workplace health challenges and dangers exist in all industries. For example, even regular office work can weaken eyesight, form blood clots, and generally induce stress. While all working environments have a potential for injury, a few other occupations are at a greater risk of injury and loss. 

You might be exposed to certain infectious materials depending on your job, position, and work responsibility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workers in the healthcare industry are vulnerable to occupational exposure to blood pathogens. These may include human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). 

Let’s learn more about OPIM and how it affects your general health. 

But First, What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?

The term ‘pathogen’ refers to organisms that can produce an illness or disease, which can seriously deteriorate your health. These infectious microorganisms living in the surrounding environment include viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites, etc. 

Pathogens invade the body and serve as infectious agents to bring disease to its host. While some pathogens interact with your body via the environment, others may come from animals and people around you. 

Pathogen transmission from one human being to another is common, but how does it occur? Usually, bodily fluids serve as the medium for exchanging pathogens between people. 

Bloodborne pathogens are the pathogens in a person’s blood that are ready for transmission. Another human must come in direct contact with the infected person’s blood for pathogen to transmit.

How Do Bloodborne Pathogens Spread?

All kinds of contact with infected blood increase your risk of potential infection. The common ways that a pathogen can transmit include:

Sexual Contact: It is one of the most common modes of bloodborne pathogen transmission.

IV Drug Use: Sharing needles among drug users increases the risk of infection. 

Direct Contact: Direct contact occurs when infected blood from an individual enters another individual’s body. Blood splashing in the eyes is an example of direct contact. 

Indirect Contact: Indirect contact occurs when a person touches an object with infected blood. For example, laboratory workers handling test tubes, etc. 

Respiratory Droplet Transmission: This transmission mode involves inhaling the droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. 

What is OPIM Medical Abbreviation?

If you’re wondering what is OPIM, here is a complete answer. The abbreviated term OPIM stands for Other Potentially Infectious Materials. Usually, OPIMs refer to bodily fluids that risk exposure to pathogens. 

Blood is the primary potentially infectious bodily fluid, since it can carry various pathogens that can lead to chronic and fatal diseases. Along with blood, a few other materials also have similar risks. Besides several bodily fluids, these potentially infectious materials include tissues and organs.

Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIMs) generally include:

Blood Components

  • Serum
  • Plasma
  • Red Blood Cells
  • White Blood Cells
  • Platelets

Bodily Fluids

  • Vaginal Secretions
  • Semen
  • Amniotic Fluid
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid
  • Pericardial Fluid
  • Synovial Fluid
  • Peritoneal Fluid
  • Pleural Fluid
  • Saliva (mostly and particularly during dental procedures only)
  • Any bodily fluid contaminated with blood
  • Vomit (if contaminated with blood)
  • Nasal Secretions (if contaminated with blood)
  • Sweat (if contaminated with blood)
  • Urine (if contaminated with blood)
  • Feces (if contaminated with blood)

Tissues/ Organs

  • Unfixed Tissues or Organs (whether living or dead)
  • Cell Structures (for research)
  • Tissue Structures (for research)
  • Organ Cultures (for research)
  • Tissues and organs from experimental animals (particularly those with HIVB or HIV)
  • Pathogenic Microorganisms

Generally, most people do not come in contact with OPIMs on an average day. However, those in the healthcare industry, such as nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals, may often come across Other Potentially Infectious Materials. Therefore, it is crucial to know what materials qualify as OPIMs and how to safely manage them.

Transmission of Bloodborne Pathogens via OPIMs

Taking precautions when exposed to blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials is critical, as bloodborne pathogens are quick to transmit. Here are the common risks of getting infected with a bloodborne pathogen. 

Contaminated Needles: Both intentional and accidental punctures in the skin can lead to OPIM and infected blood exposure.

Direct Contact with Broken Skin: Contaminated bodily fluids can increase your risk of disease if they come in contact with cuts or wounds in the skin. 

Direct Contact with Mucus Membranes: Organs containing mucus membranes such as the mouth, nose, and eyes can provide bloodborne pathogens with convenient entry inside the body. 

Bites: If a person or animal bites you, and their teeth punctures your skin, it can expose your blood to contaminated bodily fluids. 

Mother-to-Fetus Contact: Bloodborne pathogens can transmit to the fetus during pregnancy or even at birth. 

Simple measures like wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) can minimize your risk of exposure to blood and OPIMs.

OPIMs - Safe Disposal

Healthcare workers are at continuous risk of exposure to infected blood and Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIMs). You should be extremely careful if you’re involved in containing, storing, or transporting infected blood and OPIMs. Following standards of procedure for handling OPIM disposal is vital.

Letting contaminated blood and Other Potentially Infectious Materials pile up over time is risky. Not to mention, discarding these materials with common garbage exposes other people to a risk of infection.

Regulated Waste: Keep regulated wastes in containers with tight lids. Label and color-code these containers according to standard.

Sharp Object: Keep sharp objects in puncture-resistant containers before disposing them. 

Hazardous Medical Waste: Place hazardous medical waste in leak-proof and carefully-constructed containers. 

Please leave transportation and disposal to a professional medical waste management company.


Pathogens are infectious agents entering the human body to trigger the disease process. Bloodborne pathogens such as viruses and bacteria are those infectious agents that use blood as a transmission medium between people. 

While blood is the most common infectious material, others include bodily fluids, tissues, and organs. All infectious materials besides blood are categorized under OPIMs (Other Potentially Infectious Materials). Contact with infected blood or OPIMs increases a person’s risk of infection or disease. Take great care in the proper disposal procedures keep up with bloodborne pathogens compliance training for each of these materials in order to keep your workplace safe.