First and foremost when it comes to hazardous materials - avoid using them to the greatest extent possible. Admittedly however, this is not always possible. When you must use hazardous materials, handle them with care and dispose of them properly to protect yourself, your family, and the environment.

Never dispose of hazardous materials or waste solvents, degreasers, waste oil, commercial cleaners, pesticides, paint thinner, or radiator fluid by pouring them down a floor drain, sink or toilet. When you need to dispose of household hazardous waste, contact your regional solid waste management district for hazardous waste collection days and disposal requirements.

Whenever possible, use non-toxic alternatives. For example, bar and chain oil made from canola and/or sunflower oil has superior lubricating qualities and it is non-carcinogenic.

Consider these one dozen ways to handle and dispose of hazardous materials properly:

  1. Solvents are substances which dissolve other substances. The most common solvent is water. Generally, however, the term solvent refers to a group of hazardous liquids, used because of their ability to dissolve something (like old paint) and because they evaporate easily. Many common products contain solvents and should be handled with care, including paint thinners, spot removers, furniture strippers, glues, and nail polish removers. Nearly all solvents are toxic if ingested. Many can also enter the body by breathing solvent fumes or even directly through the skin. Eyes are often sensitive to solvents and their vapors. Store all solvents carefully, making sure they’re out of reach of children and pets, and read all solvent labels to make certain you use them as directed.
  2. When using solvents, remember these important measures to safeguard yourself: Protect your body with goggles, gloves, and a respirator if appropriate; plan ahead for first aid; ensure adequate ventilation in the work area; never use a solvent near open flames; use only as much solvent as necessary for the job; don’t eat or drink in the work area; and remove soft or extended-wear contact lenses before using solvents.
  3. Paints are a mix of pigment and binder which one thinned with a solvent to form a liquid. The toxicity of paint depends on the solvent it contains. Latex paints use water as the solvent and are therefore less toxic. Latex paint that is no longer wanted can be donated to someone else who might use it or, if it must be disposed of, it can be left open to solidify and then disposed of as solid waste. Generally, use the same precautions in handling paints as you would with solvents. Leftover oil-based paints can be handled in much the same way as latex paints, but should be given to a hazardous waste collection facility.
  4. When cleaning up after using oil-based paints, wipe as much paint off brushes as possible. If you intend to use the brushes again the next day, rinse in solvent, brush out excess on a newspaper, and wrap the brush tightly in a plastic bag. Do not leave brushes in an open container of solvent!
  5. Approximately three-fourths of all housing built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. While lead-based paint does not pose a hazard if properly maintained, it can pose a significant health risk to young children and pregnant women. Before preparing older, previously painted surfaces for fresh paint, learn what precautions you should take. For more specific information about the proper handling of lead-based paint, contact the Vermont Lead Safety Project, by calling (802)-453-5617.
  6. Look for wood preservatives that do not contain pentachlorophenol, creosote or arsenic, which are toxic ingredients.
  7. Some of our favorite pastimes may be dangerous to our health. Many art and hobby supplies contain hazardous materials. As with solvents, use less toxic materials whenever possible, ventilate work spaces adequately, don’t allow food or drink in the work area, and wear protective clothing and gloves. Use materials labeled with the Certified Product (CP) or Approved Product (AP) seal of the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute. Avoid products with organic solvents, metal compounds, or toxic pigments such as lead, chromium, or cadmium. You should also avoid epoxy, instant glue, or solvent-based adhesives such as rubber cement.
  8. Carry out hazardous steps (such as mixing clay, spray-fixing drawings, solvent clean-up) away from children. Do not use any dust, powder or aerosols with children age 12 or younger.
  9. When done, clean the art area thoroughly and wash your hands carefully. Hazardous art and hobby supplies that are no longer needed or useful should be disposed of by turning them in at a hazardous waste collection event or facility.
  10. Smoke detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material. When they no longer work, they should be returned to the manufacturer or, when possible, to your regional solid waste management district collection program.
  11. Mercury is highly toxic, and the brain is the critical site for chronic mercury exposure. Besides the obvious mercury thermometer, there are many consumer products that contain mercury. Fluorescent light bulbs, high-intensity discharge lamps, thermostats, and "silent" tilt switches commonly contain mercury. When disposing of such items, avoid incineration. Proper disposal means bringing mercury-containing products to your regional solid waste district collection program.
  12. Additional information about mercury is available from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Environmental Assistance Division by calling 1(800)-932-7100. The Agency’s mercury information website can be found at: