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F.A.Q. Smoke Detectors

The MCMUA operates one of NJ's most comprehensive household hazardous waste (HHW) programs. This F.A.Q. page and information on hazardous materials is intended as a guide about HHW materials as well as the MCMUA's HHW program. This information is a general guide and does not constitute official rule, regulation or law.

Hazards

  • The most common type of smoke detector is an ionization detector, which contains a small amount of a radioactive material (Americium 241) which is a synthetic isotope that emits both alpha and gamma rays. A typical smoke detector contains about 1 microcurie (about 1/ 5000 of a gram) of Americium 241 which is shielded by a metal chamber within the plastic casing of the detector. On the wall, this material poses little threat; however, when a detector is broken during disposal activity, it can present a health hazard. For this reason, all detectors, by law, must be labeled as to radioactive content. Detector companies must accept returned radioactive detectors for disposal as hazardous waste. Note that photoelectric type detectors do not contain radioactive material and require no such special handling.
  • The alpha particles emitted from the detector penetrate the air no more than a few centimeters. The gamma radiation is a low intensity ray, and much of it is blocked by the casing of the detector. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the amount of radiation that escapes the detector is roughly 3000 times less than normal background radiation exposure rates, at 1 meter from the alarm. Background radiation rates consist of the radiation from everyday sources such as the sun, rocks, soil, air, etc. The only possible health risk is if the Americium 241 is inhaled. Do not disturb, poke or play with the radioactive ingredient in the ionization detector.
     

Handling

  • Do not crush smoke detector
     

Management Options

  • Although it is legal in New Jersey to dispose of the ionization detector in the trash, you are encouraged to return the detector back to the manufacturer. They are mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory law 10 CFR 32.27 to see that the radioactive waste is disposed properly at a nuclear waste disposal facility. When sending back a smoke detector, do not take it apart, however, the batteries, should be removed and properly disposed of or recycled as appropriate. No special shipping is needed for the smoke detector, just wrap it in padding, place it in a box, and send it.
  • If unable to return smoke detector to manufacturer, remove battery from smoke detector dispose of smoke detector in the garbage if no other options exist. The MCMUA does not accept smoke detectors during its household hazardous waste programs.
     

Partial List of Manufacturers / Distributors:

  • American Sensors/Dicon
    (North American Detectors, DICON, Garrison, and TEN-TEK brands)
    Call 800-387-4219  to receive reference number and return information
  • Edwards Co.
    203-699-3300
    90 Fieldstone Ct., 
    Cheshire, CT 06410-1212
  • Entronic Co.
    4348 Riverline Dr., 
    Earth City, MO 63045
  • Firex/Code One/Maple Chase Products
    Call 800-445-8299 or send to:
    Firex c/o Disposal
    28 C Leigh Fisher Blvd.
    El Paso, TX  79906
  • First Alert/BRK
    Call 800-323-9005 ext. 2 for mailing instructions. They will accept up to 4 detectors at a time.
    Customer Service Dept.
    3920 Enterprise Court
    Aurora, Il 60504
  • G.E. Security/ESL
    Call 888-437-3287
    12345 Southwest Levetan Dr.
    Tualatin, OR 97062
  • Honeywell
    Call 800-328-5111
    Returned Goods, Honeywell Inc.
    Dock 4-MN10-3860
    1985 Douglas Dr. North
    Golden Valley, MN  55422
  • Kiddie
    Call 800-880-6788 ext.1
    1016 Corporate Park Dr.
    Mebane, NC  27302
  • Sears - Some Sears stores are designated collection sites so call your local Sears store to see if they will accept smoke detectors for disposal.
  • System Sensors
    Call 800-736-7672 ext 1 to receive reference number and return information.  They require $3/detector to cover recycling costs.
  • USI Electric / Universal
    Call 800-390-4321 ext.1
    Attn; Disposal Dept.
    7A Gwynns Mill Court
    Owings Mills, MD  21117
     

Contacts for other companies that used to manufacture smoke detectors:

  • Gentex Corp.
    616- 772- 1800
    Return Dept., 600 
    N. Centennial St., 
    Zeeland, MI 49464
    If still under warranty.
  • Interactive Technologies
    651- 777- 2690
    Call for instructions. 
  • Life Saver/Frynetics, Inc.
    1055 Stevenson Court
    Suite 102W
    Roselle, IL  60172
  • Nighthawk Systems
    800- 880- 6788
    1394 South 3 RD St.
    Mebane, NC 27302
    If still under warranty.
  • Radio Shack
    817- 415- 3205
    Return to local Radio Shack with receipt
  • Safety‚Äôs Sake/Funtech
    388 North Ellicot Creek Rd.
    Amherst, NY  14228
    800-877-1250
  • Sentrol
    503- 692- 4052
    Call Service Dept for instructions.
    $15 if not under warranty.
  • Triad Safety Systems
    308- 236- 7062
    Responses, 
    4595 Airport Rd, 
    Carney, NE 68847
    Only their products.