Most Harmful Effects of Chemical Waste in Our Daily Life

What is chemical waste?

Chemical waste is a waste that is made from chemicals, which are produced mostly by large factories. Those chemicals are potentially hazardous and it is usually a byproduct of a large scale factories and laboratories.

There are some chemical wastes that are non-hazardous, there are some chemical wastes that are hazardous, and there are also some chemical wastes that are even radioactive. The organization that regulates anything related to chemical waste is called the Environmental Protection Agency or “EPA” for short.

Characteristics of chemical waste

Chemical waste can be very dangerous, whether for the organisms or the environment. Those chemical wastes can’t be thrown away normally like you usually do when disposing household thrash. We have to know how to dispose chemical waste correctly by knowing its characteristics. When it comes to characteristics, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks chemical waste’s characteristics into 4. They can be seen as listed below.

1. Ignitability

Ignitability is a characteristic of chemical waste that explains whether a chemical waste is flammable or not. There are 3 types of ignitable form in chemical waste, they are liquids that has a low flash point (approx. 60OC), Solids that spontaneously combust, and Oxidizers and compressed gas. Examples of chemical waste that we can find with an ignitability characteristic are gasoline, paint, and furniture polish.

2. Corrosivity

Corrosivity is a characteristic of chemical waste that explains whether a chemical waste can rust (or decompose) easily or not. Corrosive substances, such as nitric acid and sulfuric acid, can damage containers made of metals that may cause a leakage of harmful chemicals from those containers.

A corrosive substance is any substance in a liquid form that has a pH level of ≤ 2 or pH level of ≥ 12.5, or virtually anything that has the ability to corrode metals or steels. Example of a common corrosive is battery acid. Chemical wastes that are corrosive can also burn skin when in contact and their vapor may even burns the eyes.

3. Reactivity

Reactivity is a characteristic of chemical waste that explains whether a chemical waste is explosive or not. Looking by their instability of reaction, they are considered the one that’s very dangerous. The EPA states that there are too many situation and condition to determine all types of reactive chemical waste.

Reactive wastes may also be poisonous to living things (such as humans and animals). There are guidelines that may help you to determine whether a chemical waste is reactive or not. They can be seen as listed below.

  • They are unstable, which means that they constantly experience violent changes without detonating.
  • They have potential for violent reaction (when combined with water).
  • They release toxic gasses when mixed with water.

4. Toxicity

Toxicity is a chemical waste that explains whether a chemical waste is toxic or not. Chemical wastes that have this characteristic may have a long term effect to the human health or the environment. Examples of chemical wastes that are toxic are pesticides and many household cleaning products.

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Examples of chemical wastes

Example of chemical wastes can be seen as listed below.

  • Anything that has been contaminated by chemicals
  • Apparatus containing hazardous waste
  • Batteries
  • Byproducts generated from a large factories
  • Byproducts generated from research and educational experiments
  • Computer or electronic equipments
  • Degreasing solvents
  • Dye and glazes
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Finely divided powders
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Industrial cleaners
  • Items that contain mercury
  • Laboratory equipments (such as syringes and pasteur pipettes) that have been contaminated
  • Light ballasts
  • Non-empty aerosol cans
  • Paints (oil and latex)
  • Pesticides (of all types)
  • Photographic film processing solutions (and chemicals)
  • Preserved specimens
  • Sharps that have been contaminated chemically
  • Spent solvents
  • Toner cartridges
  • Transmissions or power steering fluids
  • Uncured resins (such as Epoxy and Styrene)
  • Unused and surplus reagent grade chemicals
  • Used oil

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Harmful effects of chemical waste

Here are the harmful effects of chemical waste in our daily life:  

1. Effects to the human health

Chemical waste may impact human health when it is exposed. Those chemical wastes can affect human through several ways, such as inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. Since chemical wastes can be found and move through water, air, and soil, it is easy for chemical waste to spread their harmful effect. They can be found in the air therefore they can easily spread effects to the air we breathe.

As we all know that chemical waste can find its way through water and soil, which may contaminate the plants or crops that the farmer grows, chemical waste can affect human health through the food that they eat and water that they drink.

The effects of chemical wastes on human health may vary depending  on the type of the chemicals, the amount of chemical waste that the person was exposed to, how long the person was exposed to the chemical waste, and how many times that the person has been exposed to the chemical wastes. Those effects may also vary on the person depending by that person’s age, gender, genetics, or certain health condition that a person has.

Some harmful effects of chemical waste in our daily life on human health can be seen as listed below.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Neurological disease
  • Congenital malformations.
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Thickening of arteries (which leads to heart attack and stroke)
  • Mercury toxicity (by consuming fish that are contaminated by mercury)
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Unconsciousness (or even death)

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2. Effects to the environment

Disposing chemical waste in an incorrect ways can contaminate the environment and leads to pollution. The main danger of this effect in short term is water pollution. Water may be contaminated by being exposed to those hazardous chemicals.

It may become unsafe to drink or even used for other purposes (such as agriculture). Chemical wastes also have a more threatening long-term effect to the environment. One example is the mutation of the animals. We may know that some animals (such as bees) play an important role in plant fertilization.

Without those animals, plants are having a hard time to grow or might even die. Some chemicals may even damage the ozone, which leads to the warm up of the earth’s temperature. That’s all the harmful effects of chemical waste in our daily life that we need to avoid.