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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCool Careers Without CollegeHAZARDOUS MATERIALS TECHNICIAN - Education And Training, Case Study: Dioxin, For More Information - Salary, Outlook

Education and Training

Formal education beyond a high school diploma is not required for most of this work. A background in math is essential, because workers need to perform mathematical conversions and calculations, and figure readings. Federal regulations require technicians to obtain a license to work with each type of hazardous material. A license may be obtained after completing a basic training program of about forty hours. For work with radioactive materials, longer training is required. In all cases, technicians must take yearly courses to update their knowledge.

Case Study: Dioxin

Dioxin is a hazardous chemical that won't go away. It's produced when municipal wastes, especially plastics, are burned. The EPA lists dioxin in the top 10 percent of substances dangerous to human health. It results in higher rates of cancer, damage to the liver and nervous system, and birth defects.

Carelessly dumped by an industrial waste firm, dioxin was responsible for two disasters in the 1980s, one in Times Beach, Missouri, and the other at Love Canal, New York. Residents were alerted to the danger when high levels of cancers and other diseases appeared in their neighborhoods. The town of Times Beach was completely closed down and no longer exists. Houses were destroyed and the soil dug up, removed, and buried elsewhere.

To prevent such disasters from happening again, the EPA and other agencies monitor the air quality around landfills and incineration sites. When dioxin or other hazardous chemicals are detected, these agencies take steps to end the pollution immediately.

To advance in the field, it is wise to have postsecondary courses in chemistry, environmental toxicology, and civil engineering.

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