The first fire alarm was invented by accident, as physicist Walter Jaeger was seeking to discover ways of detecting poison gases on the battlefield and within civilian environments.
Upon lighting a cigarette Jaeger discovered that not only did his invention detect poison gas, but detected smoke particles in the air as well. More affordable and refined home smoke detectors were invented in 1965 by Stuart Bennett Peterson and Duane D. Pearsall, who played a significant role in fire safety in homes across the world.
Aside from standard elements such as a battery, electronics and a plastic case, fire alarms feature Americium Oxide in their construction. This is because it is mildly radioactive, and when the ions are blocked by smoke in the air the alarm sounds. There are also amounts of silver and gold in a smoke alarm, as these are responsible for receiving the charge emitted by the traces of Americium Oxide.
The disposal of a fire alarm is dependent on the construction of the alarm itself. In the case that you have an alarm with more traditional construction that is reliant on Americium Oxide, you will need to go to local recycling centres for expert disposal of the refuse.
On the other hand, if you make use of a fire alarm that doesn’t use radioactive materials, you may be able to dispose of your alarm with the rest of your household waste. However, this is only recommended in the case that your local waste disposal centre doesn’t have any specific fire alarm disposal arrangements, as the expertise offered by a disposal centre is always a valuable tool in the disposal process.
The greatest concerns with fire alarm waste are the use of Americium-241. Although this material is minimally radioactive, it still emits alpha particles into the air and materials around it. Although mostly harmless, in the case that there is excessive rainfall in a set time period this radioactive material may seep into the local water supply. By remaining vigilant with fire alarm waste and disposing of it in a safe manner, you can ensure that your fire alarm isn’t causing risks to the local environment and those living around you.
There are very few feasible alternatives to fire alarms. Without having a fire alarm in place, properties are at increased risk of an accident that could lead to the structure burning to the ground. They are undeniably one of the most important parts of a property, and the only potential alternatives such as a carbon dioxide detector use similar radioactive materials in the detection process. Fire alarms, therefore, have no reasonable alternatives that don’t cause the same damage as fire alarms themselves.
You should look to take fire alarms to local recycling centres if they are able to offer specific fire alarm recycling services. If this is not the case, research your specific model in order to find out whether or not it is safe to put in with the rest of your household waste.