University of Missouri Extension

WM5002, Reviewed February 1992

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:

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

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

  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.

The Household Hazardous Waste Project would appreciate receiving any comments you may have concerning this activity. Thank you.

Handout 1
Home Hazardous Product Survey

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

  Number of items Stored safely? (yes/no)
Paints and solvents
Living room
Furniture polish    
Spot remover    
Nail polish/remover    
Paint thinner    
Furniture stripper    
Total number of paints and solvents    
Household cleaners
Drain cleaner    
Oven cleaner    
Floor cleaner    
Scouring powder    
Laundry room
Laundry detergent    
Total number of household cleaners    
Weed killers    
Bug repellent    
Flea spray/collars    
Total number of pesticides    
Automotive products
Car wax    
Motor oil    
Total number of automotive products    
Other products
Around the house
Air fresheners    
Aerosol sprays    
Household batteries    
Button batteries    
Pool chemicals    
Total number of other products    
Total number of hazardous products in your home    
Student's name:

Parent's signature:


Handout 2
Class Data Sheet



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


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.


Supporting materials

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

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 Home Hazardous Product Survey | University of Missouri Extension

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