Dealing with Household Hazardous Wastes

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) are leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, pesticides etc. HHW contain potentially hazardous ingredients and require special care and safe disposal. 

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A typical home can contain a vast array of household hazardous wastes used for cleaning, painting, beautifying, lubricating and disinfecting the house, yard, workshop and garage. The chemical-based household products from a single home may seem insignificant; but, when millions of homes use similar products, handling, storing and disposing them improperly may have the combined impact and becomes a major problem.

The health and safety of our families, neighborhoods and environment is threatened when household hazardous waste is stored or disposed of improperly. These products should not be put in the garbage bins or disposed in the storm drains or burned, as they pose a threat to human health and the environment. Thousands of consumer products are hazardous. The general categories are:

  • Automotive products: Gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, car wax and cleaners, lead-acid batteries, brake fluid, transmission fluid etc.
  • Home improvement products: Paint, varnish, stain, paint thinner, paint stripper, caulk, adhesives etc.
  • Pesticides: Insecticide and insect repellent, weed killer, rat and mouse poison, pet spray and dip, wood preservative etc.
  • Household cleaners: Furniture polish and wax, drain opener, oven cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, spot remover, bleach, ammonia etc.
  • Other: Household batteries, cosmetics, pool chemicals, shoe polish, lighter fluid, prescription medicines etc.

Each year, thousands of people are injured by exposure or accident involving hazardous household products.  Because of the dangers they pose. These products require special awareness, handling, and disposal.  In order to protect health and environment, every consumer should know how to properly use, store, and dispose of hazardous household products. 

Many common household products contain hazardous chemicals.  Once released into the environment, these substances may pose a serious threat to living organisms.  Small quantities of hazardous substances can accumulate over time to reach dangerous levels and contaminate the air, water, and soil. 

Here are some basic guidelines for managing household hazardous wastes:

  • Select the least toxic item and buying only the minimum quantity as required.
  • Read the entire label carefully for health warnings and use good judgment when choosing any product.
  • Store the product at a safe place and away from the children reach.
  • Avoid aerosol products.
  • Always use hazardous products in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never leave containers open.  Many products are volatile, evaporating quickly into the air. 
  • Always seal containers tightly after use.
  • Never mix chemicals and hazardous products. 
  • Do not use spent chemical containers for other purposes.
  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves and a mask when dealing with any hazardous material. 
  • Wash clothing exposed to hazardous materials separately from other clothes.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while using hazardous products.
  • Clean up the place after using hazardous products. Carefully seal products and properly refasten all caps.
  • Never put hazardous products in food or beverage containers.
  • Keep products away from sources of heat, spark, flame or ignition.
  • Know where flammable materials are located in your home and how to extinguish them.
  • Keep a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher in your home.

3 Tips For Designing Your Home To Promote Cleaner, Safer Air Quality Indoors

While much of the focus has been on the damage air pollution can do, it turns out the air within our homes maybe even more detrimental. Last year’s Clean Air Day campaign showed that particle pollution levels are a staggering 3.5 times higher indoors than they are outdoors. With the average person spending 93 percent of their lives indoors, every effort must be made to promote clean, safe indoor air quality – including when it comes to designing homes. Designing a home that promotes good indoor air quality not only encourages better health for you and your family but can save you money on heating costs in the long run.

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Control Outdoor Sources Of Air Pollution With Minimal Cracks, Leaks Or Uncontrolled Openings

A large determinant of indoor air quality is the transmission of outdoor pollution into the home. In an Indoor Quality Survey by UCL, nitrogen dioxide accounted for 84 percent of the variations in air quality. Nitrogen Dioxide is linked to asthma attacks and is majorly attributed to traffic emissions. The report went on to highlight just how important a role the airtight design of a building plays in maintaining optimal air quality. When designing an airtight home, ensuring there is adequate insulation and choosing the right insulation material is important.

New home builders can also benefit from new construction methods like insulation within the home’s frame or the use of structural insulated panels. Final checks for unsealed leaks or cracks should also be done. However, homeowners and contractors should also keep in mind that ventilation is also just as paramount in maintaining good indoor air quality. Therefore, the inclusion of ventilation points, such as appropriately placed windows, should be kept in mind.

Ensure You Have An Effective Ventilation System Design And Components In Place

A carefully designed ventilation system ensures that there is a free flow of air throughout the home and that any internal pollutants are flushed out. Ventilation is also important in the prevention and control of mold spores, which can have a large and potentially toxic impact on indoor air quality. Since molds thrive in humid or moist environments, proper ventilation can prevent their growth and the resulting health complications of mold exposure, such as the triggering of asthma symptoms or lung infections.

When designing your home’s ventilation system, you will want a contractor that is experienced and an NICEIC approved ventilation installer for the installation. In addition to adhering to building regulations, be sure to include mechanical switches or CO2 powered sensors for your MVHR unit so the speed can adapt according to changing conditions, such as seasons of the year. You should also consider the air filter size: larger filters allow for greater airflow, but those made with a thinner material can come with an extended life and dust loading abilities.

Choose Non-Toxic Building Materials And Furnishings For Your Home

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are one of the leading types of indoor air pollution and commonly stem from certain liquids or substances such as paint varnishes, building materials, and the finishes on indoor furniture. Research has also shown that concentrations of VOCs can be up to 10 times higher indoors than they are outdoors. Exposure to VOCs can result in both long and short term health complications, including headaches, skin conditions and liver damage.

To avoid this, homeowners can opt for chemical-free building materials such as formaldehyde-free boarding, Rockwool for insulation, and low VOC paints for painting and interior designs. When it comes to furnishing, choose second-hand furniture over new. Preowned furniture is more likely to emit lower levels of VOC when you buy them, since they stop emitting VOC after the first few initial years. As a bonus, it is much easier on your home design budget.

With so much time being spent in our homes, it makes sense that homeowners would want to design a home that is as safe as possible, including the indoor air quality. Incorporating simple hacks like these into your home design process can help you design the home of your dreams – and a healthy one at that.