Hazardous waste is any type of waste that can cause serious illness or death to people and animals or damage to the environment. There are at least three types of hazardous waste recognized. If you should happen upon any of the following three types of hazardous waste, be sure to follow safety precautions when addressing emergency issues, even if you yourself are not part of the cleanup crew.
Hazardous Waste Type #1: Biohazardous and Medical Waste
This type of waste includes blood, bodily fluids in sizable quantities, hypodermic needles, sharp instruments that have blood or tissue on them, bodily organs and parts, and so forth. This also includes bodies that are discovered in the woods, ditches, or underbrush, which may or may not be part of a crime scene. In all instances, seek immediate help from the local police. The police may bring a HAZMAT crew or forensic team with them to help clean up the mess or waste. You should not go anywhere near it; it is not worth risking your life or destroying evidence.
Hazardous Waste Type #2: Chemical Spills
Chemical spills include anything liquid that could pose a serious direct or indirect health risk to humans and animals. This includes gasoline, oil, kerosene, acids, bleach, noxious gases (e.g., agent orange), etc. If you see an overturned tanker spilling something unidentifiable or fuming an unknown smoke, run or drive as fast as you can in the opposite direction. If the police are not already present, you can call them when you are several miles away from the spill and will not be harmed by the fumes or liquid. Fire and rescue teams may be engaged to monitor the situation for flammable eruptions while a HAZMAT team neutralizes and cleans up the mess.
Hazardous Waste Type #3: Nuclear Waste
While your chances of crossing paths with barrels of nuclear waste are quite slim, it still is a possibility when several barrels of the stuff may still be buried from decades ago. If you hit a steel drum with a lot of corrosion while you are attempting to dig a new pool in your yard, evacuate. Do not wait for a police officer or HAZMAT specialist to tell you to go, and while you are at it, tell your neighbors to leave as well.
Exposure to this kind of waste can create all kinds of nasty health problems, including rare forms of cancer. You may already be at risk by unearthing the drum. Special government agencies will need to be called, and they will send in cleanup crews and waste transportation and disposal agencies to handle this situation.
For more information about hazardous waste, consult a professional like TransChem Environmental.