four-year exemption for households and small businesses expires tomorrow The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has announced that new waste disposal rules for households and small businesses that will go into effect Thursday, February 9. The rules apply to products containing mercury or heavy metals, including batteries and fluorescent lights, which are considered universal waste in California.Since 2002, households and small businesses have been exempt from the state’s Universal Waste Rule, which applies to certain hazardous wastes generated by a wide variety of people. The exemption was intended to give local agencies more time to develop the infrastructure to collect and properly dispose of these materials. Under the rule, “universal waste” includes batteries, mercury thermostats, fluorescent lights, cathode ray tube devices (computer monitors, television sets, mercury thermometers, and other products containing mercury or other heavy metals.”These materials can endanger public health and harm the environment when improperly disposed,” said DTSC Director Maureen Gorsen. “Our goal is to encourage Californians to recycle or properly dispose of fluorescent lamps, batteries, thermostats and electronic devices.”Mercury is a known neurotoxin and can be released into the environment through the improper disposal of mercury-containing products. Exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetuses. Short-term exposure may damage lungs, cause nausea, vomiting, increases in blood pressure, skin rash and eye irritation.Santa Monica residents and businesses should drop off such hazardous materials at the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Center, 2500 Michigan Avenue Center. Its hours are: Wednesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday, 7 a.m.to 3 p.m. (except holidays). Businesses must make appointments to drop off such materials and pay a small fee. A complete list of universal waste products, and information about disposal and recycling options, is available on the DTSC website at http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/UniversalWaste/index.cfm.For more information, contact the City of Santa Monica’s Environmental Programs Division at (310) 458-2213, or visit www.smepd.org.
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