Quest Diagnostics has agreed to pay $5 million to settle state charges after being accused of discarding medical waste, chemicals, and patient information in dumpsters

Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest medical testing companies in the United States, has agreed to a $5 million settlement to resolve allegations of improper disposal of hazardous chemicals, medical waste, and patient information at multiple locations throughout the Bay Area and California.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the settlement on Wednesday, emphasizing the risks posed by Quest Diagnostics’ actions to families, communities, and the environment. Bonta stated, “Quest Diagnostics’ illegal disposal of hazardous and medical waste and patient information put families and communities at risk and endangered our environment.” He also underscored his office’s commitment to holding corporations accountable for their actions.

Headquartered in Secaucus, New Jersey, Quest Diagnostics operates at 623 sites in California, offering a range of testing services including cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases, neurological disorders, COVID-19, and employment and court-ordered drug testing.

Ten district attorneys from Alameda, San Mateo, Monterey, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Ventura, and Yolo counties joined Bonta in the legal action against Quest Diagnostics.

According to prosecutors, district attorneys’ offices conducted over 30 inspections at Quest laboratories and patient service centers throughout California, starting in 2020. During these inspections, they found numerous violations, including the improper disposal of chemicals such as bleach, solvents, and flammable liquids in dumpsters and trash compactors. They also found batteries, electronic waste, unredacted patient information, and medical waste like used specimen containers for blood and urine. These actions, which were deemed sloppy, resulted in violations of various laws, including the Hazardous Waste Control Law, Medical Waste Management Act, Unfair Competition Law, and civil laws regarding the disclosure of personal health information.

Quest Diagnostics, which employs 50,000 people nationwide and had revenues of $9.8 billion in 2022, has taken steps to address these issues. The company has hired an independent environmental auditor to review waste disposal practices at its facilities and is improving its training procedures for handling, storing, and disposing of hazardous waste, medical waste, and personal health information. As part of the settlement, Quest is required to file annual progress reports with the state.

Dennis Moynihan, a spokesperson for Quest Diagnostics, stated, “Quest takes patient privacy and the protection of the environment very seriously and has made significant investments to implement industry best practices to ensure hazardous waste, medical waste, and confidential patient information are disposed of properly.” He highlighted the company’s investments in technologies for treating biological waste, secure destruction of patient information, recycling programs, waste-to-energy recovery, and enhanced waste audit and inspection measures.

District attorneys noted that the improper disposal practices were not isolated incidents but were widespread across Quest Diagnostics facilities in the state. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer remarked, “This was Quest Diagnostics laboratories and testing facilities across the state skirting California’s hazardous waste laws while ignoring the very real environmental and health impacts.”

Under the settlement, Quest will pay $3,999,500 in civil penalties, which will be distributed among the counties and state agencies overseeing hazardous waste, as well as $700,000 in costs and $300,000 for environmental training and enforcement programs in California.

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