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Household Hazardous Waste

What is Household Hazardous Waste?


Photo by Alachua County, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Any substance can be considered hazardous if it has one or more of the following properties:

  • It is flammable or combustible and can easily be set on fire or ignited
  • It is explosive or reactive and can detonate or explode through exposure to heat, sudden shock or pressure
  • It is corrosive or caustic and can burn or destroy living tissue
  • It is toxic or poisonous and can cause injury or death through ingestion, inhalation or absorption
  • It is radioactive and can damage and destroy cells as well as chromosomal material

Common Household Hazardous Waste Items include:

  • The “ides” – pesticides, insecticides and herbicides
  • Fertilizers
  • Thermometers and thermostats (anything that contains mercury)
  • Household cleaners
  • Wood preservatives and stains
  • Oil based and latex paints
  • Paint thinners and solvents
  • Gasoline, kerosene and motor oil
  • Chemical drain cleaners
  • Fluorescent bulbs
  • Electronic scraps
  • Anti-freeze
  • Brake and transmission fluid
  • Batteries
  • And more!

Why should I be concerned?

Household hazardous products that are improperly used, stored or disposed of can enter groundwater and surface water supplies and be harmful to your health and to the health of the plants and animals that live in the community.

Pesticides can kill beneficial insects and birds, not just the destructive (or targeted) insects intended. Fertilizers and pesticides can run off of the property and into storm drains, polluting rivers and streams. Hazardous wastes can end up in our drinking water, rivers and lakes if they are buried, flushed down the drain or poured onto the ground or into storm drains.

In addition to polluting water resources, human health problems can also result from exposure due to improper use and storage of household hazardous waste products. Exposure can occur if you eat, drink or smoke when a substance is on your hands, through breathing in dust and fumes or through direct skin and/or eye contact.

How can I help?

There are many ways to help prevent health problems and water pollution that can be associated with household hazardous waste products. These include buying only what you will need or use, properly disposing of the waste, storing the products safely and appropriately, and using alternatives.

By buying only the amount of product that you need and will use completely, you won’t have to worry about how to properly store or dispose of the hazardous waste. If you do have leftover product, try to find someone who can use them. However, DO NOT give away old pesticides as they can contain chemicals that are now banned (such as DDT or Kethane).

Safely storing leftover products is very important when they are not in use. Keep them tightly sealed and locked in a cabinet or other secure place. The products should always be kept in their original containers and never, unless directed, mixed with any other products. Flammable products should be stored and kept away from heat, open flames or sparks. Follow the storage recommendations on the product’s label.

It is crucial to properly dispose of any unwanted product. Never dump hazardous products down the drain at homes or business, into stormdrains, bury or burn them. Household hazardous products should also not be placed with the regular trash collection. To find a local hazardous waste collection site near you in San Diego County click HERE.