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Valley of the Drums, a toxic waste site in Kentucky, United States, 1980.

Toxic waste is waste material that can cause death or injury to living creatures. It can be spread quite easily and can contaminate lakes and rivers. The term is often used interchangeably with “hazardous waste”, or discarded material that can pose a long-term risk to health or environment.

As with most pollution problems, toxic waste began to be a significant issue during the industrial revolution. It usually is the product of industry or commerce, but comes also from residential use (e.g. cleaning products, cosmetics, lawn care products), agriculture (e.g. chemical fertilizers, pesticides), the military (nuclear weapons testing, chemical warfare), medical facilities (e.g. pharmaceuticals), radioactive sources, and light industry, such as dry cleaning establishments.[1][2]


Health effects


Toxic waste

Toxic wastes often contain carcinogens, and exposure to these by some route, such as leakage or evaporation from the storage, causes cancer to appear at increased frequency in exposed individuals. For example, a cluster of the rare blood cancer polycythemia vera was found around a toxic waste dump site in northeast Pennsylvania in 2008.[3]

Toxic wastes containing organic carcinogens can be destroyed by incineration at high temperatures, which is expensive. However, if the waste contains heavy metals or radioactive isotopes, these must be separated and stored, as they cannot be destroyed.

See also

Further reading

  • John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge is Good For You, Common Courage Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1567510607
  • Fred Setterberg and Lonny Shavelson, Toxic Nation: The Fight to Save Our Communities from Chemical Contamination, Jossey-Bass, 1993, ISBN 978-0471575450


External links

Simple English

Toxic waste is any sort of waste that is harmful to people, plants, or animals, but usually it is said about waste that hurts people. Toxic wastes are usually liquid chemicals. They are made as by-products of making other things, usually by manufacturing but sometimes they are chemicals used for farming.


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