What is a Hazardous Waste?
Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. The universe of hazardous wastes is large and diverse. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, contained gases, or sludges. They can be the by-products of manufacturing processes or simply discarded commercial products, like cleaning fluids or pesticides.
In regulatory terms, a RCRA hazardous waste is a waste that appears on one of the four hazardous wastes lists (F-list, K-list, P-list, or U-list), or exhibits at least one of four characteristics—ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity. Hazardous waste is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C.
By definition, EPA determined that some specific wastes are hazardous. These wastes are incorporated into lists published by the Agency. These lists are organized into three categories:
•The F-list (non-specific source wastes). This list identifies wastes from common manufacturing and industrial processes, such as solvents that have been used in cleaning or degreasing operations. Because the processes producing these wastes can occur in different sectors of industry, the F-listed wastes are known as wastes from non-specific sources. Wastes included on the F-list can be found in the regulations at 40 CFR §261.31. •The K-list (source-specific wastes). This list includes certain wastes from specific industries, such as petroleum refining or pesticide manufacturing. Certain sludges and wastewaters from treatment and production processes in these industries are examples of source-specific wastes. Wastes included on the K-list can be found in the regulations at 40 CFR §261.32. •The P-list and the U-list (discarded commercial chemical products). These lists include specific commercial chemical products in an unused form. Some pesticides and some pharmaceutical products become hazardous waste when discarded. Wastes included on the P- and U-lists can be found in the regulations at 40 CFR §261.33.
Waste that does not meet any of the listings explained above may still be considered a hazardous waste if exhibits one of the four characteristics defined in 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart C— ignitability (D001), corrosivity (D002), reactivity (D003), and toxicity (D004 - D043).
•Ignitability – Ignitable wastes can create fires under certain conditions, are spontaneously combustible, or have a flash point less than 60 °C (140 °F). Examples include waste oils and used solvents. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.21. •Corrosivity – Corrosive wastes are acids or bases (pH less than or equal to 2, or greater than or equal to 12.5) that are capable of corroding metal containers, such as storage tanks, drums, and barrels. Battery acid is an example. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.22. •Reactivity – Reactive wastes are unstable under "normal" conditions. They can cause explosions, toxic fumes, gases, or vapors when heated, compressed, or mixed with water. Examples include lithium-sulfur batteries and explosives. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.23. •Toxicity – Toxic wastes are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed (e.g., containing mercury, lead, etc.). When toxic wastes are land disposed, contaminated liquid may leach from the waste and pollute ground water. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.24.
What is radiation?
Radiation is energy that travels in the form of waves or high speed particles.
When we hear the word ' radiation,' we generally think of nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, or radiation treatments for cancer. We would also be correct to add 'microwaves, radar, electrical power lines, cellular phones, and sunshine' to the list. There are many different types of radiation that have a range of energy forming an electromagnetic spectrum. However, when you see the word 'radiation' on this web site, we are referring to the types of radiation used in nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and medicine. These types of radiation have enough energy to break chemical bonds in molecules or remove tightly bound electrons from atoms, thus creating charged molecules or atoms (ions). These types of radiation are referred to as 'ionizing radiation.'
We take advantage of the properties of non-ionizing radiation for common tasks:
microwave radiation-- telecommunications and heating food
infrared radiation --infrared lamps to keep food warm in restaurants
radio waves-- broadcasting
Non-ionizing radiation ranges from extremely low frequency radiation, shown on the far left through the audible, microwave, and visible portions of the spectrum into the ultraviolet range.
Extremely low-frequency radiation has very long wave lengths (on the order of a million meters or more) and frequencies in the range of 100 Hertz or cycles per second or less. Radio frequencies have wave lengths of between 1 and 100 meters and frequencies in the range of 1 million to 100 million Hertz. Microwaves that we use to heat food have wavelengths that are about 1 hundredth of a meter long and have frequencies of about 2.5 billion Hertz.
Higher frequency ultraviolet radiation begins to have enough energy to break chemical bonds. X-ray and gamma ray radiation, which are at the upper end of magnetic radiation have very high frequency --in the range of 100 billion billion Hertz--and very short wavelengths--1 million millionth of a meter. Radiation in this range has extremely high energy. It has enough energy to strip off electrons or, in the case of very high-energy radiation, break up the nucleus of atoms.
Ionization is the process in which a charged portion of a molecule (usually an electron) is given enough energy to break away from the atom. This process results in the formation of two charged particles or ions: the molecule with a net positive charge, and the free electron with a negative charge.
