Household hazardous waste is one of the most harmful things in our homes. If not stored and disposed of properly, it can have horrible negative effects on you, your family, and anyone you invite into your home.
Household toxic waste can also affect garbage disposal workers if placed in normal household waste, as it may expose them to harmful products which they aren’t prepared for.
What is household hazardous waste?
Basically, household hazardous waste is anything substance which can’t be disposed of in normal waste channels or which has to be treated in a certain way first.
Substances are considered hazardous if they can catch fire, react with other commonly found substances, explode, or if they are corrosive and toxic to human health or surrounding ecosystems .
Some of the objects that are usually classified as hazardous are:
- Oil based paints
- Engine oils, antifreezes, and other automotive liquids
- Some cleaning products, including bleaches and oven cleaners
- Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides
- Drain cleaners
- Electronic products including televisions, computers, and mobile phones 
These are just a few examples of hazardous products. If you are in doubt, then follow instructions on packets and/or contact your local rubbish disposal company. Make sure that you are careful when handling hazardous waste, or you could compromise the health and viability of the entire waste stream.
Even if something isn’t technically hazardous waste, it can cause huge problems if disposed of incorrectly. The best example of this is single use plastic bags. They should be disposed of in the normal waste stream or in a recycling facility that accepts them (depending on where you live).
However, they often make their way into the environment, where they can cause big issues. They are especially harmful in marine ecosystems, where they are consumed by a range of animals, and often cause death.
Hazardous materials and toxic waste present in every household
Although you may not realize it, your home is full of potentially hazardous or toxic materials which may cause serious harm to you or your family if misused.
The following are the most common and probably the most dangerous things found in the home, but this is by no means an extensive list.
Probably every house in America has some form of bleach in their laundry room cupboard. It is extremely toxic if swallowed, and the fumes from it can irritate the eyes, nose, and mouth.
If bleach is mixed with other cleaners (particularly those which are ammonia based), chlorine gas can be produced. This can cause serious long-term breathing problems and can even lead to death .
Although mercury is one of the most toxic substances around, you and your loved ones are probably exposed to it every day in one form or another. Do you have a thermometer hanging on the wall somewhere in your house?
If yes, then make sure you don’t break it! There is a high chance that it contains mercury which will be released as a toxic, invisible gas upon breakage.
The other common exposure to mercury in the home comes from skin lighteners and anti-aging products which are sold illegally in the USA and many other countries. If you have these, or even think that you might, then don’t use them! Mercury exposure is not worth it .
#3 Oven cleaners
Oven cleaners are present in most households at one time or another. If they contain lye (whose active ingredient is either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide), then they are extremely corrosive. They will burn your skin, harm the eyes and respiratory tract, and can be fatal if swallowed.
Non-toxic oven cleaners are available and are a good idea if you have small children or pets around your kitchen !
#4 Drain cleaners
Again, these are present in a lot of homes, especially older ones or those with badly designed drainage systems. The poison ingredient is again sodium hydroxide-based lye, which is extremely harmful if it comes into contact with skin or other body parts (see above).
If you or anyone else ingests lye then call for emergency assistance immediately .
#5 Weed killers
Most household sheds or laundry rooms will contain some form of weed killer which is extremely harmful if swallowed. The most common of these is glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s famous Roundup chemical.
Glyphosate causes a range of short- and long-term health problems, including stomach cramps, breathing trouble, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, low blood pressure, and in extreme cases, vomiting blood or falling into a coma. If glyphosate poisoning is suspected, then seek medical help immediately .
#6 Lead paints
Until the 1990’s lead-based paint was used widely throughout the world. However, it is now known to cause major developmental and health problems, especially for babies and young children.
If you have an old house with peeling or disintegrating paint, then consider getting expert advice as you may be exposed to toxic lead vapors .
#7 Flame retardants
These are found in all sorts of everyday products, including mattresses, upholstery, clothes, televisions, and computers. They contain polybrominated diphenyl ethers which are known to cause a range of mental and sexual health defects.
Some studies have also indicated that they could be highly carcinogenic, but there is not sufficient proof to support this theory yet .
Probably every household has some form of pesticide stored away somewhere, whether as rat poison, moth balls, or something in between. Pesticides are designed to kill living things.
People are living creatures who are extremely sensitive to a range of chemicals. Therefore, it follows (without even looking at the plethora of scientific evidence available) that pesticides are toxic to humans!
If you do use some form of pesticide, then make sure you follow the instructions closely. Store them away from children and pets, and don’t use them in areas frequented by kids .
Disposing of household hazardous substances and materials
The first thing that you should do when deciding how to dispose of household hazardous waste is read the labels or health and safety information booklet on the product. The disposal method will be different for different products, which means that you should never assume that you know the correct way to dispose of something .
Some of the most common ways that hazardous waste products are disposed of incorrectly include:
- Putting them in the regular trash when they don’t belong there;
- Washing them down the drain or pouring them into stormwater drains;
- Burying them or pouring them on the ground .
You should always follow any labels and instructions for storage and use to ensure hazardous products aren’t used in a way which will cause harmful exposure or escape of the products into the environment.
Read all of the disposal instructions on the product packaging to reduce the risk of harm through explosion, leakage, or ignition of the material. This may occur if a product is disposed of in a way which causes it to come into contact with something else, so make sure that you are aware of what is entering your waste stream.
Since disposal methods vary between countries and states, it is important to check the local rules regarding the disposal of hazardous wastes.
Some places will have collection depos or places that you can take hazardous wastes to. Others will have designated days for collection. Some things, such as used electronics or car batteries, can often be dropped off at local businesses free of charge to ensure they are disposed of correctly.
It is important to remember that empty containers can contain harmful chemical residues. They should be disposed of in the same way as other chemical wastes.