According to the Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services, it is estimated that over 200 million gallons of oil are improperly disposed of in the United States each year. This can have detrimental effects on the environment and on human health. Because of these harmful effects used motor oil could have on the environment, it's important for people to utilize area recycling centers for proper disposal.
Used motor oil contains contaminants such as arsenic, cadmium, benzene, lead, magnesium and zinc. If the oil is improperly disposed of, these contaminants can leak into the ground and wreak havoc. They can damage the soil in which crops are grown, contaminating the food chain. The oil could eventually even make its way into waterways, contaminating them as well.
According to Chevron, used motor oils don't present a significant inhalation health hazard. They can, however, present a problem if they come in contact with the eyes or skin, triggering an allergic skin reaction or eye irritation. Long-term effects from repeated contact include a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
A single gallon of improperly disposed motor oil could ruin up to one million gallons of freshwater, states the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Contamination of drinking water is perhaps the most serious hazard of improper disposal of used motor oil. Rainwater could carry the toxins into sewers and streams, which could eventually make its way into drinking water.