When leftover paint, pesticides, used oil, pool chemicals, or any other products containing potentially dangerous materials are thrown away, they become “household hazardous wastes.”
Household hazardous waste is any material discarded from homes that may threaten human health or the environment when disposed of improperly. Californians discard literally tons of household hazardous waste in trash cans or down drains each year. Many of these chemicals are so corrosive they can destroy steel or plastic containers and seep into groundwater supplies. Potential hazardous chemicals found in materials are:
- TOXIC: poisonous or lethal when ingested, touched, or inhaled even in small quantities (rat poison, cleaning fluids, pesticides, and bleach)
- FLAMMABLE: easily ignites (lighter fluid, spot and paint removers)
- CORROSIVE: eats away materials and living tissue by chemical action (oven and toilet bowl cleaners)
- REACTIVE: creates an explosion or produces deadly vapors (bleach mixed with ammonia-based cleaners).
What are the Hazards?
Household hazardous waste should never be thrown into the trash, washed down household or storm (street) drains. Improper handling or disposal of hazardous chemicals can result in serious accidents:
- Children can be seriously harmed by drinking, eating, touching, or breathing toxic chemicals.
- Refuse haulers, disposal site workers, sewer pipe and treatment plant workers can be injured by exploding aerosol cans, splashing chemicals, or poisonous fumes created by mixed chemicals.
- Firefighters can be injured by these chemicals when responding to a fire.
- Hazardous chemicals can “pass through” treatment processes and get discharged into the environment. This occurs because wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove hazardous chemicals from wastewater.
- Groundwater used for drinking or irrigation can be contaminated when waste products are poured onto or seep into the ground.
- Bacteria needed to break down wastewater solids can be killed by hazardous wastes.