Household Hazardous Material: Keeping Your Family Safe

Although American households produce over 4 million pounds of household hazardous waste every day, many state and local governments have banned the disposal of hazardous materials into standard household trash containers.  The City of Gainesville prohibits the disposal of hazardous waste in their bi-weekly trash pickup.  Hall County has very strict regulations regarding the disposal of these hazardous materials as well.  You are required to recycle them at the Hall County Recycling Center or any Hall County compacting site, since most hazardous materials are not well-equipped for landfills.
Properly storing and disposing of household hazardous materials is important because it helps limit exposure to those products, keeping your home and the environment safer for all.  Many common products kept in and around our homes contain hazardous substances that can be toxic, corrosive or flammable, so make sure you take extra care of these items.  From all-purpose cleaners and furniture polish to wireless phones and cooking oil, you would be surprised what constitutes as “hazardous”.  A full list of hazardous materials can be found here.

Common Household Hazards:


Mercury is an extremely toxic element that is found in many common household items such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), light bulbs and tubes; thermometers, barometers and thermostats; and batteries.  If any of these mercury containing products break and enters your system, it could cause significant damage to your brain, kidneys and/or lungs.  Consequences are even worse with youth, as it could hinder the development of a fetus’s or young child’s brain and nervous system.  If an accident does happen that requires cleaning up broken CFLs or other items containing mercury, follow these steps:

  1. Everyone, including pets, should leave the room immediately.
  2. Leave the windows or doors open for about 15 minutes so the room airs out before you go back to clean it up.  Turn off the air conditioner or heater for several hours to keep from circulating the harmful substance around the house. 
  3. Put on protective gloves and carefully gather up the broken glass and visible powder or liquid.  Don’t touch the substance directly. 
  4. Put the broken glass and materials used to clean the mess in a sealed container or zip-lock bag before placing it in a designated hazardous waste bin.


Nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries are bought each year in America, but what happens when they get discarded?  When batteries are left in landfills or incinerated, the metals could end up polluting the air or leaching into the soil or water supply.  The following are some other risks you have to deal with when handling batteries:  

  • Although batteries help convert chemical energy to electrical energy, they contain a variety of heavy metals and corrosive acids that could cause burns or injury to the skin or eyes.
  • Rechargeable lithium ion batteries, often found in notebook computers, cameras and mobile phones, occasionally pose a fire risk because they may overheat and catch fire if they fail.  
  • Lithium batteries should be kept away from small children and pets as they pose a risk of serious internal injuries if swallowed.  Furthermore, children and animals can choke on them since they are small enough to fit in their mouths. 

A little bit of precaution will go a long way to keeping you and your family safe!