Reviewed February 1992

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Home Hazardous Product Survey

Marie Steinwachs
Office of Waste Management

Teacher guide

Home, safe home?

If any of the products in your home have these warning words on the front label, your house contains potentially hazardous materials:

  • Danger
  • Explosive
  • Poison
  • Flammable
  • Caution
  • Corrosive
  • Warning

Through this activity, children and adults can identify what products in their homes and communities are hazardous and determine if they are stored safely.

Note
Children should obtain parental permission before conducting this survey. (See attached letter to parents.) Parental supervision and participation in conducting the survey is strongly encouraged.

Materials needed

  • Copies of parental letter and Handout 1
  • Copies of Handout 2
  • Calculator
  1. Introduce the activity
    Discuss the environmental and health effects from improper use, storage, and disposal of household hazardous products. Use the Guide to Hazardous Products Around the Home for reference.
  2. Copy and distribute the Home Hazardous Product Survey (Handout 1) to your students
    Encourage them to complete it with the help of their parents. Inform their parents about the assignment before passing it out so that they may assist in a safe home investigation. A sample letter is attached that you can modify for this use. Review directions and safety procedures with students.
    Review signal words on hazardous product labels. A hazardous material has at least one of these properties: toxic, corrosive, explosive, flammable, or radioactive. Signal words are clues that a product contains hazardous ingredients. Signal words give an indication of the amount of risk the user accepts when using the product.
    • Household pesticide signal words:
      • DANGER or POISON means the product is highly toxic;
      • WARNING means moderately toxic;
      • CAUTION means slightly toxic.
    • Non-pesticide product signal words:
      • POISON means the product is highly toxic;
      • DANGER means extremely flammable, corrosive, or highly toxic;
      • WARNING or CAUTION means less toxic.

    Refer to these sections in the Guide to Hazardous Products Around the Home for additional information: "Consumer Tips," "Hazardous Product Labeling," and "Household Safety Equipment."
  3. When the students have completed the Home Hazardous Product Survey with their parents' permission and supervision, copy and distribute the Class Data Sheet (Handout 2)
    Write the household hazardous product categories (paints and solvents, pesticides, household cleaners, automotive products, and other products) on the blackboard.
  4. Have each student enter the totals for each category on the blackboard
    Total and average the numbers in each category.
  5. If feasible, have the students determine the total number of households in your community
    If this is not feasible, provide this information to the students. Possible sources include the city planning agency, the city housing department, or the local utility company. Work out the problems on the Class Data Sheet.

Extending the Activity

The following questions can be discussed in class, assigned as homework, or used in a quiz.

  • What is the largest category of household hazardous products? What is the smallest?
  • Have each student compare his or her data from home with the class averages. Are their figures above or below average? Have the students compare their total number of products in each category with the class totals by creating a bar graph.
  • Do the students think the totals estimated in class are an accurate representation of the community?
  • Do the students think this data is similar to every community in your area? To every country?
  • Would people in different areas of the community use different amounts of household hazardous products? Two examples are that apartment renters and homeowners probably have different quantities of paint and there may be differences between products used by urban and rural residents.
  • Based on the product labels the students read at home, which category of materials may be the most dangerous? In what part of the home were the greatest number of products with the signal words DANGER or POISON?
  • What precautions should students take when hazardous products are used and stored at home? Why are we concemed about how these products are stored? What are the consequences of using these products improperly?
  • Although the amount of hazardous products used by each householder is small, as a community we contribute a large quantity of hazardous waste. In Missouri, householders produce over 100 million pounds of hazardous waste per year.
    This would be a good time to discuss how to properly dispose of household hazardous wastes using the Guide to Hazardous Products Around the Home as a reference.
    Estimate the amount in ounces of household hazardous products in the community from the estimated number of products.
    Assume that each container holds 8 ounces and that the container was only one-quarter full. The estimated ounces of household hazardous products is calculated from the Class Data Sheet by multiplying the number of household hazardous products in the community (c x d) by 2 ounces.
    If you assume further that 5 percent of the household hazardous products calculated above are thrown away month, estimate the amount in pounds of hazardous waste disposed of by your community each month and each year.
  • Discuss the validity and accuracy of the simplifying assumptions used to estimate the amounts of household hazardous waste stored and disposed of in the community.

    Are the assumptions realistic? How can the students determine if the assumptions are realistic? Some of the assumptions include: the volume of the products were considered equivalent, products of the same type were considered to include the same ingredients, products were considered to be the same age and condition, and all products were considered equally hazardous.

  • Any business that generates more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of some hazardous wastes per month is regulated and must dispose of its waste properly. Do your estimates of the waste disposed of by your community exceed this amount? Do the students think households should be regulated?
  • How would your students encourage householders in your community to dispose of their hazardous waste properly? What types of outlets can your Students think of for household hazardous waste disposal? (See "Recycling and Other Disposal Diversion Strategies" in the Guide to Hazardous Products Around the Home for some ideas.)
The Household Hazardous Waste Project would appreciate receiving any comments you may have concerning this activity. Thank you.

Handout 1
Home Hazardous Product Survey

Directions
Have a parent assist you with this project; they may wish to learn too! Search through your home to find these products.

Read the labels to determine if the product you have is potentially hazardous. If it is, count the number of containers you have and write it in the space after the product. Note in the following space if the product is stored safely. (See safety guidelines below.)

Be careful when handling these products - some may be harmful. Do not spill the contents. Wash your hands thoroughly after you have handled any container that may be leaking and when you have finished the survey.

