We use the passage and implementation of the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988 (MWTA) to explore the implications of health and environmental policies that are formulated in the context of events defined politically as a crisis. Building on Kingdon's (1984) “garbage can” model of policy initiation, we assess the linkage between a policy environment that provides strong but short-lived support for the enactment of a policy and its subsequent implementation. Among the implications of the less-than-impressive substantive results of the MWTA is the lesson that while a crisis can tilt the political balance in favor of regulatory legislation, it cannot as readily produce the consensus required to sustain that regulation at the levels promised in the legislation.

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