Rep. May 1995
DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD WASTE
WHEN IS A PRODUCT HAZARDOUS? Most household products are not harmful if used according to label directions. However, they can become harmful if used improperly, stored improperly, or if unused portions are disposed of improperly. HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS AND THE WASTE STREAM Most people dispose of hazardous products by throwing them in the trash, pouring them down the drain, burning them, pouring them in a ditch, dumping them on a vacant lot, or burying them in a field. These practices are dangerous. Waste from hazardous products can contaminate lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater (the places ...view middle of the document...
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines four major types of hazardous waste: s Corrosive wastes can cause a chemical action that eats away materials or living tissue. Battery acid is an example. s Toxic wastes can cause illness or death. Some such wastes are more dangerous than others. Exposure to a small concentration of a highly toxic chemical may cause symptoms of poisoning. Pesticides, cleaning products, paints, photographic supplies, and many art supplies are examples. s Ignitable waste can catch fire spontaneously or burn easily. Examples include charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, and nail polish remover. s Reactive waste can react with air, water, or other substances to cause rapid heating or explosions. Acids that heat up rapidly and spatter when mixed with water are examples. EPA estimates that the average household disposes of one pound of hazardous waste each year. In South Carolina that means that 1,150,000 pounds of hazardous household wastes must be handled each year.
hazardous materials. Equipment has also been damaged. 2. Poured Down the Drain? When you pour hazardous household products down the sink or flush them down the toilet the hazardous materials enter either a septic system or a municipal sewer system. If you have a septic system, wastewater from your home goes into a tank buried underground. The solids settle out and partially decompose. The remaining wastewater then goes into a drain field where the natural, ongoing processes in the soil help to further break down the wastewater. Toxic materials in that wastewater can kill the helpful bacteria and the system will not operate properly. Some toxic materials move through the soil untreated or unchanged. When this happens groundwater or surface waters may become contaminated. For example, many paint removers and aerosol paint products contain the chemical methylene chloride. This chemical can pass directly through a septic system without breaking down at all. Chlorine bleach can also pass through a septic system without breaking down. Also the chlorine can react with organic matter to form new toxic chemicals. If your home is connected to a municipal sewage system, wastewater is piped to a central sewage plant. After treatment, it is discharged into area rivers, lakes, and streams. Most municipal systems rely on bacteria or other organisms to decompose the waste. Some hazardous household waste can pass through the system unchanged and thus pollute the water downstream. In addition, hazardous household wastes poured down the drain may corrode the plumbing or collect in the trap and release fumes through the drains. 3. Poured in Ditches, Storm Drains, or Gutters? If you pour hazardous household waste in ditches, storm drains, or gutters, it can poison plants and wildlife, contaminate the soil, and harm children and adults who come in contact with it. When it rains, the hazardous household waste travels directly to nearby streams, rivers, and lakes....