The Toxic Truth, Part 3

December 11, 1998

By Michael Jessen

Being a consumer is not our natural, human state -- our passion for consuming has been deliberately cultivated. We consume because we've been conditioned by advertising. Instead of just buying products that meet our needs, the marketplace entices us to buy things we don't need.

We are especially bombarded with television commercials and print media advertisements to purchase items that are supposed to make our lives easier and cleaner. In the long run, many of these products create waste and pollution and -- in many cases -- damage our health.

When was the last time you saw a television commercial for a cleaning product that told you how to dispose of that product safely? When has a commercial ever mentioned the toxic effects of the cleaning product it is advertising? Advertisers know that if they told you about the toxic effects of the products, you would probably not buy them.

The truth is you need very few of the products that are advertised to you. Your personal health as well as the health of the environment could be at stake when you make purchasing decisions. In general, you should view environmental claims made on products with a healthy degree of scepticism.

If you have a household hazardous product, use it for its intended purpose or give it to someone who can use it for its intended purpose. The best thing to do with household hazardous products is to not buy them in the first place. Before buying a product, make sure you know how you will be able to dispose of it properly.

Don't throw household hazardous waste in the garbage. Most landfills are not designed for such wastes; they can leak into water supplies or cause air pollution, or both. Never pour hazardous household products down the sink or flush them down the toilet as they may kill the bacteria which sewage systems and septic tanks rely on to decompose waste. If you burn hazardous waste, you risk producing poisonous fumes, contributing to air pollution, or causing an explosion.

British Columbia is moving in a new direction to deal with the disposal of hazardous items. It is called product stewardship and it makes producers and consumers responsible for the costs and effects of hazardous waste disposal. These products now have eco fees levied at point of sale to pay for the collection and proper disposal of these products.

Levied by industry not government, eco fees are not a tax. They partially support the Consumer Product Stewardship Program (CPSP), a non-profit, industry-run collection program which provides disposal for leftover household paints, solvents, flammable liquids, pesticides and gasoline.

The Nelson CPSP depot is Kootenay Oil Filter and Antifreeze Recovery, 721 Front Street (track side), which is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. This depot also takes oil filters and antifreeze for a small fee.

The Trail CPSP depot is at the McKelvey Creek Regional Landfill on Highway 3B which is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you are unsure whether a product can be returned to one of these depots, call the CPSP's toll-free information line at 1-800-505-0139 or the BC Recycling Hotline at 1-800-667-4321. Information on safe disposal of other hazardous items can be obtained by calling your regional district solid waste management department 352-2412 in Nelson, 368-0232 in Trail, or the Pollution Protection & Pesticide Management Section of BC Environment at 354-6355 in Nelson.

TRASH TIP - To clean and deodorize carpets: vacuum, liberally sprinkle carpet with baking soda, then vacuum again. For tough stains, try cold soda water or repeatedly blot with vinegar and soapy water. To get rid of ants, squeeze lemon juice at place of entry and leave peel. Ants are also deterred with lines of chalk, bone meal, charcoal dust, and cayenne pepper. To polish chrome, use apple cider vinegar or try white flour on a dry rag. Polish stainless steel with olive oil.

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