Hazardous Substances Intro

Many of the products found in and around your home, work or school such as cleaners, paint and pesticides may end up as  hazardous waste.

Hazardous substances are those presenting a risk to human health, the environment or built structures. When being packaged for transporting, hazardous substances must be put into suitable containers and clearly labeled to warn the public about the hazard they pose. These signs can be seen on the back of trucks and containers.

Hazardous products must be handled and disposed of very carefully. Improper disposal can cause great harm to the environment by polluting rivers, lakes and the sea. Always store hazardous products in their original containers so that handling and disposal instructions on labels can be followed. Store in properly closed containers and in well ventilated places where children and pets cannot reach.

What is hazardous waste?

There is no simple or generally accepted definition of hazardous waste. A waste is considered hazardous if it has one of the following characteristics:

  • Explosiveness: tendency to explode or generate toxic fumes when exposed to air, water or shock
  • Flammability: materials prone to spontaneous combustion, for example, organic solvents such as oil
  • Reactivity: poses a risk if it combines with other things
  • Poisonous or infectious
  • Toxicity: inorganic or synthetic organics which can cause damage to human health or the environment
  • Radioactivity
  • Corrosiveness: ability to eat away materials, or burn or irritate skin, eg battery acid
  • Ecotoxicity: harmful in the environment

Materials with any of these characteristics have the potential to damage human, animal or other species in the environment. Any waste which poses a present or future threat to humans or the environment can be considered hazardous.

Hazardous waste can be gaseous, liquid, solid or sludge, or a combination of all these. Most are by-products of manufacturing, but many are discarded household products such as cleaners, sprays, paint, batteries and motor oil.