The ultimate guide to household hazards

The ultimate guide to household hazards

At what age did you teach your child to take out the trash? At what age did YOU learn to lift the bag of trash out of the bin, tie it off, take it to the city's trash can and roll it to the curb before city services made their way down the street?

Did those lessons ever include what doesn't belong in the trash can?


It's never too late to learn, or to teach someone, about how some leftover household products contain hazardous ingredients that require special care for disposal.

Household hazardous waste, often referred to as HHW, is leftover household products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances or that are corrosive or toxic as household hazardous waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Such products can include:

•    Fluorescent light bulbs
•    Paints
•    Pesticides
•    Nail polish and nail polish remover
•    Insect repellent or mouse/rat poison
•    Pool chlorine and acid
•    Wood stains or varnishes
•    Mercury Added Novelties - Examples include greeting cards that play music when opened; athletic shoes (made before 1997) with flashing lights in soles; and mercury maze games.
•    Batteries
•    Corrosive cleaners, including drain cleaner and lye-based oven cleaners
•    Fuels, such as gasoline, propane, and diesel
•    Lighter fluid
•    Mercury
•    Electronic Devices such as televisions and computer monitors, computers, printers, VCRs, cell phones, telephones, radios, and microwave ovens. These devices often contain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, copper, and chromium.

So, what harm is there in disposing of these hazards the wrong way?

Improper disposal of these wastes can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health, according to the EPA. Disposal can include pouring that product down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or putting them out with the regular trash. 

When disposed of incorrectly, our water and soils can become contaminated or trash collectors can be harmed.

So what do you do with them then?


Communities across the state have HHW drop-off facilities or hold HHW collection events for residents. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality maintains a list of ongoing programs and individually scheduled events posted on its HHW Program Contacts page.

At any drop-off site, keep yourself and those working the event safe. You can do so with these tips from the TCEQ:

•    Keep products in their original container and make sure labels are readable.
•    Store and transport chemicals upright. Make sure if you are taking HHW to a facility or event that it's secured in a vehicle and not leaking – it can be dangerous if leaking containers of incompatible chemicals mix.
•    Never mix products together. This can be dangerous, even deadly.
•    Keep chemicals in a cool, dry place out of reach of children and pets.

But let's say you want to avoid dealing with that altogether. Instead of ignoring these best practices, you can look at decreasing the amount of hazardous waste brought into the home. For instance, buy only what is needed to do a job. Buying chemicals in bulk might not save money if it's not all used. Consider using alternative household products that do not contain hazardous materials.  And always consider reuse. Pass on unexpired chemicals or paint in good condition to friends, relatives, or neighbors who can use them. Doing this will save time and money for yourself and others.

We currently only have one planet to call home. Together we can help it last.