A hazardous material is any substance or item that can cause harm or damage to people, animals, the environment, or property. Many substances necessary to day-to-day human processes are hazardous, such as fuels and a variety of other chemicals used in industry. It is very important to store these hazardous materials in a way that prevents them from posing a serious risk to people or to their surroundings. Hazardous materials storage options include fireproof, plastic and airtight containers, but storage will vary based on the precise hazard that a substance poses. Specific safety measures are implemented to confront specific threats that various materials pose.
There are many qualities of various materials that can cause them to be considered hazardous. Some, for example, react violently with their environments; this is true of flammable and explosive materials. Others, such as poisonous materials, are harmful when ingested. In hazardous materials storage, it is important that the specific nature of the hazard is clearly marked on the material's container.
Different types of hazardous materials storage is used based on the hazard posed by the material. Combustible materials must be stored in fireproof containers in low-temperature areas. Corrosive materials must be stored in containers resistant to corrosion, such as some kinds of plastic containers. Toxic materials, including a variety of household cleaners and other household chemicals, must be stored in hard-to-open containers out of the reach of children and pets.
The specific nature of hazardous materials storage also varies based on the physical state of the material at hand. Gaseous substances must be stored differently than liquids, which must be stored differently than solids. Gases and vapors must be stored in specially-made, airtight containers that prevent harmful particles from diffusing into the air. Liquid hazardous materials storage similarly involves specialized containers that will not leak the hazardous liquids. Solid materials must be stored based on the knowledge that their higher density results in a much higher concentration of hazardous material in one location.
The storage of radioactive materials is a unique case requiring a great deal of care, as harmful particles emitted as radiation can penetrate most containers. Special containers made from heavy metals, such as lead, must be used for the safe hazardous materials storage of radioactive materials. Often, radioactive materials are stored deep underground for a great deal of time as they decay, preventing the radiation from harming people or the environment. Special care must be taken to ensure that such materials are not stored near food or water sources.