Hazardous waste presents immediate or long-term risks to
humans, animals, plants, or the environment. It requires
special handling for detoxification or safe disposal. In
the U.S., hazardous waste is legally defined as any discarded
solid or liquid that
- contains one or more of 39 carcinogenic, mutagenic,
or teratogenic compounds at levels that exceed established
limits (includingmany solvents, pesticides, and paint
- catches fire easily (such as gasoline, paints, and solvents);
- is reactive or unstable enough to explode or release
toxic fumes (including acids, bases, ammonia, and chlorine
- is capable of corroding metal containers such as tanks,
drums, and barrels (such as industrial cleaning agents
and oven and drain cleaners).
The EPA has a list of more than 500 specific hazardous wastes.
Businesses such as metal finishers, gas stations, auto repair
shops, dry cleaners, and photo developers produce many toxic
waste products. These by-products include sulfuric acid,
heavy metals found in batteries, and silver-bearing waste,
which comes from photo finishers, printers, hospitals, schools,
dentists, doctors, and veterinarians. Heavy metals, solvents,
and contaminated wastewater result from paint manufacturing.
Photo processing also creates organic chemicals, chromium
compounds, phosphates, and ammonium compounds. Even cyanide
can be a by-product, resulting from electroplating and other
If you think industry is the only source of hazardous
waste, you may be surprised. There is hazardous household
waste as well. For example, do you use any of the following
automotive products, such as gasoline, antifreeze,
oil-based paints and thinners
pesticides, herbicides, and other garden products
household cleaning products
* There are nontoxic alternatives to many of these products
that, when disposed of, do not constitute hazardous waste.
Check with a local "green consumer" organization or find
out more in the related resources section of this exhibit.
about Possible Solutions]