Almost all homes will be fitted with at least one if not multiple smoke detectors. They have proved essential when it comes to safety within our homes.
Although very useful, much like any home appliance, smoke detectors will eventually come to end of life. And will no longer provide us the safety we need, so will have to be replaced. That being said the disposal of smoke detectors can have an immense effect on the environment, if not done so correctly.
There are two different types of smoke detectors:
Photoelectric sensor smoke detector - this smoke alarm uses a laser to detect smoke in its surrounding area. These smoke alarms are not very common as they are less effective at detecting smoke compared to the second type of smoke alarm
Ionization smoke detector - this smoke alarm uses an ionization chamber. This does contain radioactive material and will cause a chemical reaction when it senses smoke, which triggers the alarm.
So, in short, yes, the most common smoke detectors we use do contain radioactive materials.
Smoke detectors also contain precious metals such as silver and gold; as well as a plastic for the casing and circuit boards.
Although only a small amount of radioactive material can be found within smoke detectors they can still cause problems in landfill. If enough are thrown into landfill, in a concentrated area, it can have a harmful and lasting impact on the environment surrounding the landfill site.
When recycling smoke detectors, as they contain radioactive material they need to be dismantled by a professional. It is not recommended you attempt to take apart a smoke detector to recycle it yourself, as this can be potentially dangerous.
You can either contact the brand or retailer you bought the smoke detector from, to see if they have any recycling schemes. This would be the best place to start as these companies have professionals on site that can recycle and reuse the components. Or you can contact your local authorities recycling centre to see if they have the capabilities to deal with recycling smoke detectors.