A Short History of Toxic Waste

Toxic waste, sometimes called “hazardous waste,” is material that can cause injury and/or death to living creatures.

Toxic waste is often material that has been discarded yet still poses long term risks to the environment and health. Because most hazardous waste material can migrate relatively easily it can contaminate rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The Industrial Revolution was the time when toxic waste started to become a significant issue. Mostly the product of commerce, hazardous waste can also be a byproduct of residential use. Lawn care products, cleaning products, and cosmetics have all done their part to harm the environment over the years.

Toxic material can also be part and parcel of some types of farming. Pesticides and fertilizers can wreck havoc on the land.

The list goes on and on.

The EPA – the United States Environmental Protection Agency – and the various state departments attempt to regulate hazardous waste in the US.

The U.S. EPA began to regulate toxic waste in 1976. The majority of the hazardous waste that is endangering communities today is waste that was dumped before the disposal of such toxic materials was strictly regulated.

The Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulates how toxic waste is to be stored and handled.

The Superfund Act, another act sponsored by the EPA, has rules about how to clean up hazardous waste that was illegally dumped.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires that special precautions be taken when hazardous materials are being handled. And they require that toxic waste is disposed of in one of the designated facilities that are around the USA.

Because waste facilities and waste transporters charge fees a lot of people end up dumping hazardous waste into their town dumps. If caught, they usually have to pay an expensive fine.

Since the EPA started to put laws such as these into effect corporations have been battling environmentalists and communities. Corporations want the government to remove or soften many of their rules. Environmentalists and communities want even stricter regulations.

The battle is still being waged.

However, a number of cities in the US are also fighting back. They have specific days when household toxic waste is collected. On those days, materials such as explosives, ammunition, hypodermic needles and syringes, other medical waste, smoke detectors, radioactive materials, and commercially generated waste are collected and disposed of properly.

If it is unlikely that toxic waste will migrate, and if it isn’t dangerous, it is sealed in containers, placed under the ground in toxic waste facilities, and topped with hard clay. Eventually these facilities will often become parks or golf courses. Or they may be used for industrial or commercial purposes.

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