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Household Hazardous Materials

What You Should & Shouldn't Do

Are You Poisoning Your Water?

If someone were to drop a poisonous substance into your community's water supply, the act would be considered a serious crime and a state of public emergency would be declared.

But when you dump a can of paint thinner down the drain or throw out an old car battery with the trash, no alarms are sounded, no news flashes are issued. Yet, the impact on your water resources could be just as disastrous.

That is not a far-fetched statement. The average household contains between three and ten gallons or ten to forty litres of materials that are hazardous to human health or to the natural environment. Collectively, these materials can poison our water if they are not stored carefully and disposed of properly.

What Is A Hazardous Materials?

Many government environmental agencies consider a substance hazardous if it can catch fire, if it can react or explode when mixed with other substances, if it is corrosive, or if it is toxic.

This definition includes many things that you probably are storing right now in your garage, basement, bathroom or kitchen. Some, like paint thinner or car batteries, are pretty obvious, but there are many that you might not ordinarily think of such as polishes, insecticides and glues.


What You Can Do In Your Community

Dangers of Hazardous Materials

The improper disposal of household materials can cause problems for the entire community. Materials can be explosive or highly flammable. Sewers have exploded and garbage trucks have burned because people have carelessly discarded flammable or reactive materials.

Hazardous materials can also be corrosive. The acid from discarded auto batteries can eat away many substances. Some materials are poisonous to humans or wildlife, while others can cause cancer, birth defects or other serious problems.

Where Do We Put Them?

One of the worst ways to dispose of many hazardous materials is to "just dump them down the drain." Waste water treatment plants are not designed to handle certain types of hazardous materials.

Unfortunately, disposing of hazardous materials in a landfill has not proven an effective solution either. Without special design, the modern sanitary landfill is not equipped to accept hazardous materials. Hazardous materials improperly disposed of in a landfill can pollute the environment through the groundwater, surface water and air.

If the public cannot dispose of most hazardous materials in the sewer system or a landfill, what can be done? This brochure describes some preventatives measures you can take in your home to reduce the quantity of material you must dispose. The Household Hazardous Materials Chart This document is in PDF format.  Download the free viewer from ndicates the best way of dealing with most hazardous materials found in the home.

First: Reduce the Amount

  • You do not need a Ph.D. in chemistry to reduce the use of hazardous materials in your home. The following suggestions can help:
  • Before you buy a product, read the label and make sure that it will do what you want. Once you buy something, you are responsible for disposing of it properly.

  • Do not buy more than you need. That way, you will not need to dispose of the surplus.

  • Read and follow directions on how to use a product and dispose of the container. (There is a good reason why the labels say "do not incinerate" or "do not mix with bleach.").

  • Use safer substitutes when they are available.
    Second: Take Care of the Hazardous Materials.
Second: Take Care of the Materials

Even if you reduce the materials that must be dealt with as outlined above, there is still the question of what to do with what is left over.

Recycling is an excellent way of handling some hazardous materials. Used motor oil, paint thinners and some other solvents can be refined and reused just as aluminum cans are. Contact the East Baton Rouge Recycling Office at 389-5194 for additional information. Recycle

Municipal or commercial incineration is another effective means of dealing with some hazardous materials. However, a specially designed incinerator is needed to destroy hazardous materials. "Incinerators" in your home, such as your fireplace or woodstove, can not get hot enough to destroy hazardous materials and should never be used to destroy hazardous materials.

The Household Hazardous Materials Chart This document is in PDF format.  Download the free viewer from will guide you in disposing of potentially hazardous material around your home. You should display this chart in a convenient location.

Remember to never dump hazardous materials on the ground, and always check the chart before pouring them down the drain.

What You Can Do In Your Community

By working together, the people in a community can plan and create effective systems for managing hazardous materials. Many communities have begun to sponsor Household Hazardous Material collection days. These efforts have helped reduce the amount of hazardous material in many areas while heightening public awareness of the problem.

Successful collection efforts in many cities have helped officials protect their community's waste water treatment plants and groundwater from hazardous material contamination. Many communities were able to collect large quantities of hazardous materials on the strength of a one or two day effort. If your community has a program for disposal of hazardous materials, please support it.

We also encourage you to:

  • Learn as much as you can about your waste water treatment plant and share that information with your family and friends. Clean water is for everyone.
  • Learn about your community's landfill system and special programs for the disposal of hazardous materials. 
  • Contact the East Baton Rouge Recycling Office, at 389-5194 or on line at:  Recycle Hazards Materials They can provide information on companies which are licensed to handle hazardous materials along with possible funding sources for such efforts. What the Future Holds.
What the Future Holds

Billions of dollars have been spent to clean up our lakes and streams. Many millions more have been spent to build and maintain adequate sanitary landfills.

Modern waste water treatment plants have led us all to expect clean water and a safe environment as a part of our everyday lives. We now realize that we cannot just discharge our materials into a stream or bury hazardous material without thinking about their impact on the environment.

For that reason and others, household hazardous material collection has really caught on. Communities throughout the world have begun to develop programs to deal with household materials. These efforts need to be expanded to include as many areas as possible.

For details on what you can do, contact The East Baton Rouge Recycling Office at 389-5194 or on line at Household Hazardous Materials.