What Is Hazardous Waste?

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Hazardous waste can be broken down into waste that is chemically hazardous, physically hazardous or biologically hazardous. Find out how hazardous waste can be minimized or prevented with help from a science teacher in this free video on physical science.

Part of the Video Series: Physical & Life Science
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Steve Jones and I'm going to explain what hazardous waste is. Now we can break it down into three types. Chemically hazardous, physically hazardous and biologically hazardous. The chemically hazardous waste is what we call things like poisons, that is you eat them, you die. Very often these things are things like heavy metals, one of the worst of course is lead and lead of course has caused a lot of problems particularly as it was an additive in petrol and as the cars ran through the streets, they let out their exhaust fumes and those exhaust fumes contained lead and therefore we breath this in and it was not good for our health so the lead content of our bodies increased. So that is poisonous chemicals which are all around us. Other heavy metals, other poisonous materials. Physically hazardous have only really come to fruition after the invention of nuclear weapons and atomic and nuclear reactors. These are radiations, radioactive materials they come from. Now you might think, well this isn't a big problem for me, I don't know that there are any radioactive materials around. But for example luminous dials on clocks used to contain small amounts of radium and that was very radioactive and quite dangerous. This kind of thing has increased quite a lot over the last 50, 60 years and now it is significant. So these are physically hazardous radiations and they include things like radar, microwaves from our mobile phones and so forth. So these are physically hazardous, be careful. Some people even say the alternating current of means of electricity is dangerous for you too and that would be radiation from there, magnetic fields. This is physically hazardous. Biologically hazardous is the one that we've had for the longest because we've always had biological hazards and even back to the middle ages and before, people died of diseases and diseases were carried by viruses and bacteria and a lot of these viruses and bacteria are produced as the result of human or animal waste and obviously a practical society which is very good at separating it's drinking water from it's waste water is a very healthy society. And nowadays we're much healthier in that way. So biological hazards are much less prevalent nowadays and we're able to deal with them better. So there you are, what is hazardous waste? Well three basic types of hazardous waste and that's what they are, just be careful.

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