Upwards of half a million shipments of dangerous goods, also called hazardous materials, are being transported across the United States on any given day. With 90 percent of these materials being carried by truck, there is a considerable risk of danger should something go wrong.

Defined as any material that could be harmful to living things, property or the environment, hazardous materials include solids, liquids and gasses that are:

  • Flammable
  • Combustible
  • Pathogenic
  • Carcinogenic
  • Toxic
  • Oxidizing
  • Corrosive
  • Unstable
  • Irritating to the eyes, skin or lungs

Transportation and disposal of these materials is carefully regulated by federal law to minimize the potential for accidents.

Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA)
Passed in 1975, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act consists of four provisions designed to unify other regulations that were in place at the time. The act is now part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Emergency Management Program for environmental safety and addresses procedures, policies, material designation and labeling, packing requirements and operational rules. Together, these provisions are meant to keep accidents and illegal dumping to a minimum.

Shipping hazardous materials via UPS, FedEx or the USPS may require adherence to additional regulations. Each shipping provider offers an explanation of these regulations on its website that should be consulted before sending potentially dangerous items to another party. Handling fees may also apply.

Proper Disposal Techniques
Industry operations, corporations, small businesses and homeowners handle dangerous goods of varying types, and all materials must be disposed of correctly to prevent environmental contamination. Flushing or dumping any kind of hazardous products can contaminate municipal water supplies since the compounds in these products aren’t filtered out or neutralized by standard water treatments. Chemicals may also leech into ground water and create a potentially toxic environment.

If you have dangerous goods to get rid of, look for a recycling or pickup program in your local area. These programs may handle anything from old televisions to household chemicals. If no program is available, dispose of your hazardous materials in the trash. Never pour them down the drain or flush them down the toilet.

Businesses and industries may be able to send their dangerous goods to a hazardous waste recycling program that’s in compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This act was passed to offer further protection for personal and environmental health above and beyond what HMTA offers. It also aims to conserve the resources used in hazardous materials by processing them in ways that make them safe to use again.

Failure to follow proper regulations when transporting or disposing of hazardous materials can result in a fine of up to $75,000. Reckless handling or intentional mislabeling carries criminal penalties. When preparing to ship or throw away any material classified as dangerous, check that you’re in compliance with regulations. This not only ensures that you won’t face legal problems but also keeps the environment and the people around you safe from the negative effects associated with improper handling of these materials.

Date: August 15, 2015
Author: Penny Taylor

Transportation and Disposal Service
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