Hazardous materials, also called hazmat, are those which the Environmental Protection Agency considers having the potential to harm human health and the environment. Hazmat disposal expert Enviro Care Inc. explains that these include toxic wastes and byproducts from manufacturing, laboratories, construction, septic tank systems, garages, hospitals, farming and other industries.
The waste materials may be in the form of liquids, solids and sludge and may contain toxins, chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive materials, pathogens and others. Common household materials like batteries, used appliances, used computer equipment, old paint, herbicides and pesticides can generate hazardous waste.
Hazardous Materials in the Wild
The various sources of waste materials are quite common, and it can be hard to collect all of these items and to store or dispose of them properly. Burying the waste in the ground can contaminate the groundwater and subsequently stream runoff, drinking water supply, as well as in floodwaters. Heavy metals can also get into the ecosystem and be ingested by fishes. There are warnings against eating large fishes due to the increase in toxic elements in their bodies.
Up to 90% of all industrial sources of hazardous materials and waste come from only four industries: chemical manufacturing; metal fabrication; primary metal production; and petroleum processing. These also happen to be the most heavily regulated and monitored industries and facilities in the country.
Ethylene oxide and formaldehyde are two of the most common hazardous by-products of chemical manufacturing. For metal production and fabrication, the most common hazardous by-products and materials include toluene, methylene chloride, chromium VI, cadmium and metalworking fluids. The petroleum industry has a lot of hazardous by-products including 1,3-Butadiene, hydrogen sulfide, and produced water hazards.
Hazardous materials by-products and waste are increasing every year, and these continue to damage the environment even with the best efforts to keep these chemicals away. These materials are made as by-products and waste materials by large manufacturing, chemical and petroleum manufacturers.
The EPA started regulating hazardous materials disposal in 1976. Before that, waste disposal was usually through open dump sites. Most of the closed dumpsites from that era now pose a threat to their respective communities. It is interesting to note that these closed dumpsites have been repurposed into brownfield sites or as parks and golf courses.