Skip to main content

Research

The Hazardous Waste  Management Program ’s Research  Team conducts high-quality research to inform the Program’s priorities. We use data and collaboration to ensure that our programs are in line with best practices and policies. 


The Research Team’s work focuses on preventing toxic chemical exposures in King County’s residents and workers and protecting the environment. We achieve this by gathering data and conducting research studies. We identify the most hazardous chemical exposures in our community and then develop strategies to prevent those exposures. Our work is used to develop new environmental policies and to help people choose safer chemicals and products. 


We strive to do all of our research work through a racial equity lens. The reason is two-fold. First, we must ensure that our policies and services are relevant to the communities we serve. Second, we know people of color are particularly impacted by chemical exposures, and we do not want to inadvertently burden our most under-served and vulnerable populations

 

Our current projects include:

Additional Resources

The Research Team manages the Hazardous Waste Management Program’s library of books, reports, and other materials, which are available to the public.

Are you interested in borrowing materials? The library only loans materials out to King County residents and program staff. However, anyone may use our materials by appointment. Please email Dawn Duddleson at hazwaste.librarian@kingcounty.gov for more information. 

 

Safer Alternatives

An important part of our organization’s work is identifying safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals and processes. A “safer alternative” is one that is healthier for humans and the environment than the current chemical in use. We are dedicated to helping residents and businesses switch to those alternatives. 

Safer alternatives work is an upstream preventative strategy that eliminates the hazard at the source before it causes downstream health or environmental problems. Safer alternatives work also avoids replacing a toxic chemical with one that has unknown—if not greater—health and environmental risks. This is known as a regrettable substitution.  

A product that is a true safer alternative must also be cost-effective, available, and work well. Residents and businesses benefit from safer alternatives because they improve health and safety and can also save money. 

Safer cleaning products displayed on shelf

Auto Paints

The Research Services Team helped guide auto body shops wanting to transition to using waterborne paints, which are safer alternatives than traditional paints. Traditional paints contain high levels of volatile organic compounds that can negatively impact air quality and workers’ health.  

As part of our research, we evaluated waterborne basecoats used in auto body shops by watching work practices, measuring exposures, evaluating spray booths, observing waste management, and designating waste streams. Our research led to the development of a project that offered financial and technical assistance to help auto body shops switch from solvent-based basecoats to waterborne coats. Six shops in King County made the switch. This project ended in early 2019.
Paint compressor

Dry Cleaning

Since 2009, our Research Team has studied the impact of chemicals in the dry cleaning industry in King County. Dry cleaners have an array of options they can use for fabric cleaning. We evaluated each alternative to determine its health and environmental impacts. We also surveyed dry cleaners in King County and learned that most dry cleaners used perchloroethylene (PERC) and were not aware of its negative health effects. PERC is a known carcinogen and is also linked to liver damage, neurological problems, and other adverse health effects. PERC also contaminates groundwater, surface water, and soil. 

Our research and connections with the dry cleaning community led to the creation of a technical and financial assistance program to help dry cleaners switch from using PERC to professional wet cleaning, the safest alternative. Professional wet cleaning uses only water and detergent to effectively and efficiently clean all clothes labeled “dry clean only.”

 

Man wearing dark hat and white shirt stands in a dry cleaning shop

Stay Connected

Sign up for the latest news and information about our services