Each ionization releases approximately 33 electron volts (eV) of energy. Material surrounding the atom absorbs the energy. Compared to other types of radiation that may be absorbed, ionizing radiation deposits a large amount of energy into a small area. In fact, the 33 eV from one ionization is more than enough energy to disrupt the chemical bond between two carbon atoms. All ionizing radiation is capable, directly or indirectly, of removing electrons from most molecules.
There are three main kinds of ionizing radiation:
alpha particles, which include two protons and two neutrons;
beta particles, which are essentially electrons; and
gamma rays and x-rays, which are pure energy (photons).
How does radiation cause health effects?
Radioactive materials that decay spontaneously produce ionizing radiation, which has sufficient energy to strip away electrons from atoms (creating two charged ions) or to break some chemical bonds. Any living tissue in the human body can be damaged by ionizing radiation in a unique manner. The body attempts to repair the damage, but sometimes the damage is of a nature that cannot be repaired or it is too severe or widespread to be repaired. Also mistakes made in the natural repair process can lead to cancerous cells. The most common forms of ionizing radiation are alpha and beta particles, or gamma and X-rays.
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)
What are electromagnetic fields?
Wherever electricity is generated, transmitted, or used, electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are created, due to the presence and motion of electric charges. Generally, these fields are time-varying vector quantities characterized by a number of parameters, including their frequency, phase, direction, and magnitude.
Typical residential exposures, not close to operating appliances or household wiring, are about 1 mG. A milligauss (mG) is the unit of magnetic field intensity.
Intensity is considered to be related to the potential for risk. Exposure intensity decreases as distance from power lines increases. If there is a risk, then increased distance from power lines would be expected to reduce risk.
Other factors may contribute to exposure intensity in a residence. A magnetic field exposure measurement is best way to assess the exposure situation. Many power companies provide this service.
In June , 2001, an expert scientific working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization agency, concluded that ELF magnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on consistent statistical associations of high level residential magnetic fields with a doubling of risk of childhood leukemia. Analyses of data from a number of well-conducted studies show a fairly consistent statistical association between a doubling of risk of childhood leukemia and power-frequency (50 or 60 Hz) residential extremely-low frequency (ELF) magnetic field strengths above 0.4 microTesla (4 milligauss). No consistent evidence was found that childhood exposures to ELF electric or magnetic fields are associated with brain tumours or any other kinds of solid tumors. The epidemiological studies included in the IARC evaluation found that children who are exposed to residential (ELF) magnetic fields less than 0.3 to 0.4 microTesla (3 to 4 milligauss) have no increased risk for leukemia. No consistent evidence was found that residential or occupational exposures of adults to ELF magnetic fields increase risk for any kind of cancer.
In addition, an assessment of health effects from exposure to ELF electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) by an expert working group, organized by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)/National Institutes of Health, found that that EMFs are possible carcinogens for children exposed to EMFs at home (June 1998) based on epidemiological studies of residential exposure and childhood leukemia. The NIEHS working group also concluded that the results of in animal, cellular, and mechanistic studies do not confirm or refute the finding of the epidemiological studies.
Can the electric and magnetic fields (EMF) to which people are routinely exposed cause health effects? What are sources of EMFs, and when are EMFs dangerous?
EMF (or ElectroMagnetic Field) is a broad term which includes electric fields generated by charged particles in motion, and radiated fields such as TV, radio, hair dryer, and microwaves. Electric fields are measured in units of volts per meter or V/m. Magnetic fields are measured in milli-Gauss or mG. The field is always strongest near the source and diminishes as you move away from the source. These energies have the ability to influence particles at great distances. For example, the radiation from a radio tower influences the atoms within a distant radio antenna, allowing it to pick up the signal. Despite the many wonderful conveniences of electrical technology, the effects of EMF on biological tissue remains the most controversial aspect of the EMF issue, with virtually all scientists agreeing that more research is necessary to determine safe or dangerous levels.
