WW-06946 Reviewed 2008
Reducing the Use of Hazardous Household Products
Shoreland Best Management Practices
Number 14 of 18 in the Series
Best Management Practices (BMPs) are actions you can take to reduce your impact on the environment. BMPs have been described for agriculture, forest management, and construction. This fact sheet describes BMPs you can adopt on your shoreland property to help protect and preserve water quality. In many cases, the best management for shorelands may be retaining the natural characteristics of your property.
Minimizing the use of hazardous products and properly handling those that are used can preserve water quality.
Why Are Hazardous Household Products a Problem?Many common household cleaners and home improvement products contain ingredients that are corrosive, toxic, or flammable. When used improperly or disposed of improperly, these products can become personal health and safety concerns and can also cause problems in the environment, contaminating ground water and soil and eventually reaching surface waters.
Think twice before buying household cleaning and maintenance products. General purpose products may work just as well as products developed for a specific surface or appliance. Some products may contain hazardous ingredients, such as degreasers, which contain petroleum distillates. Purchase nontoxic or less toxic products whenever possible (like water-based rather than solvent-based paints and cleaners). Alternatives to hazardous cleaning products are cheaper and some are equally effective. Do not use pesticides unless you have tried all other alternatives without success. The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD), the MN Pollution Control Agency (PCA), and the University of Minnesota Extension Service can provide information on alternatives to pesticides, cleaning products, and other hazardous products.
If you must use a hazardous product, read the label carefully before purchasing. Make sure the product will do what you want it to. Buy only the amount you need, and use it up. If you can't use it up, give it to someone who can.
Reading product labels is the best way to get information about that product. Labels contain information about product ingredients, how to store and use safely, and hazards associated with the product. Labels on hazardous products contain SIGNAL WORDS, which tell how hazardous the product is to humans. This can give some indication of the potential problems to the environment.
|Signal words: what they mean|
POISON = highly toxic
Remember, signal words are found on labels of new products. Older products in your home may not contain signal words
The label will also include more specific information about the kind of hazard associated with the product, whether it is flammable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic.
Look for signal words on labels and buy products with no signal words, or with the lowest hazardous level signal word (caution or warning). Some products will indicate whether they are safe for septic systems.
Follow label instructions for use and storage of all household products. Do not store paints and pesticides in unheated buildings where they will freeze and become waste.
Dispose of banned or unusable products properly. Do not pour leftovers down the drain, on the ground, or into a storm sewer. Empty containers, including paint cans (lids should be left off) and aerosol cans, should be placed in the trash. Pesticide containers must be triple-rinsed before disposal. The rinse water should be used for the same purpose the pesticide was used for. The clean, empty containers can then be placed in the trash. In some areas, pesticide containers can be collected to be recycled into new pesticide containers. Hazardous product containers should not be recycled through community recycling programs.
Call your county solid waste office for information about household hazardous waste collections in your area.
Mercury in the environment is a serious public health issue in northern Minnesota. Many household products, including paints, batteries, thermometers, and fluorescent tubes, contain small amounts of mercury. When these products are not disposed of properly, mercury can be released into the environment. Mercury in lakes and rivers can accumulate in fish and be passed on to humans who eat them. Fish consumption advisories have been established by the MN Department of Health. Advisories have been set for certain lakes and fish species.
Product manufacturers are aware of the problems with mercury and many are modifying their products to reduce or remove it. Alkaline batteries sold in Minnesota after January 1, 1996, have no added mercury and can safely be discarded in the trash.
Here are some things you can do to reduce mercury waste:
The Minnesota Legislature prohibits the placement of the following items in municipal solid waste:
Don't dump antifreeze down your drain. Contact your county solid waste office for information on proper disposal of anti-freeze.
Here's what can happen when mercury is improperly disposed of and mercury compounds enter a river or lake food chain:
regional offices of MN State agencies:
Easy Recipes for Alternatives to Hazardous Household Products. Brochure available from Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
Household Hazardous Waste Fact Sheets. Available from MN Pollution Control Agency and Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
Household Hazardous Disposal Guide. Available from MN Pollution Control Agency and Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.Household Cleaning Products - What About Substitutes. Available from county offices of the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Mercury: Get Mad Now, Not Later. A guide to mercury in common household products, proper disposal, and available alternatives. Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Household Battery Basics. A guide to battery disposal. Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
This fact sheet is one of a series designed to assist shoreland property owners in protecting and preserving water quality. The series includes:
This series of fact sheets is a cooperative effort of the following agencies:
University of Minnesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota
College of Natural Resources, University of Minnesota
Water Plan Coordinators of the Arrowhead counties
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife,
Division of Waters, Division of Forestry
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Sea Grant Extension Program
Mississippi Headwaters Board
St. Louis County Health Department, Environmental Services Division
Soil and Water Conservation Districts of the Arrowhead counties
Natural Resources Conservation Services
Environmental Protection Agency
Western Lake Superior Sanitary Districtbr
These publications may be photocopied for local distribution. The addition of commercial names, products, or identifiers is not permitted. please do not add or delete any text material without contacting:
You may add information about contact persons or regulations specific to your county, region, or lake association.
University of Minnesota Extension Service, Extension Store 20 Coffey Hall 1420 Eckles Ave St Paul, MN 55108-6069 612-625-8173
Produced by the Arrowhead Water Quality Team, a cooperative effort of Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis counties and state and federal agencies. All publicly funded agencies involved are committed to equal opportunity education, service, and employment.
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this material is available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact your University of Minnesota Extension office or the Extension Store at (800) 876-8636.