Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms
What is it?
There are two types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. The ionization smoke alarm uses a radioisotope to ionize the air. The presence of smoke causes a change in the ionization which sounds the alarm. These alarms are sensitive to the large flaming fires. Photoelectric smoke alarms contain a beam of light which is scattered when there is smoke in the air, causing it to be more sensitive to fires that smolder. A carbon monoxide (CO) detector alerts to the presence of the carbon monoxide gas in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
What is the issue?
Ionization alarms contain a very small amount of radioactive material called Americium-241 which emits alpha particles and low energy gamma rays. The alpha particles remain within the alarm; most of the gamma rays escape but don't cause any harm. In small quantities, these smoke alarms are safe, but when they are piled in a landfill, the amount of radioactivity becomes more notable. Photoelectric smoke alarms and CO detectors are not hazardous but can be recycled.
London Drugs in Saskatoon and Regina are the only locations that accept smoke alarms for recycling. Check out our Waste Reduction Hub for more information.
What happens after?
The alarms are broken down into their components and recycled as much as possible. The radioactive material in ionization smoke alarms are shipped to a radioactive waste facility.
How can I reduce?
Reduce the amount of smoke alarms you need by placing them in areas that open into multiple rooms.
Smoke alarms are important for your safety. Make sure they are recycled properly at the end of their life to reduce your footprint.