Friday, May 9, 2014

Proper Disposal of Common Household Chemicals

Disposing of Household Chemicals and Cleaners
A surprising number of products we use in our homes everyday contain chemicals that can be hazardous to the environment and even to us if used, stored or disposed of improperly. It is extremely important to understand the correct ways to dispose of these common chemicals. We encounter these chemicals so often that they can seem innocuous, but it is vital that you always keep in mind that they are chemicals and should be treated as such.

Just because a container is empty does not mean you can simply throw it into your trash, and you should never pour any leftover products down your sink. Always consider where these chemicals and chemical residues are going to end up after you have used them. In addition, you should always completely read usage instructions and warnings on labels. Store any chemicals out of reach of children and ensure that they are closed tightly to keep them from spilling or potentially mixing with other chemicals. Mixing products containing certain chemicals can cause serious health risks.

Products Containing Chemicals

Many everyday cleaners, like oven cleaners, spot cleaners and drain cleaners, use potentially harmful chemicals as do all aerosol products. Floor wax and furniture polish can also have chemical ingredients. Batteries also contain chemicals, along with paint, nail polish, hair dye and even fluorescent light bulbs. Keep an eye out for products labeled as corrosive, containing lye, phenols, petroleum distillates or trichlorobenzene. Bleach is both one of the most common as well as one of the most hazardous household products.

How Not to Dispose of Chemicals

Never pour any products containing chemicals down your sinks or toilets. Drain cleaners should only be used as instructed, and although they are intended to go down your drains, using these products can result in the chemicals seeping through your pipes and into the ground. There are other alternatives to chemical drain cleaners that pose less risk and these should be used whenever possible. You should certainly never dump any chemical products outside onto the grass, in ditches or bodies of water. The long-term effects of a lot of chemicals on the environment are still being studied by researchers. Not only do the chemicals affect plant-life and wildlife, but they can come back to haunt us as well in our groundwater and soil.

Empty containers also cannot just be put into your trash can. In many places, it is illegal to do so. Chemical containers can no longer be taken to the same waste locations with common garbage - again, this is due to their effects on the environment. They also pose a risk to sanitation workers who unwittingly come in contact with them. Putting products into the trash can cause the remaining material to leak out. Not only are most chemicals harmful in and of themselves, but they can also combine with other chemicals and have reactions. Some chemical combinations can result in explosions or even the creation of harmful gases that can hurt you and your family.

Proper Disposal Techniques

The key to dealing with products that contain chemicals is to treat them as hazardous waste - because that is what they are. When in doubt, read the instructions on the label. Most all products today include helpful instructions about how to correctly and safely dispose of them. Many communities have community hazardous waste centers or offer hazardous waste collection days throughout the year. Some have even instituted specific hazardous waste pick-up days for added convenience if you cannot drop off your containers and other products. This makes disposing of chemicals much easier and much safer for everyone. Check your community's website or speak to a town official to find out what is offered in your area.

Contact businesses in your area as well. Many businesses that work with a lot of chemical products engage in the recycling or collection of hazardous chemical material. Automotive service stations as well as paint stores are a good place to start because they regularly have to properly dispose of their own chemical containers and leftovers. These businesses will often allow others in the community to drop off their own household chemical containers.

Robert Mizrahi
Chaos Commandos