Most people would never dream of moving next door to a toxic waste dump, but many have the makings for one under the kitchen sink, in the garage or in a dark corner in the basement.
The ingredients for a recipe of toxic brew come from things like nail polish remover, bathroom cleaners, fertilizers, pesticides and waste oil. As spring cleaning time arrives, officials are encouraging the careful use and disposal of such products.Why the fuss? In most of Utah, household toxic chemicals that are just thrown in the garbage end up in landfills. In landfills not equipped to handle such substances, they can eventually seep into ground water, contaminating it.
Flammable toxic chemicals, including some explosive forms of fertilizer, can be a fire hazard in the home.
Misuse of chemicals can also cause injury. In one year, more than 130,000 people in the United States were sent to emergency rooms with injuries caused by toxic household products, according to statistics collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. More than 90 percent of injuries were to children younger than 4.
Hazardous waste thrown in the garbage could harm sanitation workers.
While many cities and counties have hazardous waste collection and recycling programs, those in Utah can't afford them. In Salt Lake County, for example, it cost $75,000 for a one-time hazardous waste collection drive.
"We don't have the money to do another one," said Melvin Muir, Salt Lake County solid and hazardous waste specialist.
Davis County also has no hazardous waste collection and recycling program, although the burn plant, which serves all areas except Bountiful, is probably a safer disposal site for household toxic wastes than a landfill. That doesn't mean people shouldn't be careful when disposing of chemicals, however, said Jim Young, manager of the Davis County Solid Waste Management and Energy Recovery Special Service District.
Even in a state that has no formal collection and recycling programs, people can still do something.
Salt Lake County has printed a pamphlet and mailed it with power bills telling people to use all toxic chemicals before they throw away the containers in which they came. They also have given recommendations for disposing of some less hazardous waste.
In addition, several hazardous products can be recycled locally through private firms. For example, many quick-lube shops will accept car waste oil for free. Some auto parts dealers will also pay for used car batteries or take them as a trade-in on a new one.