Utah hasn't had large quantities of infectious medical waste wash up on the shores of Great Salt Lake, as happened on the ocean beaches of New Jersey recently, but such waste is being dumped in other unsafe ways in the state.

Medical waste includes syringes, needles, blood vials, gauze pads, bandages, and even human tissue. Even without considering AIDS infection, the danger from such materials is obvious.Most of this waste in Utah is burned in local incinerators or hauled to out-of-state incinerators. But some waste, as Deseret News Staff Writer Joseph Bauman reported in a recent three-part series, is simply thrown into dumpsters.

The scavenging that sometimes goes on in dumpsters can lead to such material being scattered elsewhere, as well as being a threat to the scavengers. Such medical waste was recently found by youngsters near a Salt Lake County school yard.

Yet those who throw infectious medical waste into a dumpster are not violating any state law. There is no such law on the books and no official rules for dealing with such waste. There are no national laws, either. Doctors, nurses, and hospital officials all support the establishment of safety requirements.

Part of the problem is simply apathy. Until the news from New Jersey, medical waste disposal has not been a high priority item. Other kinds of hazardous waste were considered more urgent.

The Utah Legislature this year passed a bill that said the State Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee "may" promulgate rules on dealing with infectious medical waste. But it didn't include the $35,000 for the required public notices and hearings before rules can be adopted.

While the lawmakers should strive to keep spending down, it would be false economy to perpetuate a public hazard just because $35,000 isn't provided to finance the rule-making process.

The Legislature should move quickly to correct this problem when it meets early next year.