Research since the mid-1970s has provided extensive information on biological responses to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields. The Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Research and Public Information Dissemination (RAPID) Program was charged with the goal of determining if electric and magnetic fields associated with the generation, transmission, and use of electrical energy pose a risk to human health. The fact that 20 years of research have not answered that question is clear evidence that health effects of EMF are not obvious and that risk relationships, if risk is identified, are not simple. Because epidemiologic studies have raised concerns regarding the connection between certain serious human health effects and exposure to electric and magnetic fields, the program adopts the hypothesis that exposure to electric or magnetic fields under some conditions may lead to unacceptable risk to human health. The focus of the program is not only to test, as far as possible within the statutory time limits, that hypothesis for those serious health effects already identified, but to identify as far as possible the special conditions that lead to elevated risk and to recommend measures to manage risk.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (ES) is a physiological disorder characterized by symptoms directly brought on by exposure to electromagnetic fields. It produces neurological and allergic-type symptoms. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, headache, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, skin rash, facial swelling, weakness, fatigue, pain in joints and/or muscles, buzzing/ringing in ears, skin numbness, abdominal pressure and pain, breathing difficulty, and irregular heartbeat. Those affected persons may experience an abrupt onset of symptoms following exposure to a new EMF such as fields associated with a new computer or with new fluorescent lights, or a new home or work environment. Onset of ES has also reported following chemical exposure. A concerted effort to provide scientifically valid research on which to base decisions about EMF exposures is under way, and results are expected in the next several years. Meanwhile, some authorities recommend taking simple precautionary steps, such as the following:
•Increase the distance between yourself and the EMF source – sit at arm’s length from your computer terminal. •Avoid unnecessary proximity to high EMF sources – don’t let children play directly under power lines or on top of power transformers for underground lines. •Reduce time spent in the field – turn off your computer monitor and other electrical appliances when you aren’t using them.
The Office of Technology Assessment of the Congress of the United States recommends a policy of “prudent avoidance” with respect to EMF. Prudent avoidance means to measure fields, determine the sources, and act to reduce exposure.
1.Detect EMFs in your home and work environment. It is good to know where the sources of EMF are in your everyday world and how strong these sources are. Is there wiring in the wall behind your bed that you don’t even know about? Is the vaporizer emitting strong fields in the baby’s room? How much EMF are you and your family getting from the power lines in the street? Even hair dryers emit EMFs. Home inspectors often have meters to measure EMFs, or they can be purchased and shared with friends. 2.Diminish your exposure to the EMFs you find. Determine how far you must stay away from the EMF emitters in your home and work environment to achieve less than 2.5 mG of exposure—the microwave oven, the alarm clock, the computer, and so on. Rearrange your furniture (especially the beds, desks, and couches where you spend the most time) away from heaters, wiring, fluorescent lights, electric doorbells, and other EMF “hot spots.” Where practical, replace electric appliances with non-electric devices. Where practical, replace electric appliances with non-electric devices. Have an electrician correct faulty high EMF wiring and help you eliminate dangerous stray ground currents. Consult a qualified EMF engineer if necessary. Contact National Electromagnetic Field Testing Association at 1-847-475-3696 for consultants in your area. 3.Shield yourself. Use shielding devices on your computer screen and cellular phone. Add shielding to your household wiring, circuit box, and transformers.
Magnetic fields are not blocked by most materials. Magnetic fields encountered in homes vary greatly. Magnetic fields rapidly become weaker with distance from the source.
•Electric fields in the home, on average, range from 0 to 10 volts per meter. They can be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times weaker than those encountered outdoors near power lines. •Electric fields directly beneath power lines may vary from a few volts per meter for some overhead distribution lines to several thousands of volts per meter for extra high voltage power lines. •Electric fields from power lines rapidly become weaker with distance and can be greatly reduced by walls and roofs of buildings.
The chart on the left summarizes data from a study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in which spot measurements of magnetic fields were made in the center of rooms in 992 homes throughout the United States. Half of the houses studied had magnetic field measurements of 0.6 mG or less, when the average of measurements from all the rooms in the house was calculated (the all-room mean magnetic field). The all-room mean magnetic field for all houses studied was 0.9 mG. The measurements were made away from electrical appliances and reflect primarily the fields from household wiring and outside power lines.
If you are comparing the information in this chart with measurements in your own home, keep in mind that this chart shows averages of measurements taken throughout the homes, not the single highest measurement found in the home.
Magnetic fields close to electrical appliances are often much stronger than those from other sources, including magnetic fields directly under power lines. Appliance fields decrease in strength with distance more quickly than do power line fields.
Pesticides are designed to (in most cases) kill pests. Many pesticides can also pose risks to people. However, in many cases the amount of pesticide people are likely to be exposed to is too small to pose a risk. To determine risk, one must consider both the toxicity or hazard of the pesticide and the likelihood of exposure. A low level of exposure to a very toxic pesticide may be no more dangerous than a high level of exposure to a relatively low toxicity pesticide, for example.
What are the potential health effects of pesticides?
The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body.