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Homes Source Of Most Waste, Not Big Business Officials Offer Residents Advice For Reducing Household Trash

It’s not big business causing most of the area’s hazardous waste problem.

The biggest share of the waste polluting area rivers or filling trash cans comes from typical Spokane households, speakers at an environmental conference said Wednesday in Spokane.

“The big corporate polluters from years ago have ratcheted down their waste,” said John Blunt during the annual Pollution Prevention Expo at the Ag Trade Center.

“They had to, because everyone was watching what they did,” said Blunt, who works in the toxic reductions office of the state Department of Ecology.

“The major sources come mostly from our households,” he said. The toxics range from discarded auto oil, brake fluid and antifreeze, to garden chemicals and household solvents.

Blunt and others presented a series of sessions Wednesday covering a range of pollution issues.

The advice they offered for cutting home wastes is: Buy carefully and read product labels.

“The obvious starting point is knowing that all chemical products come with a rating,” said Ron Dowers of Spokane’s Solid Waste Department. The most harmful substances - especially flammable or corrosive materials - say “danger” on the label. “Warning” shows up on less hazardous items, and “caution” is found on products with moderate risk.

At times, it’s not difficult to find non-toxic alternatives to chemicals, said Blunt.

“You can buy those one-step, nowipe-away carpet cleaners. Or you can get the same result by mixing baking soda and vinegar. The difference (in the second) is you have to add elbow grease.”

The best, easy-to-find information on the risks of household substances are on forms that are available from every store selling those products.

The forms - material safety data sheets - explain how to use and dispose of the product, said David Pratt, an environmental analyst for Westinghouse Hanford Company.

“Most people don’t know they can get those forms, which have about everything you’d want to know on safe handling and avoiding problems,” he said.

Pratt went to an Ernst’s hardware store recently to buy lacquer thinner and asked the clerk for the form. The clerk said he’d track it down.

Pratt drove home and soon got a phone call from the store. “They got the MSDS from a federal fax-back service and asked me when they could fax it to me. So I know people can get this information,” he said.

xxxx FREE FOR THE TAKING One way to buy fewer chemicals is to take advantage of “free tables” at four waste-transfer stations. The tables offer free chemicals, glues, solvents, paints, cleaners, polishes and soaps from people who bought those items, then decided they didn’t need them. Those taking the recycled products must sign a disclaimer that holds the city blameless if the substance turns out to be something else. The tables are at 22123 Elk-Chattaroy Road, 3941 N. Sullivan Road, the incinerator on Geiger Boulevard and Fairchild Air Force Base.

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