Are You Controlling Your Household Hazardous Wastes?
Local HHW Programs
Are You Making Use of Local HHW Collection Programs?See results without voting
Does the question in the title raise any flags with you?
Many people believe hazardous waste issues are associated with commercial or industrial businesses. Yet each year we use and generate more than 25 pounds of waste materials containing hazardous substances each year just doing routine chores around the house.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates more than 1.6 million tons of household hazardous wastes (HHW) are generated annually across the nation; much of this material ends up accumulating in basements, garages and on closet storage shelves.
Improper storage and disposal of these materials can harm people, pets and other critters and the environment in general. These are definitely the types of material not to bury in the back yard or dump down the drain!
So what types of household products contain hazardous materials?
Many of the products and materials we use daily contain hazardous components. Common materials containing hazardous components include:
- Household maintenance items (paint, varnishes, stains, thinners, glues)
- Household and automotive batteries
- Personal care products (nail polish and remover, hair products)
- Cleaners (household and solvents)
- Automotive maintenance products (grease, oil, fuels)
- Pesticides and fertilizers
- Hobbies/Outdoor (pool chemicals, lacquers, lighter fluid, white gas)
What makes a household product hazardous?
A household product can be considered a threat if it or its major components meet one or more of the following criteria:
- They are toxic – material that are poisonous when ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. The toxic effects can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).
- They are corrosive – materials that are either highly acidic (automotive batteries) or alkaline (bleaches) can dissolve other materials such as metals. These materials will also cause significant burns to skin, eyes and other tissue they come into contact with.
- They are ignitable – highly flammable materials like gasoline, camp stove fuels, paint thinners. Some solvents catch fire easily and can cause severe burns when they do.
- They are reactive – materials that become unstable when mixed with other substances (water or other materials).
If you want to learn more about the materials you are using or the components in them request a material safety data sheet from the manufacturer’s website or check for a listing in the NIH/NML Household Products Database ( << click the highlighted link to learn more about it!).
Example HHW Collection Day
Some ways to better control household hazardous wastes!
Here are a few suggestions to help manage household materials containing hazardous components:
- Identify and use similar materials containing non-hazardous components (again consider visiting the Household Products Database to learn more);
- Buy only the quantity of materials needed (especially paints, thinners, etc.) or share with relatives or neighbors where appropriate;
- Recycle materials like waste oil and used batteries;
- Replace cleaners, pesticides and fertilizers with green cleaners and natural alternatives;
- Store materials properly and keep out of children’s reach;
- Never mix different materials to reduce storage space since they may be incompatible and cause dangerous reactions (some things go BOOM when mixed!);
- Make use of local household hazardous waste collection programs (an example from the Kansas City (MO) Metro Area is shown in the video above). If you are not sure if your locality has a program, contact the local sanitation department or health/environmental agent.
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