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How does hazardous waste affect the environment?

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Quick Answer

Hazardous waste is poisonous to life forms and affects the environment by debilitating plants and animals, interrupting their growth cycles and even leading to extinction. By harming the environment, hazardous waste threatens humans. The environmental ramifications of hazardous waste deplete natural resources and can contaminate people as well.

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Full Answer

Exposure to hazardous waste is extremely harmful to humans, plants and animals. It is especially dangerous for young, fledgling life forms. Fetuses, whether human or animal, are in a process of rapid development. The introduction of chemicals interferes with biological formation, resulting in malfunctioning organs and limbs.

Hazardous waste stunts plant growth, much of which is useful to humans for consumption or manufacturing. In addition, the elimination of plant life reduces the natural food supply for animals. Thus, hazardous waste exposure can potentially destroy an entire ecosystem.

The presence of hazardous waste in the environment is often the result of inadequate disposal. Improperly maintained landfills are a major issue. Although they appear to be isolated from contact with people or resources, they can still contaminate the surrounding environment. Waste in landfills sits for years or even generations. It emits gases that are both foul-smelling and toxic. It produces a liquid known as leachate, which can travel to water supplies such as rivers, lakes and the ocean.

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