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Smoke Detectors

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Smoke Detector Types:


Smoke detectors are an important life saving device that should be in every home.  There are two types of smoke detectors available: photoelectric detectors and ionization detectors.

Photoelectric smoke detectors use a beam of light to detect smoke.  When smoke enters the smoke detector chamber, it interrupts the beam of light and the smoke alarm goes off. Ionization detectors work in much the same way but instead of a beam of light they use an electrical current created by a low-level radioactive source (usually americium-241).  When smoke enters the smoke detector chamber, it interrupts this electrical current and the smoke alarm goes off.

Ionization detectors are more effective than photoelectric detectors because they can detect extremely small amounts of smoke, but their high reliability comes at the cost of a small amount of low-level radioactive material (Americum-241).

Disposal Options:

Check with your local solid waste management entity to see if they offer a collection option. If no recycling option is available, it is permissible to dispose of residential smoke detectors with household trash.

Also consider contacting the manufacturer of your smoker detector to see if a take-back program is available for the product. Some manufacturers of smoke detectors offer this option.



Last updated:
VT DEC Waste Management & Prevention Division 1 National Life Drive - Davis 1  Montpelier, VT  05620-3704  Tele: 802-828-1138  Fax: 802-828-1011

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