What Household Chemicals Might Be Harmful if Not Disposed of Properly?

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Introduction

All U.S. homes should know: what household chemicals might be harmful if not disposed of properly? Only about 1% of the approximately 84,000 chemicals on the market has been tested for safety, according to CNN.

This highlights the need to make sure people properly dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW) in the form of chemicals. That includes ones like bleach, ammonia, antifreeze, paint, and formaldehyde. 

Here’s a list of the most dangerous household chemicals.

Lye & Hydrochloric Acid

These two chemicals typically exist in drain cleaners. Lye is a “caustic chemical” that can cause esophagus/stomach damage when ingested.

Meanwhile, hydrochloric acid is very corrosive and can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and digestive tract.

Paints

When buying paints, it’s important to pick products that list all ingredients they contain. Watch out for toxic chemicals that can cause problems for human health and the local environment. 

This includes volatile organic compounds (VOC). The paints emit these gases into the air as soon as you open a paint can. The chemicals can reduce indoor air quality and could cause major health risks.

Another potential problem is VOC paints can also contain preservatives like MI and MCI.

These are strong “biocides” that control/destroy microorganisms such as bacteria. This sounds like a good thing, right? The problem is the preservatives themselves can be toxic.

Formaldehyde/Phenol

These two chemicals exist in air fresheners that people use in homes and vehicles. Formaldehyde functions as a toxic cancer-causing substance, and direct contact can result in blindness.

Meanwhile, when phenol contacts skin it can cause various results like:

Bleach

This is a powerful corrosive that irritates/burns eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. If a person ingests bleach, they can also experience vomiting or coma.

Certain mixtures with bleach, including vinegar and toilet bowl cleaner, can cause toxic fumes. Avoid mixing bleach with ANY acid.

Chlorinated Hydrocarbons

This is found in many pesticides and affects a person’s nervous system. It’s linked to serious health issues like cancer. Chlorinated hydrocarbons are found in fatty tissue and food, and attack people’s nervous systems.

Lead Oil

This is a mixture of linseed oil and white pigments to create a semi-absorbent substance for oil painting. The oil can dry within 2 days to a full week based on various factors like light, humidity, and temperature.

Like other products with lead, lead oil can pose a threat to human health. This is due to lead harming the body’s blood cell production, and calcium absorption for healthy teeth, strong bones, and muscle movements. 

It can also have a negative effect on the function of blood vessels and nerves. High levels of lead intake can cause kidney and brain damage.

Sodium Hypochlorite

This substance has staining properties and is added to mold/mildew cleaners. Sodium hypochlorite is naturally corrosive and irritates/burns skin and eyes. It can also cause fluid buildup in the lungs, which can lead to serious problems like commas.

Battery Acid

Lead acid batteries contain sulfuric acid. This substance is highly corrosive and more dangerous than the acids in most other kinds of batteries. For example, swallowing the battery acid can result in damage to internal organs. When handling sulfuric acid, it’s important to wear protective gear.

Carpet/Upholstery Cleaners

They contain a serious substance known as naphthalene. It’s known to cause liver damage after long-term exposure. The ones added to car cleaners can cause various conditions like:

Mercury

Various items like thermometers, barometers, and batteries contain mercury. The main issue is breathing in mercury vapor. This can cause various health issues related to the digestive, nervous, and immune systems. It can affect your kidneys and lungs. 

Meanwhile, mercury can also provide problems if it contacts the eyes or skin. If you ingest it, you can also experience kidney toxicity.

Ammonia

The super-volatile chemical solution is used as different household cleaners and mostly for glass. These solutions irritate eyes and the respiratory/digestive tracts’ mucous membranes. 

Make sure to avoid mixing ammonia into a liquid with bleach since it could cause a poisonous gas. You should also avoid mixing ammonia with chlorine products/strong oxidants since this can create dangerous chemical compounds.

Acetone

This substance is added to different products like nail polish remover. It can irritate the throat and nose. Meanwhile, acetone can also harm a person’s nervous system at high concentrations. 

Acetone can cause various problems, including:

When people experience major exposure to acetone, this can trigger unconsciousness.

Smoke

You should always take precautions because smoke can contain harmful substances like carbon monoxide. Besides that, you should also watch out for other substances including:

Pesticides

Pesticides can be stored in the human colon, which can gradually poison a person’s body. Several studies show that pesticides are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), etc. 

Studies also show that pesticides can have a negative effect on the nervous system and reproductive system.

Antifreeze

Swallowing antifreeze can cause damage to kidneys, heart, brain, etc. Meanwhile, inhaling antifreeze can cause dizziness.

Petroleum Distillates

This petroleum product is linked to skin/lung cancers. They can irritate eyes, nose, skin, and lungs. Meanwhile, if they enter the lungs, they can cause a serious lung condition. Petroleum distillates are usually added to furniture and car polishes.

What Happens If Dangerous Household Chemicals Are Not Disposed of Properly?

Water Pollution

The Earth’s rivers, lakes, and seas are swimming in various pollutants, including chemicals, plastic, and waste. Water, like air and food, is critical for human life. However, the world’s population continues to pollute its waterways like oceans, lakes, and rivers.

When pollutants like household chemicals cause water pollution, this puts public health in jeopardy. In fact, studies show that unsafe water kills more people than all wars, according to estimates by the United Nations. 

Another related issue is that humans can only access 1% of the world’s freshwater. Studies also show that contaminants like lead, copper, and arsenic are contained in the tap water of each US state.

Various kinds of household hazardous waste (HHW) can contaminate wastewater treatment systems and septic tanks. 

