Household hazardous waste threatens the health and well-being of every man, woman, and child in the United States. At this moment, the average American household has as much as 100 pounds of hazardous waste in the basement, garage, attic, storage shed, yard, or living space itself, materials that can cause illness and even death.
Paints, batteries, bathroom cleansers, solvents, pesticides, motor oil, paint thinner, prescription drugs—these and many more items contain chemicals that are hazardous to human health if they are used, stored, or discarded improperly. They have the potential to explode, cause fires, corrode, or poison people, animals, and the environment.
Household hazardous products present significant challenges to consumers. These challenges are:
- They must be used properly. Instructions for use should be followed exactly. Any shortcuts could prove deadly or cause serious harm.
- They must be securely stored, out of reach of children, pets, and anyone who may inadvertently misuse the product (e.g., an elderly or confused adult). Each year, more than 1 million children under six years of age are poisoned accidentally. All storage containers should be sealed properly, undamaged, and labeled clearly as to its contents and dangers.
- They must be disposed of safely. Unfortunately, unused portions of dangerous household products are often poured onto the ground, washed down the drain, or thrown in the trash. The chemicals then can poison the soil, air, and water and eventually make their way back into the food and water supply for humans, plants, and animals.
Individuals, businesses, and organizations are coming together to help reduce the amount of household toxic waste that threatens communities. Are you ready to do your part?
I Did This!
- Review the labels on your household cleaning supplies and replace toxic products with safe products or methods. Natural cleaning supplies are not only safer but are usually less expensive as well.
- Choose safer alternatives to hazardous products whenever possible. For example, choose water-based instead of oil-based paint; spread compost (and you can make your own!) instead of chemical fertilizers; diatomaceous earth instead of roach killers; citrus oils instead of paint thinners to clean paint brushes.
- Use natural pest control for your garden, lawn, and home. Organizations such as Beyond Pesticides and the Natural Resources Defense Council offer dozens of safe, nontoxic alternatives to hazardous pesticides.
- Utilize the hazardous household waste collection days or sites offered in your community. Contact your solid waste or hazardous waste department under "Local Government" in your phone book, or check out Earth911 for information on how to properly recycle or dispose of household hazardous waste in your community.
- Dispose of medications responsibly. Because drugs (both over-the-counter and prescription) are hazardous waste, many municipalities accept them as part of their hazardous waste collection programs. Contact your local program for details. You can also contact local pharmacies, as many have medication recycling/collection programs. Do not throw medications into the toilet, trash, or waterways, as the chemicals can seep into the water supply and/or soil.
- Donate or recycle your unwanted cell phone. Hundreds of schools, churches, and other nonprofits collect cell phones for recycling and fundraising. Most cell phone stores also accept used phones for recycling. Cell phones are hazardous waste, as many contain lead, as well as high levels of copper, zinc, nickel, and antimony.
- Donate or recycle your personal computers and peripherals. Like cell phones, these items contain hazardous substances.
- Properly dispose of car batteries, used motor oil, and other toxic fluids from vehicles. Fluids can be collected in clean, sturdy containers and recycled at household hazardous waste collection sites or by some service stations or automobile supply stores. Batteries are also collected by the same facilities.
Help keep your home a safe haven for you and your family by reducing your use of toxic household items, choosing safer alternatives, and recycling any toxic substances responsibly.