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Smoke Detector Disposal

Smoke Detector Disposal

Photoelectric smoke detectors and ionization smoke alarms contain a number of materials that are best handled by commercial recycling facilities. Both types of smoke detectors contain plastic and electronic circuit boards and in some cases batteries (alkaline or lithium). Ionization smoke alarms also includes a chamber containing the radioactive material Americium 241 incorporated into a gold matrix. Because of the long half-life of Americium 241, the amount of radioactive material in the smoke alarm at the end of its certified useful life will be about the same as when you bought it.

Any smoke alarm that contains radioactive material should contain a notice on the packaging, For example, a typical package labeling might read: "This product is designed to detect products of combustion using ionization technology. It contains 0.9 micocurie of Americium 241, a radioactive material". "Distributed under US NRC License no. XXXXXX. Manufactured in compliance with U.S. NRC safety criteria in 10 CFR 32".

Recycle Smoke Detectors with EZ on the Earth

EZ on the Earth, a division of Lighting Resources, offers recycle disposal kits to manage smoke detectors containing Americium 241. Each recycle kit contains everything you need to properly manage your spent smoke detectors that contain Americium 241.


Why Recycle Smoke Detectors?

The EPA's household waste program encourages waste reduction and minimization. State and local practices for safe disposal of smoke alarms vary, but most communities seek to limit the amount of material that requires disposal in a municipal solid waste landfills and incinerators. Waste minimization through proper disposal and recycling of smoke detectors reduces costs and protects the environment.

Some state radiation control programs conduct an annual round-up of ionization smoke alarms similar to the round-up of batteries or hazardous household chemicals. Other state or local governments recommend that you return the used smoke alarms and smoke detectors to the supplier. The address of the supplier is usually listed in the product warranty or user's manual. If the smoke detector has a alkaline or lithium battery, check with your local community recycling program for disposal instructions.

Government Requirements for Smoke Detector Disposal

Americium-241 is a man-made radioactive material that was discovered by scientists working on the Atomic Bomb Manhattan Project during World War II. Americium-241 is a by-product of the nuclear fuels process, and thus the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sets requirements for the production and use of Americium-241. The NRC maintains a list of licensees under 10 CFR Part 32 - Specific domestic licenses to manufacture or transfer certain items containing by product material.

Many smoke alarm companies do not manufacture smoke alarms in the United States. The smoke detectors may be manufactured abroad and imported or "transferred" to the U.S. Sometimes the components of the smoke detector (plastic, electric circuit board and ion chamber) are manufactured abroad and assembled in the U.S. When ionization smoke alarms are imported in the U.S. , the company must meet the NRC license requirements for gas and aerosol detectors at 10 CFR 32.36.

For questions or to order Smoke Alarm Recycling Kits, call (855) EARTH-55 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.