Safety guidelines

  • Keep products out of reach of children and animals. Store all hazardous products on high shelves or in locked cabinets, away from food items.
  • Make sure the lids and caps are tightly sealed and child-proofed.
  • Store corrosive, flammable, and poisonous products on separate shelves. Be sure the containers are kept dry to prevent corrosion. Store these products where they are not likely to freeze.
  • Keep products in their original containers, with the information on the labels clearly legible. Never put a household hazardous product in a food or beverage container.
  • Keep products away from heat, sparks, flames, or sources of ignition. This is especially important with flammable products and aerosol cans.
  Number of items Stored safely? (yes/no)
Paints and solvents
Living room
Furniture polish    
Spot remover    
Bathroom
Nail polish/remover    
Workbench
Paint    
Varnish    
Paint thinner    
Furniture stripper    
Glue    
Total number of paints and solvents    
Household cleaners
Kitchen/bathroom
Drain cleaner    
Oven cleaner    
Floor cleaner    
Disinfectant    
Ammonia    
Scouring powder    
Laundry room
Bleach    
Laundry detergent    
Total number of household cleaners    
Pesticides
Lawn
Weed killers    
Insecticides    
Bug repellent    
Flea spray/collars    
Fertilizers    
Total number of pesticides    
Automotive products
Garage
Car wax    
Motor oil    
Gasoline    
Kerosene    
Antifreeze    
Total number of automotive products    
Other products
Around the house
Air fresheners    
Aerosol sprays    
Household batteries    
Button batteries    
Pool chemicals    
Other    
     
     
Total number of other products    
Total number of hazardous products in your home    
Student's name:

Parent's signature:

Date:

Handout 2
Class Data Sheet

Name:

Directions:

1. Record the class totals of household hazardous products for each category.

2. Calculate the average number of products for each category and the total.

3. Calculate the total number of household hazardous wastes in your community based on the information given in class.

Number of households surveyed in your class = (b)
Category Class total Class average
Paints and solvents   /b=
Pesticides   /b=
Household cleaners   /b=
Automotive products   /b=
Other products   /b=
Total   /b=
Number of households in your community = (d)

Total number of household hazardous products in your community (estimate) = (c x d)

Sample letter to parents/guardians

Date:

Dear parents,

Your child has been learning about hazardous products in the home. Your child has learned:

  • That signal words on a product label indicate potential toxicity. These words include DANGER, POISON, WARNING, and CAUTION.
  • The safety rules for the use and storage of hazardous products in the home.

The Home Hazardous Product Survey your child is bringing home is designed for you and your child to identify hazardous products in your home and to determine if they are stored safely. Because of the hazardous nature of some household products, it is very important that you provide supervision for this exercise. This activity can provide an opportunity for you to emphasize your home's safety rules.

The following safety rules should be used to determine if the products in your home are stored safely.

  • Keep products out of reach of children and animals. Store all hazardous products on high shelves or in locked cabinets, away from food items.
  • Make sure the lids and caps are tightly scaled and child-proofed.
  • Store corrosive, flammable, and poisonous products on separate shelves. Be sure the containers are kept dry. Store these products where they are not likely to freeze.
  • Keep products in their original containers, with the information on the labels clearly legible. Never put a household hazardous product in a food or beverage container.
  • Keep products away from heat, sparks, flames, or sources of ignition. This is especially important with flammable products and aerosol cans.

When you and your child have completed the Home Hazardous Product Survey, please sign the sheet and have your child return it the next day. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Supporting materials

  • The Guide to Hazardous Products Around the Home (1989) is a personal action manual for protecting your health and the environment. This comprehensive, 178-page handbook explains product ingredients, safety issues, disposal, recycle outlets, safer product alternatives, and more! Promoted by Greenpeace, the United Nations Environmental Programme, 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth and The Green Consumer. The Guide was written by the Household Hazardous Waste Project, winner of the 1991 President's Environment and Conservation Challenge Award.
  • Household Hazardous Waste: What You Should and Shouldn't Do is available through the Water Pollution Control Federation, 601 Wythe St., Alexandria, Va. 22314. This four-color educational brochure provides a household haz ardous waste chart with preferred disposal options for over 70 products.
    703-684 2430
  • The Nontoxic Home: Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Everyday Toxics and Health Hazards (1986) by Debra Lynn Dadd is available through book stores. It covers many categories including cleaning and laundry products, drugs, personal care products, food, and office supplies.
  • Hazardous Wastes from Homes (1986) is available from Enterprise for Education, 1320-A Santa Monica Mall, Santa Monica, Calif. 90401. This colorful magazine covers types of wastes considered hazardous and suggested disposal methods, reduction and recycling opportunities, and sources to contact for additional information.
  • Making the Switch: Alternatives to Using Toxic Chemicals in the Home (1988) from Golden Empire Health Planning Center, distributed by Local Government Health Planning Commission, 909 12th St., Suite 205, Sacramento, Calif. 95814. This con sumer booklet discusses methods for reducing exposure to some toxics in the home environment and offers many safer alternatives to using household hazardous products.

The following magazines have current information and may be available at your local library.

  • Garbage: The Practical Journal for the Environment, published bimonthly by the Old-House Journal Corp., 435 Ninth St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.
  • E Magazine, published monthly by Earth Action Network, Inc., 28 Knight St., Norwalk, Conn. 0685 1.
  • P-3 Magazine (for kids), P.O. Box 52, Montgomery, Vt. 05470.
  • Environmental Action, published bimonthly by Environmental Action, Inc., 1525 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.
The Household Hazardous Waste Project assumes no responsibilityfor any injury or damage resulting from the use or effect of any product or information specified in this publication.
Copyright 1994 by the Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority. Published by the MU Extension Household Hazardous Waste Project in cooperation with EIERA.

WM5002, reviewed February 1992


WM5002 Home Hazardous Product Survey | University of Missouri Extension