This is a FAST ACCESS VERSION of a RUTGERS COOPERATIVE
EXTENSION FACT SHEET. Because of the mode of transmission it is possible that certain graphics intended to be included with the original FACT SHEET have been deleted. You can obtain the complete FACT SHEET from any county office of RUTGERS COOPERATIVE EXTENSION.
HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IN YOUR HOME: PROPER USE AND DISPOSAL
Theodore B. Shelton, Ph.D. Specialist in Water Resources Management
Michael T. Olohan Public Information Coordinator Navesink River Watershed Project
WHAT IS A HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD PRODUCT?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
considers a substance hazardous if it can catch fire, if it can react or explode when mixed with other substances, if it is corrosive, or if it is toxic. Each of these categories is explained in its regulations. EPA has designated 400 specific substances to be hazardous.
EPA estimates that the average household contains between
3 and 10 gallons of hazardous chemicals. Even improper disposal of such small amounts of hazardous wastes can make an underground water source unusable for decades if the contamination is not prevented.
HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS?
Generally, most household products should never be
disposed of by dumping into a sink, toilet, street drain, or roadway. Your household plumbing system usually leads to a municipal wastewater treatment plant or a septic tank wastewater disposal system. However, neither is designed to remove hazardous chemicals completely from wastewater. You should also be aware that storm sewers (street drains) usually flow directly into nearby streams or rivers without treatment, leading to direct pollution of the waterways. Homeowners should reduce the purchase of products containing hazardous chemicals and consider nontoxic alternatives to prevent potential disposal, poisoning, and water pollution problems.
WHAT DISPOSAL OPTIONS DO YOU HAVE?
The following list offers advice for using and disposing
of most hazardous products in your home and, where possible, it proposes alternatives. The recommendations listed apply to quantities less than 1 quart. Your local health department, county health department, or State Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Hazardous Waste Advisement Program should be consulted for larger quantities. In all cases, proper disposal at a local hazardous waste collection center or program or recycling, is preferred.
(T)=TRASH - This symbol identifies products that should never be poured down a drain, but can be safely disposed of by placing in the garbage. Make sure products are sealed or capped to prevent leakage.
(H)=HOLD - This symbol identifies hazardous products that must be held for disposal at a local collection center or program or given to a hazardous waste disposal contractor. (Even empty containers of these products should be handled in these ways.) For more information, contact NJDEP Hazardous Waste Advisement Program at 609-292-8341.
(R)=RECYCLE - This symbol identifies products that can or should be recycled. Take these products to the recycling program in your area. If no recycling program exists, encourage local officials to start one. For more information, contact the NJDEP Office of Recycling at 609-292-0331.
HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
(H) OVEN, DRAIN, AND TOILET CLEANERS - Most of these
products are corrosive and poisonous. Follow directions carefully, exchange unused portions to neighbors and friends to use instead of discarding. An alternative to oven cleaners is baking soda and water. Instead of chemical drain cleaners, you might use a metal snake to clear pipes. Instead of toilet cleaners, use a toilet brush and baking soda or a mild detergent.
(H) FURNITURE POLISH, FLOOR POLISH - Certain brands are
flammable. Offer unused quantities to friends and neighbors. Do not pour down drains. Do not dispose of these substances in normal trash.
(T) OLD MEDICINES - Many products are hazardous. Some
medicines can be disposed of with regular trash. Contact your local health department or New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Hazardous Waste Advisement Program at 609-292-8341 for more information.
(T) DISINFECTANTS - These products are usually corrosive
and toxic. Do not dispose of down drains. Fully use these products or recycle unused portions by exchanging them with friends or neighbors.
(H) RUG AND UPHOLSTERY CLEANERS - These products are
irritants, and are corrosive and toxic. Do not dispose of these substances with regular garbage. These products might be exchanged with a neighbor.
(H) BLEACH CLEANERS - Products containing bleach are
strong oxidizers and are corrosive. Fully use these products or exchange them with neighbors or friends. Do not dispose of with regular trash.
GARAGE AND WORKSHOP CHEMICALS
(H)(R) USED MOTOR OIL, BATTERY ACID, DIESEL FUEL, FUEL
OIL, GASOLINE, KEROSENE, PAINT BRUSH CLEANER WITH SOLVENT, PAINT THINNER, TURPENTINE - These products are toxic, flammable, and corrosive. Do not dispose of these substances in the sink, toilet, street drain, or roadway. In New Jersey, service stations, retail outlets, and reinspection stations that sell motor oil must accept up to 5 gallons of used motor oil for recycling. Other products should be saved for disposal at local collection centers.
(S) ANTIFREEZE, AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION FLUID, BRAKE
FLUID, CAR WAX WITH SOLVENT, OTHER OILS, GLUE, OIL-BASED PAINT, PAINT STRIPPER, PRIMER, RUST REMOVER, VARNISH, WOOD PRESERVATIVE - These products are toxic, corrosive, and/or flammable. Do not dispose of these substances in the sink, toilet, street drain, or roadway. If possible, exchange or save for local collection centers.
(T)(R) METAL POLISH WITH SOLVENT, PAINT BRUSH CLEANER
WITH TSP (TRISODIUM PHOSPHATE), WATER-BASED GLUE, LATEX PAINT, PAINT STRIPPER (lye base) - These products are toxic. Exchange with neighbors. Recycle is possible or seal tightly and discard with regular trash.
CHEMICALS USED OUTDOORS
(H) PESTICIDES, HERBICIDES, INSECTICIDES, FUNGICIDES -
Toxic. Pesticide is usually a catch-all term for all types of lawn, garden, and agricultural chemicals. Use only according to label or recommendations of an agricultural agent in the Rutgers Cooperative Extension office in your county. Triple-rinse containers and reuse rinse water as a full-strength pesticide. Garden pesticide alternatives include keeping your garden weed-free by handpulling, importing predators, or using insecticidal soap. Consult the Rutgers Cooperative Extension office in your county for specific agricultural and garden pesticide recommendations.
(H) POOL CHEMICALS - In addition to being corrosive and
toxic, these products are strong oxidizers and pose a fire and explosive hazard. NEVER DISPOSE of pool chemicals with household trash. Store safely until they can be fully used or exchanged with neighbors.
OTHER HAZARDOUS HOME PRODUCTS
(H)(R) HOBBY CHEMICALS (CRAFTS, PHOTOGRAPHY, LABS) -
These can be irritants, and are often corrosive, toxic, and flammable. Do not dispose of these substances. These chemicals should be safely stored in original containers. NEVER pour down drains.
(H) ARTISTS' PAINTS, MEDIUMS, ADHESIVES - These can be
irritants, and are often toxic and flammable. Work area should be well ventilated. Store these containers until they can be safely disposed of.
For more information on hazardous household chemicals:
1) Household Hazardous Waste: Solving the Disposal Dilemma. Gina Purin, Golden Health Empire Health Planning Center, 2100 21st Street, Sacramento, CA 95818.
2) Nontoxic and Natural: How to Avoid Dangerous Everyday Products and Buy or Make Safe Ones. Debra Lynn Dadd. Nontoxic Lifestyles Inc., Box 210019, San Francisco, CA 94121.
* Information in this reference appears with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by RUTGERS COOPERATIVE EXTENSION is implied.