Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic,
ignitable or reactive ingredients are considered hazardous. And
you've got more of them than you might expect. Remember the leftover flea repellent you tossed out? Toxic. How
about the mostly-empty jug of carpet cleaner or the aerosol
hairspray container? Flammable. Think about the oven cleaner you
found in the back of the cupboard. You didn't like how it
smelled. There's a reason for that - it's corrosive. So is
fingernail polish remover.
Toxic compounds enter the
environment in many ways. Some are poured into sewers, some are
burned in the backyard and others may be hauled off to the
landfill. Regardless of how they get there, once in the
environment, chemicals undergo a series of reactions that form new
products, some of which may be toxic or take on a new phase of
solid, liquid or gas.
And those solids, liquids or gasses move around. Take acid rain,
for example. A toxic substance makes its way into the air, which
inevitably turns to rain. When that rain falls on plants and
livestock, they are affected. When we then eat or interact with
those plants and livestock, we're affected, too.
chemicals, used motor oil and fingernail polish remover are
harmless? Think again.
They're all household hazardous wastes (HHW), and the name
indicates the danger they pose. But as dangerous as these
materials are, it's the improper disposal of them that causes
the most harm.
It's never okay to pour HHWs down the drain, on the ground or
into storm sewers, flush them down the toilet or put them out with
the trash. Why? We're glad you asked.
Think of where that motor oil goes when you dump it in the storm
sewer. Storm water is washed directly into lakes, rivers and
oceans - untreated. Annually, more oil is dumped into water
systems than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
And what about tossing an aerosol can of spray paint out in the
trash? Not only is the paint flammable, so is the aerosol can it
comes in. If you were a sanitation worker, wouldn't you hope
there weren't any similar cans cooking in the hot July sun in
the back of your truck?
See where we're going with this? It's about nature. It's
about health. It's about safety. For all of Kansas.
to Get Rid of It
the nearest Household Hazardous Waste facility near you
What is HHW,
anyway? It's just what it sounds like - hazardous materials,
unregulated under federal and state laws because of the limited
quantities produced by households.
But hazardous is hazardous, regardless of quantity. Most HHW is
hazardous because it is flammable, toxic or corrosive. If
carelessly managed, HHW can create environmental and public health
However, these problems can be easily prevented. Generally, HHW
materials belong to one of the following categories:
Can easily catch fire.
Words to look for:
- KEEP AWAY FROM ANY SOURCE OF IGNITION
HIGHLY FLAMMABLE -
KEEP AWAY FROM FLAMES
Harmful or fatal if
swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin
Words to look for:
Harmful if swallowed
WARNING - KEEP OUT
OF REACH OF CHILDREN
(found in rat fumigants)
Old fire extinguishers
Acidic or alkaline
Can burn or corrode other
materials and skin
Words to look for:
Causes burns to skin
CORROSIVE - AVOID CONTACT
WITH SKIN OR EYES
Toilet bowl cleaners
May cause fires or
WARNING - STRONG OXIDIZER
Not sure what the risk is? Check
the product label. Look for signal words which indicate the
product's degree of hazard.
Caution indicates a mild
Warning indicates a
Danger indicates an
When you think about it, the number of
chemical products in your home will surprise you. And the fact is,
many of them are unnecessary. Here are just a few ideas to get you
started on a more nature-friendly household regimen.
a plunger or plumber's snake.
spills as soon as the oven cools using steel wool and
baking soda. For tough stains, add salt (do not use this
method in self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning ovens).
1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water.
Spray on and use newspaper to dry.
a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar (these will
clean but not disinfect).
1 teaspoon lemon juice in 1 pint of mineral or vegetable
oil. Wipe on furniture.
liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and
vacuum. Repeat as necessary.
2 to 3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon
salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda and a sheet of aluminum foil.
Totally submerge silver and boil for 2 or 3 more minutes.
Wipe away tarnish. Repeat as necessary. (Do not use this
method on antique silver knives. The blade will separate
from the handle.) Another alternative is to use
leaves with mild soap and water; rinse.
cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint or white
and tick products
brewer's yeast or garlic in your pet's food; sprinkle
fennel, rue, rosemary or eucalyptus seeds or leaves around
animal sleeping areas.