Fact File 46 Guidance to recyclers on treatment of domestic ionisation chamber smoke detectors (ICSD)

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1 Fact File 46 Guidance to recyclers on treatment of domestic ionisation chamber smoke detectors (ICSD)

2 Guidance to recyclers on treatment of domestic ionisation chamber smoke detectors (ICSD) BACKGROUND... 3 WEEE DIRECTIVE... 4 TREATMENT OF ICSDS of 5

3 BACKGROUND A smoke detector or smoke alarm is a device that detects smoke and issues an alarm to alert people nearby that there is a potential fire. Most smoke detectors work either by optical detection or by ionisation. Ionisation chamber smoke detectors (ICSDs) are point-type smoke detectors containing a small amount of radioactive material. This radioactive material is the key to how the ICSD senses smoke. Going back years, the ICSD was the primary technology choice for a smoke detection device. This choice was mainly influenced by the relative simplicity of the sensor technology and the fact that photoelectric smoke sensor technology was expensive, and not properly understood. The ICSD was considered to be a good general-purpose detector. There are now a large number of these devices in domestic premises in the UK; we estimate these devices are in over 80% of UK homes. In recent years, the UK government along with the UK Fire and Rescue services, have been running a campaign to install smoke detectors in most homes where they have not already been fitted. As ICSDs have a small amount of Americium 241 as the ionisation source, the disposal of products containing radioactive materials is covered by the original Radioactive Substances Act 1960 and subsequent amendments and exemption orders. 3 of 5

4 WEEE DIRECTIVE The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) was introduced into UK law in January 2007 by the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Regulations The Directive requires smoke detectors to be treated as WEEE and disposed of correctly. It is most likely that for the foreseeable future, most domestic smoke detectors will still be disposed of in household waste and not appear as WEEE, since the Radioactive Substances (Smoke Detectors) Exemption Order 1980 permits the consumer to dispose of a smoke detector into household waste. However, it is likely that some will appear as separate WEEE and should be treated accordingly. 4 of 5

5 TREATMENT OF ICSDS Firstly, it should be noted that ICSDs do not pose a significant hazard to users; click here to read the Health Protection Agency Guidance or search the topics at However, there are a number of factors to take into account when handling these devices. The Radioactive Substances (Smoke Detectors) Exemption Order allows ICSD Installers and distributors to store an amount of less than 500 ICSDs in a single building or premises. A separate authorisation is required for the accumulation and disposal of ICSDs. The current recommended method of disposal of ICSDs Americium 241 source is by dispersion in landfill. In order to achieve this we propose the following steps should be followed when ICSDs arrive on site: 1. Remove battery from smoke alarm 2. The units should be not be dismantled further or shredded. 3. Dispose of remainder of alarm with residue going to landfill 4. Do not store more than 500 alarms pending disposal in landfill 5. Alarms should be mixed with landfill at a maximum density of 1 alarm per 0.1 cubic metre of general waste. Any questions on disposal should be referred to the Environment Agency. DISCLAIMER The information set out in this document is believed to be correct in the light of information currently available but it is not guaranteed and neither the Fire Industry Association nor its officers can accept any responsibility in respect of the contents or any events arising from use of the information contained within this document. Tudor House, Kingsway Business Park, Oldfield Road, Hampton, Middlesex TW12 2HD Tel: +44 (0) of 5

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