Environmental Health

Take the Hazard out of Hazardous Waste

Dangerous toxics are no doubt an integral part of our lifestyles as they exist in many cleaning products, automotive products, and construction materials. Many of them are found in the art room, science room, wood-shop, and automotive garage in your school, but even in a standard classroom simple glues and markers can negatively affect indoor-air quality and then the environment when they are disposed. What makes something “hazardous” anyway? According to the University of Missouri Extension, Office of Waste Management, a product is hazardous if it is flammable, reactive, corrosive, toxic, or any combination of these.

According to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, children are especially susceptible to the health effects of everyday hazardous materials because the concentration entering their bodies is higher relative to their size, they have higher metabolic rates, and they have immature organ immune systems. Simply teaching students the proper handling procedures for classroom toxics is definitely a step in the right direction, but using non-toxic alternatives is preferable because as we all know, kids are kids and what kids handle will get all over their skin, mouth, eyes, and clothes. And there are many ways that these toxics can enter the blood stream: from the mouth, absorbing it through the skin, and inhaling it into the lungs.

Reducing the amount of hazardous material your school purchases, storing it properly, and disposing of it safely impacts the environment just as much as the personal health of you and your students. Tackling the issue of hazardous waste in the classroom can have a profound effect on your students because if they can understand how toxics affect them, they have the opportunity to also learn how toxics affect their environment. Understanding and managing the hazardous waste in your school can teach students that our survival as humans depends on the survival of all.