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Characteristic Wastes

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Hazardous Waste Regulations: User-Friendly Reference Documents

Waste that have not been specifically listed may still be considered a hazardous waste if exhibits one of the four characteristics defined in 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart C - ignitability (D001), corrosivity (D002), reactivity (D003), and toxicity (D004 - D043).

  1. Ignitability - Ignitable wastes can create fires under certain conditions, are spontaneously combustible, or have a flash point less than 60 °C (140 °F). Examples include waste oils and used solvents. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.21 . Test methods that may be used to determine ignitability include the Pensky-Martens Closed-Cup Method for Determining Ignitability (Method 1010A) (PDF) (1 pg, 19K) , the Setaflash Closed-Cup Method for Determining Ignitability (Method 1020B) (PDF) (1 pg, 17K) , and the Ignitability of Solids (Method 1030) (PDF) (13 pp, 116K).

  2. Corrosivity - Corrosive wastes are acids or bases (pH less than or equal to 2, or greater than or equal to 12.5) that are capable of corroding metal containers, such as storage tanks, drums, and barrels. Battery acid is an example. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.22 . The test method that may be used to determine corrosivity is the Corrosivity Towards Steel (Method 1110A) (PDF) (6 pp, 37K).

  3. Reactivity - Reactive wastes are unstable under "normal" conditions. They can cause explosions, toxic fumes, gases, or vapors when heated, compressed, or mixed with water. Examples include lithium-sulfur batteries and explosives. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.23 . There are currently no test methods available.

  4. Toxicity - Toxic wastes are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed (e.g., containing mercury, lead, etc.). When toxic wastes are land disposed, contaminated liquid may leach from the waste and pollute ground water. Toxicity is defined through a laboratory procedure called the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) (Method 1311) (PDF) (35 pp, 288K). The TCLP helps identify wastes likely to leach concentrations of contaminants that may be harmful to human health or the environment. For more details, see 40 CFR §261.24 .

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Key Resources

Hazardous Waste Characteristics Reference Guide: A User-Friendly Reference Document, October 2009 (PDF) (30 pp, 378K)

RCRA Training Module - Introduction to Hazardous Waste Identification (PDF) (30 pp, 143K)

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Hazardous Waste Characterization Scoping Study

EPA conducted this study under a consent agreement with the Environmental Defense Fund to investigate if there are gaps in coverage in the existing hazardous waste characteristics under RCRA, and the nature and extent of such gaps. The study presents EPA's methodology for identifying potential gaps, as well as, the results of the analyses conducted. (November 1996)

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Revised Risk Assessment for the Air Characteristic Study

The risk assessment described in this document is a national analysis designed to assess the potential human health risk attributable to inhalation exposures when certain chemicals and metals are managed as waste in certain types of waste management units (WMUs). (November, 1999)

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