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Dispose of hazardous materials the right way

Many people dispose of hazardous household products by pouring them down the drain, burning them or putting them into the trash. These practices are dangerous and contribute to drinking water contamination and air pollution.

If hazardous products are poured down the drain, they go to either a septic tank or a public sewer system. In the septic tank, toxins can destroy the organisms that break down the waste and cause a septic tank malfunction. The toxic substances can pass unchanged into surrounding soil and water. If hazardous products enter a public sewer system, they may go to a conventional treatment plant not equipped to break down complex chemicals or high concentrations of simpler ones. The toxic substances may be returned to waters that serve as drinking water supplies.

If hazardous products are thrown into the trash, they go to an incinerator to be burned or to a landfill to be buried. In either case, the improper disposal of hazardous substances can create a risk to the environment. Improper burning of hazardous products can cause explosions or toxic fumes. Often, hazardous substances are not entirely burned and become concentrated in the ash. When hazardous products are sent to the landfill, they may explode, catch fire, give off fumes or leach through the soil into groundwater. Trash collectors and landfill workers are also placed at great risk from fires, explosions and leakage of hazardous substances.

While it may be impossible to eliminate hazardous products, there are a number of ways that consumers can help solve the problems associated with the use of these substances.

The risk to family members and the environment can be greatly reduced by following recommended guidelines for the proper use, storage and disposal of hazardous household products. Probably the best way to prevent disposal problems is through proper planning. Carefully plan the use of these materials so that the amount required for a particular application equals the amount you purchased. That way you don't have to deal with storage or disposal.

Web posted on Thursday, August 05, 2010

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