Under The Kitchen Sink

June 4, 2011

What toxic chemicals are lurking under the kitchen sink or at the back of the shelf in the basement or even in plain view on your bathroom countertop? This is a photo of what I found in my house.

Since it is Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day in I have been scouring the house and garage for corrosives, flammables and poisons in my home. I consider my family to be conscientious about NOT bringing hazardous materials into the house but I surprised myself with the items I collected in 10 minutes of searching.

Many items we use and discard with our trash are actually similar to EPA regulated hazardous wastes that are generated by industries that make the products we buy and use. Maybe we shouldn’t be throwing so much toxic waste away, since there is no such thing as away.

In the kitchen: oven cleaners, drain cleaner, floor-care, soaps and cleansers

In the bathroom: toilet cleaner, cosmetics, hair color, aerosol deodorant, nail polish remover

In the laundry: spot removers, chlorine bleach, spray starch, softeners, brighteners

General: pool chemicals, paint strippers, glue, furniture polish, air fresheners, metal cleaners, paint/stain/varnish, turpentine, paint thinner, wood preservatives, ammonia cleaners, moth balls and flakes

Cars: gasoline, antifreeze, brake/transmission fluid, solvents and degreaser

Lawn and Garden: insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, weed killers, flea and tick powder

Why is household hazardous waste a problem? At home accidental burns, poisoning, or even death if not used, stored and disposed of properly. Septic systems and sewage plants are not designed to filter toxic materials. If you pour these things down the drain or in the sewer this can affect everyone’s water supply ultimately contaminating our rivers, lakes and Long Island Sound. Often solid waste is burned and if the waste has hazardous materials then the residue ends up in the air we breathe and the ash contaminates the ground water. Last but of course not least toxins in our water can affect fish and other wildlife.

I think I have reasons why I have some of the items I have, you might, too – for example, a few years back there was a huge hornets nest in the garbage shed, then it was useful again a few years later when there was another yellow jacket nest in the ground under the lilac tree outside the front door – so I thought we needed a spray to knock them out. But I still have half a canister. I also have paint thinner, pet odor attack and indoor house plant food, a few half empty spray paint cans left over from Josh’s graffiti days, charcoal starter fluid (don’t even have a charcoal grill…) and liquid ski wax (no one skis anymore).

What to do? Best solution? Don’t buy or use these things. Oh, no! No more nail polish and remover? Hmmm.

Well, anyway, we can begin to think about the products we bring into our homes. Can we do without something, or substitute a natural option? It is much easier to find non-toxic cleaners at your local grocery stores these days. Check out this list from ecomall.com and seventhgeneration.com and . Under my sink today I have products from Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Bon Ami, CitriSolv and plain old vinegar.  Or make your own and make some more. Buy only what we need, use what we buy. Pass on partially used products to neighbors or friends who can use them.

Maybe we shouldn’t be throwing so much toxic waste away, since there is no such thing as away. I mean, where does our hazardous waste get stored or disposed of –  is there any place safe?

What we can do is keep all our hazardous products in one place and dispose of properly by taking to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day.

How to find one near you: Best to search on the internet under “Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day” and add your state and county. Here is a great informational site for the Twin Cities. There will be something near you, too.

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