We like to think of our homes as our castles. But most of us are not thinking of what's stashed in the basement, garage or under the kitchen sink. Take a look sometime. Do you see old cans of cleansers, paint, bug spray and used motor oil? How long has it been since you used this stuff? How will you get rid of it? Those types of waste contain hazardous substances which can pose risks to the environment, wildlife and human health. Hazardous substances have one or more special characteristics which include:
- The potential to cause violent chemical reaction.
- The potential to be dangerously corrosive.
- The potential to ignite.
When disposed improperly, those wastes can poison the air, soil, water, birds, fish, mammals and even people and pets in the following ways:
- The potential to be harmful to human health (toxic).
- Once in the landfill, liquid waste and rainwater can seep down through layers of trash picking up contaminants along the way. This will cause leachate to be more difficult and expensive to treat.
- Streams and lakes, as well as groundwater, can become polluted where rain, melting snow and ice contact contaminated soil, sidewalks, streets and parking lots. Storm sewers drain directly into local waterways.
- Emissions from incinerators can contaminate air and the ash residues, which contain heavy metals, also present disposal problems.
ACIDS AND BASES
Both acids and bases are corrosive materials and may cause damage upon contact with the skin, eyes or respiratory system. They may also react violently if mixed with other substances,
including water. Acids are corrosive materials commonly found in toilet bowl and drain cleaners, swimming pool chemicals and a number of other home cleaning products. These are easily identifiable on ingredient labels because they usually contain the word "acid." Bases are also corrosive, and may be found in bleaches, oven and drain cleaners, disinfectants and other Household products. They may be listed on labels as lye, hydroxide, hypochlorite or a variety of other terms.
- Keep drains clean by using strainers and keeping grease, hair and coffee grounds out of the drain.Flush drains weekly with boiling water or a cup of warm vinegar. Use a plunger to free blockage.
- To clean the oven, sprinkle baking soda or salt on spills with water and scrub with a steel wool pad.
- Scrub toilets with baking soda or borax.
- To polish metal, rub with a paste of baking soda and water; polish unlacquered brass, bronze or copper with a solution of equal parts of vinegar, flour and salt. Rinse and dry.
- If the acid or base is an ingredient in a useable consumer product, try to use it up or give it to someone else who can use it. Do not attempt to neutralize or treat the product yourself, as large amounts of heat may be generated and you could be burned. Never add water to an acid or base to dilute it, as this practice is dangerous. Acids and bases should be saved for a household hazardous waste collection program.
Pesticides are chemicals that are intended to kill unwanted insects, animals, plants or microorganisms. These
products may also be toxic to humans or pets. Many pesticides are not biodegradable; they accumulate in the environment and could eventually contaminate groundwater and food supplies. Pesticides include not only commonly recognized insecticides and herbicides but also products such as wood preservatives, flea products and some insect repellents.
- Many pesticides have been banned from use by both homeowners and licensed applicators within New York State because they pose high risks to human health or to the environment. Others are restricted to use by licensed applicators. These products should not be used by citizens or carelessly thrown away, but should be saved for a household hazardous waste collection program. If the pesticide is not banned or restricted, however, it is best to use the product up according to label directions or give the product to someone else who can use it for its intended purpose. Otherwise, it should be stored until a household hazardous waste collection program is held in your area.
- To safely store pesticides, keep them in their original container, wrap them in newspaper and place them inside a double layer of plastic garbage bags. Always keep them out of the reach of children and away from heat and pets.
USING SOLVENTS SAFELY
- Empty pesticide containers should be triple rinsed before being thrown away. The rinse water should be saved and used as a pesticide. The empty container should then be wrapped in newspaper and discarded with household trash.
- Read labels carefully.
- Use gloves, goggles and respiratory mask when appropriate.
- Never smoke when using solvents and never use them near fires.
- Use excellent ventilation and work outside when possible. Don't use solvents on hot, muggy days.
- Use water-based products where possible - they require less cleanup and less solvent.
- Never eat or drink where solvents are being used - fumes can be absorbed by food or utensils and you may accidentally ingest them.
- Most solvents are recyclable, although this is not always practical to do at home. Always try to use up the product in its intended manner. Paint thinners that have paint mixed into them can be reused by capping the container tightly and allowing the paint to settle to the bottom of the container (this process may take several months for large volumes). The clean solvent may then be poured off the top and reused and the sludge that is left can be allowed to dry out (preferably outdoors) and then discarded. Paint thinners can also be used up by mixing them into oil-based paints or can be reused after filtering them through a coffee filter.
- Waste solvents should be stored until a household hazardous waste collection program is held in your area. If the solvents must be disposed immediately, then very small amounts (less than one cup) of non-halogenated solvents can be evaporated by mixing the solvent with an absorbent and leaving the solvent mixture outdoors. When the absorbent is fully dried, it should be wrapped in a plastic bag and placed with other trash. This should be done carefully so that children or animals cannot come into contact with the chemical. Always ensure proper ventilation when evaporating solvents.