Anything from a chocolate wrapper to radioactive waste, if left unchecked, have a huge impact on our environment. Humans are creating toxic waste constantly. Each second, the world produces 13 tons of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste can be household products, industrial products, and institutional waste. But, household waste is mostly overlooked with the growth of population and innovations in science and technology, industries employed modern tools and techniques to increase the yield. By-products of these anthropogenic activities are solid, liquid, gas, and harmful rays. It affects the individual communities as well as the whole planet. Since the waste ranges from a simple toy to pesticides, its management becomes difficult. In this article, we will discuss the bad facts of hazardous waste. Before getting into the topic, let’s learn which type of waste is categorized as hazardous waste. In February 2021, globally, 59 million tons of hazardous waste have been thrown away. And the number is increasing day by day
Possibilities are, you’ve been exposed to hazardous waste. It’s true!
Types of Hazardous Waste:
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Any waste that is dangerous and negatively affects human health and the environment is hazardous. It can be produced from different means ranging from manufacturing methods to discarding substances. Any waste that has combined features of corrosivity, ignitability, reactivity, and toxicity is hazardous. Hazardous waste ranges from cosmetics to paints, pharmaceuticals to fertilizers, and many more. Some hazardous wastes are listed down:
- Plastic waste
- Medical waste
- Electronic waste
- Radioactive waste
- Mine waste
- Mercury-containing waste
Hazardous Waste Affects the Human Health:
Possibilities are, you’ve been exposed to hazardous waste. It’s true! Hazardous waste is prevalent in hospitals, automobile garages, and even in your house. Household hazardous waste (HHW) comprises 1-4% of MSW. Since it’s disposed of in landfills, the hazard status becomes high. Both HHW and radioactive waste potentially affect human health. Radioactive waste is carcinogenic. Furthermore, waste can cause reproductive abnormalities, Central nervous system damage and disturbs Immunobiological homeostasis. Love canal incident in New York is one such example where the unsafe disposal of chemical waste became a disaster.
Furthermore, exposure to hazardous waste causes genetic defects that become heritable genetic defects. Epidemiological investigation of the health status of people near hazardous waste sites was evaluated. DDT -a chemical banned two decades ago- was found in 99% of the people tested. This percentage showed that even after banning, it still persists in the environment—the results have shown that exposure to oil industry waste release hydrogen sulphide that cause asthma and cancer. E-waste contains recognizable hazardous substances that affect the health of workers and children who handle the waste.
1- Spoilage of Landscape:
Hazardous waste could dump anywhere in air, water, and landscapes. Heaps of waste didn’t leave a good impact on people. Waste accumulation ruins the natural beauty and also becomes home to disease-carrying organisms. So, improper waste disposal spoils the natural landscapes.
2- Impacts on Environment:
Hazardous waste impact the environment -air, water, soil, and wildlife- in various ways. Short-term impacts include water pollution, air pollution, and soil pollution. However, long-term impacts are truly terrific. The trash in waterways and green spaces causes the destruction of natural resources. Chemicals can seep into the soil and interrupt the normal growth of plants. Hazardous waste poses dangerous impacts on the water table. Chemicals soak through the soil and contaminate the groundwater. Hazardous waste -radioactive waste- is released into the ocean and seas. The harmful radioactive rays cause the death of aquatic animals as well as disturb the ecosystem. The emission of toxic chemicals released from waste causes air pollution. Chemicals in the air persist for a long time that causes global warming.
- Spoilage of Landscape
- Impacts on Environment
- Loss of Biodiversity
- Deteriorate the Quality of Soil
- Management of Hazardous Waste
3- Loss of Biodiversity:
As ignitability is a key character of hazardous waste, it causes widespread fires that result in wildlife deaths. Exposure to Mercury and poly chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is significant damage to Arctic biota -polar bears, whales, seals, and various birds. Arctic wildlife is exposed to hazardous waste that affects biological diversity and increases the risk of biological effects among them. Plastic is also considered hazardous waste. But it’s widely used in homes and institutions. The widespread availability of plastic has made it a substitute for glass and plastic. Microplastic is a significant issue as it becomes a part of the food chain and could easily enter living organisms through ingestion and inhaling. Aquatic animals get entangled in plastic or ingest it. Consequently, they died. Almost 700 species of aquatic animals have traces of plastic in their digestive system.
4- Deteriorate the Quality of Soil:
Soil is an essential medium for plant growth that provides nutrients. It also supports various biogeochemical cycles and is an important ecosystem for life. However, widespread production and spread of hazardous waste make the soil non-arable. Hazardous compounds such as heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates, and polycyclic aromatic compounds persist in soil. They not only affect plants growth but also became part of the food chain. Lastly, waste imbalances the whole ecosystem of soil that would contribute to long-term damage.
5- Management of Hazardous Waste:
Improper disposal of waste is the problem of every nation. Because it is difficult to categorize hazardous waste properly, its management is still an issue. Typical waste management strategies are incineration, landfill disposal, lagoon, and disposal in water bodies. All these practices increase the negative impacts on the environment. So, it’s a vicious cycle that goes on and increases the footprint. So, cutting down the consumption of hazardous waste might solve the problem. Recycling is better but not the final remedy for hazardous waste management. Chemical and thermal treatment treat the waste material. Nevertheless, biological treatment -bioremediation- is an attractive option because it’s environmentally friendly.
Waste is categorized on the basis of its composition. Any waste that has the potential to affect humans and their environment is known as hazardous waste. Waste could be found anywhere in our homes, offices, and all around us. Hazardous waste has negative impacts on health, the environment, and biodiversity. Since proper categorization of hazardous waste is difficult, management has become a serious issue.