Hazardous Waste and Substances Facts

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Chemicals are used to make just about everything we use, from paper, to medicine, to clothing, to gasoline. Chemicals are the building blocks of our world, and while most are perfectly safe to use, there are quite a few, especially made by humans, that can be dangerous, and which need to be disposed of properly, in order to maintain our safety.

What is classified as hazardous waste?

Obviously, not all chemicals are hazardous. Chemical compounds like sodium chloride (table salt), are used every day and are perfectly safe for use to use. Other chemicals are not so safe and can actually harm our health and the environment if not properly disposed of. Some of the most common examples of hazardous waste include batteries, bug spray, and paint. These and other household examples of hazardous waste need to be properly disposed of in order to protect our health and the environment.

What different kinds of hazardous waste exist?

There are essentially four basic kinds of hazardous waste. The first is corrosive, which eats away at some materials, including clothing and skin. These are acids, like those commonly found in batteries. The acids themselves and the vapor from the acid can be dangerous.

The second kind is ignitable. These are substances that easily ignite—examples include paint thinner and gasoline. The vapors are usually irritating, but the flammability is the real danger.

The third kind of hazardous waste is reactive. These substances are less common, but they can still be very dangerous. The most common example is bleach and ammonia. These substances react with one another and create a gas that is extremely deadly.

The fourth and final kind of hazardous waste is toxic. These are chemicals that are designed to kill things, from bugs to weeds to germs, but can also be harmful to humans, whether ingested or absorbed through skin.

Why is hazardous waste dangerous?

Hazardous waste usually enters a person’s system in one of two ways, the first being inhalation. This occurs when a person breathes in the chemical or its vapors. If a chemical gives off a toxic gas, this can be very dangerous, harming the health of the person who breathes in these vapors. Even if the substance is not toxic, vapors or the chemicals that create them can irritate the mouth, throat, and lungs of a person, causing serious health problems.

The second way a person may come into contact with hazardous waste is ingestion. Even if it accidental, ingesting any kind of hazardous waste is extremely dangerous, as many of these chemicals can burn your organs or cause other serious problems.

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