Seven hazardous household products: what you need to know – Mother Earth News


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Single-use and rechargeable batteries can be harmful to the environment if discarded. Rechargeable batteries are easy to recycle.

Many everyday products, from batteries to paint, are dangerous if not disposed of properly. It is not wise to just throw these things in the trash – the toxins in these products seep into landfills and end up in our air and water. The good news is that there are recycling centers for many of these products, and if there aren’t one near you, most cities have a household hazardous waste disposal site (DDD ). Earth 911 allows you to enter the product you need to dispose of and your zip code, then lists the drop-off locations in your area.

1. Rechargeable and disposable batteries

Batteries contain lead, nickel, and mercury, all of which can damage the environment when discarded. When batteries are incinerated in landfills, toxic substances enter the air and water. According to Earth 911, the average person throws away eight batteries per year. Rechargeable batteries reduce that number, but eventually they lose their ability to hold charge and they are also made of toxic materials. Rechargeable batteries are one of the easiest items to recycle, as most major electronics stores, such as Radio Shack and Best Buy, will recycle your dead batteries for you at no cost. While there are no rules against the disposal of single-use batteries, if you can avoid throwing them away by taking them to the DSS site, this is the ideal solution.

2. Cleaning products

Most antibacterial cleaners, deodorants, dishwasher detergents, oven cleaners, carpet cleaners, and toilet / sink / tub / tile cleaners contain toxic ingredients that can seep into groundwater. Earth 911 says cleaning products pollute the air, increase smog formation, cause asthma, and inhibit plant growth. Not only are most cleaning products bad for the environment, they can also be bad for your respiratory health. To minimize these effects, dispose of unused product at your local DSS site. A simpler solution may be to buy or make your own greener cleaners. Regular soap is only 0.2 percent less effective than antibiotic soap at killing germs and is not as bad for the environment. Scrubbing your toilet, sink, or tub with vinegar or lemon juice and baking soda works well. Candles or fresh air can do the same job as an aerosol air freshener. Baking soda and water are a safe and effective way to clean your oven or rug. When shopping, look for dish detergent that is free of chlorine and phosphate. There are also several lines of green cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and even SC Johnson has a line called Greenlist.

3. Medicines

Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can expire, but it’s bad to throw them in the trash or empty them. They can contaminate water supplies and harm wildlife. In March 2008, an Associated Press investigation found low levels of over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and pharmaceuticals – including mood stabilizers, antibiotics, sex hormones, and anticonvulsants – in the drinking water supplies of several large cities, raising concerns about the duration – term effects could result from this exposure. The investigation concluded that most of the drugs came from drugs left in the urine, but recognized that many Americans flush the unused drugs down the toilet, making the problem worse. Some pharmacies will take back unused or expired medicines; if not, take them to the HHW site.

4. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

CFLs are significantly more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, but they contain a small amount of mercury, which is only harmful to the environment when the bulbs break. An older CFL contains about 4 milligrams of mercury. The most recent ampoules contain around 1.4 milligrams, which is still too large to throw away in some states. The Home Depot has a CFL Recycling Program where you can bring your intact light bulbs to any of their stores for free recycling. If an ampoule does break and your condition allows you to dispose of CFLs, place the broken ampoule in two plastic bags or a glass jar to prevent further contamination. Follow these safe steps when cleaning a broken CFL bulb.

5. Paint and paint thinner

In many states, it is illegal to throw away paint or paint thinner. When cans leak to landfill, they can contaminate drinking water and the ocean. You can dispose of your old paint and thinner at a DDD site. The paint can be reused if you take it to a paint store and have it remixed or you can donate it to Habitat for Humanity if it’s still good. Another solution is to simply purchase the amount of paint you will actually need for your project. Smaller box sizes are available.

6. Electronics

Electronic waste, also known as electronic waste, is also illegal in some states. To find out the rules in your state, the Environmental Protection Agency has started a program called eCycling. Electronic waste can be televisions, MP3 players, video game consoles, computers or computer screens. All of these products contain lead; some can hold up to 8 pounds of lead. According to Earth911, 315 million computers, which equals 1.2 billion pounds of lead, were in US landfills in 2004. Lead is bad for our nervous system and kidneys. Many electronics stores and companies recycle old products when you replace them with new ones. If you just need to get rid of the device and don’t replace it some have e-waste disposal fees or if it still works take it to Goodwill or list the item on Freecycle or Craigslist.

7. Pesticides

It is illegal to dump pesticides in sewers; it could kill fish and other wildlife. Earth911 estimates that 90 percent of American homes use pesticides. Weedkillers, insect repellants and even flea collars should not be thrown away. All pesticides have the proper disposal instructions on the label and are accepted at DMD sites.

Disposing of your household hazardous waste in an environmentally friendly way is simple and easy, so when it’s time to throw the things out, don’t forget to look for where you can bring your waste to Earth 911.


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Posted on December 16, 2008


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