Environmental Health

Take the Hazard out of Hazardous Waste - Upload Knowledge

First, learn what is considered toxic in your school? Click here for a list of hazardous materials that should be treated with caution and shouldn’t be just thrown in the regular trash.

How dangerous are toxics anyway? They are linked to cancer, birth defects, reproductive disorders, immune system dysfunction, respiratory problems, headache, nausea, allergies, and other health effects. To check whether specific ingredients in a product may be hazardous and what the known health effects are, check out the Health Effects Notebook.

MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) should be sent with any products you order for art supplies, laboratory supplies, cleaning supplies, and other various chemicals. MSDS offer extensive information about the specific chemicals in a product and instructions for protecting yourself against its toxic effects and how to clean up spills properly. If you don’t have an MSDS for the chemicals in your products, request them from the manufacturer and they have to provide you with them by law. You can also access similar information through this database and first-aid tips for each chemical are included under the section labeled “procedures.”

If you want to avoid purchasing toxic arts and crafts materials for your classroom and are overwhelmed by reading ingredients and trying to make smart purchases, then reference this list compiled by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. It is a list of specific products made by specific brands that you should not purchase for use in K-6 schools according to the state of California. Also, follow these general rules of thumb for purchasing alternatives offered by True Art Information: use water based products instead of oil-based ones, buy premixed products instead of powdered ones that you mix yourself, and don’t use aerosol sprays because of how easily those chemicals are inhaled. For specific companies offering less toxic and green art supplies, click here for a list of their websites. A link to each website is provided along with an honest review written about each one by Debra Lynn Dadd, a consumer advocate hailed as “The Queen of Green” by the New York Times.

Bring hazardous waste knowledge into the classroom! Teach your students hazardous waste ethics. For example, if you dissect fetal pigs in science lab, challenge the class to consider the effects that the formaldehyde-soaked body will have on the environment when it is discarded. Encourage students to research and debate these questions along with you.