Water is a “universal solvent” that’s super-vulnerable to pollution. Fun Fact: No other liquid on planet Earth can dissolve more substances than water. HHW can cause various kinds of water contamination including: sewage, wastewater, and agricultural 

Water pollution due to household waste contamination can also cause various results, including human health and the local environment. For example, it’s estimated that contaminated water makes 1 billion people sick every year. 

Meanwhile, water pollution can also affect whole aquatic environments. For example, when HHW enters lakes or seas/oceans, this reduces the water’s oxygen levels due to algae growth.

Toxic Pollution

This type of pollution is contaminated soil, water, and oil that’s dangerous/poisonous. Toxic pollution includes various sources, including industrial and residential sources. This can include chemicals from household products. 

This toxic pollution could contaminate drinking water, fish in rivers/ponds, homes, farmland, and air. People who live in such areas could be exposed to poisons each time they breathe, drink, eat, or bathe. 

Toxic pollution is one of several kinds of pollution. It affects people in various ways that they might not notice quickly. People frequently believe toxic pollution-triggered diseases to be a different cause. The poison often builds up and damages people’s bodies before they receive an illness/disease diagnosis. 

All pollution can cause various health issues related to the immune system, brain, etc. Some of the many illnesses it can cause include lung and heart diseases, and cancer. 

The good news is it’s possible to minimize toxic pollution within this generation. In fact, many industrialized countries have already implemented solutions to reduce toxic pollution.

Waste Disposal Incidents

Buffalo Creek Flood (1972)

This disaster took place in February 1972 when the Pittston Coal Company impounded Dam #3 in West Virginia. The dam burst half a week after a federal mine inspector declared it as “satisfactory.”

The flood released around 132 million gallons of black waste water. It rose over 30 ft. (9.1m) high over the residents living beside Buffalo Creek Hollow. This resulted in 500+ destroyed houses, 4,000 homeless, and 120+ deaths.

Atari Video Game Burial (1983)

The 1980s event involved the mass burial of several video game computers, consoles, and cartridges within a New Mexico landfill site. This was conducted by the US video game company Atari. It was rumored the site included video games, including E.T: the Extra-Terrestrial and Pac-Man.

Atari officials later verified that about 700,000 cartridges, including E.T., were buried at the site. However, only around 1,300 cartridges were excavated. The video games were auctioned off or curated.

Agriculture Street Landfill (1994)

This was a dump located in an area of New Orleans, Louisiana. When it was developed in the future for residential use, this resulted in negative environmental results. In 1994 the Agriculture Street Landfill became one of the nation’s Superfund cleanup sites.

The swampy area was first used as a dump during 1909. This landfill became a major dump in the area for residential/industrial waste. However, it frequently caught fire and became known as “Dante’s Inferno.”

What are common household cleaners that are dangerous when mixed?

It’s important to use household cleaners properly. This involves not blending cleaning agents even if it might seem to produce a superior one. The reason is the risks are too high. Here are some cleaning products you should always avoid mixing:

Hydrogen Peroxide & Vinegar

These two ingredients can be blended to clean surfaces effectively. That said, it’s not really a wise choice. When the two substances are mixed, it creates “peracetic acid.” This is a kind of corrosive substance that could damage the skin, eyes, and lungs. 

In addition, vinegar is a substance that you should use carefully when cleaning. There are some good options when picking eco-friendly cleaning solutions. However, you should contact a professional company if you’re searching for professional fire, mold, and water restoration services.

Bleach & Vinegar

Chlorine gas is the stuff made when blending bleach & vinegar. Just breathing in a small quantity of chlorine gas can trigger breathing problems and irritate a person’s eyes, nose, and throat. When a person is exposed to higher levels, this can result in vomiting, major chest pain, and pneumonia.

Same Cleaning Product By Different Brands

Various companies that make cleaning products like drain cleaner usually don’t include the same ingredients list. So it’s quite risky to blend various cleaners that have the same function. 

Furthermore, if a particular product isn’t working, make sure to avoid using a different one from another manufacturer. If you’re having problems with drain cleaning, for example, a plumber can help to solve problems.

Bleach & Ammonia

When you combine these substances, it produces a toxic gas known as chloramine. It can burn eyes and trigger respiratory damage. Keep in mind that ammonia is a common ingredient in cleaning products. 

So always avoid mixing ammonia products with bleach. When you use bigger quantities of ammonia, this can cause more toxic blends.

Bleach & Rubbing Alcohol

After blending these two products, the substance created is known as “chloroform.” It can cause nausea and dizziness. When people are exposed to high amounts of chloroform it can become fatal. 

Breathing in small quantities of chloroform vapor won’t likely cause you to become unconscious. However, it can damage the skin, eyes, lungs, and nervous system.

Quick Tips for Reducing Toxic Hazardous Waste In Your Home

While it’s a wise choice to dispose of household hazardous waste safely and effectively, you can also reduce the amount from the get-go. This involves reducing how much hazardous waste you generate through your shopping choices. Here are some helpful tips to reduce HHW safely and effectively:

All-purpose cleaners
Bug sprays
Dish soap
Dishwashing machine pods/gels
Insect repellants
Laundry detergent
Toilet cleaners

Conclusion

We use various cleaners and chemicals every day to keep our homes neat and tidy. However, this process can become dangerous if the substances are contacted by skin, inhaled by lungs, or ingested via the digestive system. 

In order to avoid major accidents, it’s critical to follow a product label’s instructions and store chemical products in a safe and effective manner. This is particularly true if kids and/or pets are living in your home. After learning what household chemicals might be harmful if not disposed of properly, this can help to maintain a super-clean and happy home.

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