Top 5 Household Hazardous Waste

Innovation in every field of life has brought so much ease. We can go anywhere with our own automobile by tracing the route on our mobile phones. We have access to all those materials necessary for life. Household products that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment are considered hazardous household waste (HHW). It poses serious health impacts if disposed of improperly. Municipal solid waste contains around 1-4% of Hazardous Household waste. Examples of HHW include batteries, oil-based paint, tires, pesticides, fluorescent bulbs, to name a few. These materials contain hazardous substances in them but are so essential and become a part of our lives. This article would give an insight into the top hazardous household waste material. Before that, let’s get into the details of household hazardous waste. 

According to WHO, almost 80% of people in the world live in areas where air quality is compromised.

According to the US EPA, household waste that can catch fire or is corrosive or toxic is termed hazardous. According to a study, US households generate 1.6 million tons of HHW annually. However, this number could vary from country to country depending upon the lifestyle of people. Following are the top hazardous household waste products that have the potential to cause damage.

  1. Auto batteries
  2. Pesticides
  3. Fluorescent bulb
  4. Tires
  5. Motor oil, petrol, and kerosene oil

Let’s learn how these essential household substances affect humans and their environment.

 1 – Auto Batteries:

We always carry a potential source of hazard with us. Mobile phone batteries or generally all types of batteries are considered hazardous waste. But why? Batteries contain hazardous substances such as mercury, cadmium, lead, etc. they also contain Nickel, cobalt, and graphite. According to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, toxic materials in batteries are human carcinogens. A rapid increase in the use of portable electronic devices has accelerated the demand for batteries. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have become dominant in household electronic products because of the product’s longevity. But these batteries cause serious health impacts as well as have a huge impact on the environment. Lithium batteries cause damage to the human nervous system and endocrine system. Furthermore, the use of electronic products has increased, so they are dumped more frequently into the disposal site, where they become a threat to biodiversity. A study conducted in the USA has shown that the leaching concentration of chromium and lead from lithium-ion batteries has exceeded the regulation limit of California.

2 – Fluorescent bulb:

We always love to have a bright light in our rooms whether we’re working or doing any sort of work. Fluorescent light bulbs have become more common, and we are exposed to them wherever we go. However, exposure to fluorescent bulbs increases the chances of cancer by 10-30% per year. Instant symptoms of fluorescent bulbs include fatigue, dizziness, and headache. The breaking of fluorescent bulbs releases mercury that contaminates air, water, and soil. Mercury is a neurotoxin that damages our health. Fluorescent light bulbs are considered hazardous waste because they contain mercury. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that damages vital organs such as the brain, kidney, and lungs. Furthermore, these bulbs damage human eyes -cataracts. UV radiation emitted from the bulb increases the chances of UV-related eye problems by 10 to 12 percent.

3 – Tires:

Cars and bikes have made our life easier. The market for scrap tires has grown from 7.6 to 9.5 billion dollars from 2017 to 2022. But their tires are a threat to the environment once they are disposed of. Toxins from tires leached into groundwater and contaminated it. Studies have shown that zinc, a heavy metal, and rubber are leached into groundwater when shredded tires are sent into landfills. This contamination became part of the food chain and impacted human health.

4 – Pesticides:

Kitchen gardening is becoming a prominent activity in each household. No doubt, organic products have another type of flavour. But the use of pesticides has also been increasing with the increase of gardening. Pesticides contain hazardous chemicals such as atrazine and neonicotinoids. These chemicals pose serious impacts on human health as well as on the environment. The harmful chemicals directly impact humans. Moreover, they contaminate the air and water. Humans are exposed to pesticide pollution when they ingest food contaminated with pesticides and drink water. Pesticides store in the colon and slowly poison the body. Gradually, the nervous system and reproductive system of humans and animals get damaged. In addition, pesticides could develop cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Insect repellents used in the house are also considered hazardous substances that have negative impacts on health. Excess use of DEET causes seizures, memory loss, and skin irritation. The serious impact of DEET is neurotoxicity.

5 – Motor Oil, Petrol, and Kerosene:

Motor oil, petrol, and kerosene oil contain polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are harmful to human health and pollute the environment as well. Motor oil is listed as hazardous waste because of the halogens present in it. Moreover, it contains heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, to name a few. Used motor oil is disposed of without any protocol. It causes severe damage to the environment. Frequent exposure to motor oil causes skin cancer, dermatitis, anemia, headache, and skin rashes. Since there has been no substitute for motor oil until now, we should avoid excessive exposure to it as much as possible.

Conclusion:

But household waste contains hazardous substances that are harmful to human health. We constantly get ourselves exposed to these materials because we cannot avoid them. Moreover, the environment is polluted by hazardous household waste. Common HHW includes batteries of electronic products, repellents, pesticides, insecticides, fluorescent bulbs, automobile oil, and tires. Some other HHW includes oil-based paint, nail paints, pool chemicals, dry cleaning solution, and antifreeze. Improper disposal of these materials leach hazardous substances in the environment that contaminate air, water, and soil. From the environment, the toxic substance becomes a part of the food chain. Hazardous waste could be managed by disposing of it according to the guidelines or recycling the material to reduce the amount of waste. Lastly, by reducing the excessive use of these products, the impact can be minimized.

References:

  • https://www.gtcountymi.gov/1213/Examples-of-Hazardous-Waste
  • https://www.dakotavalleyrecycling.org/what-is-household-hazardous-waste
  • https://www.epa.gov/hw/household-hazardous-waste-hhw
  • https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/es400614y
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/household-hazardous-waste