Smoke detectors perform a life-saving function in the event of a fire. They provide an early warning of a fire and give time to escape. Smoke detectors are compulsory and must be installed in every residential building.
Smoke detectors must meet the Australian Standard AS 3786.
There are two main types of smoke detectors - ionisation chamber detectors and photoelectronic detectors. Both types of smoke detectors meet the requirements of AS 3786 and are permitted in Victoria.
Ionisation chamber smoke detectors
Ionisation chamber smoke detectors contain a small quantity of radioactive material. The radioactive material is in the form of a foil and is rigidly mounted inside a steel chamber. It is designed to be resistant to mechanical, chemical and thermal abuse. The risk of harm from exposure to radiation from ionisation smoke detectors is negligible.
Ionisation chamber smoke detectors can be quicker to detect smoke from fast flaming fires.
Photoelectronic smoke detectors
Photoelectronic smoke detectors do not contain radioactive material. They comprise a light source and a sensor. Photoelectronic smoke detectors can be quicker to detect smoke from slow smouldering fires. They are less likely to give a false alarm.
Disposal of domestic smoke detectors
When a smoke detector is replaced or permanently removed, it must not be dismantled and should be disposed in general household waste as complete units.
The amount of radioactive material in a smoke detector is very small. From environmental and public health perspectives, the risk from disposing of complete smoke detectors to landfill with general household waste is negligible.
Smoke detectors must not be disposed of as e-waste, recycling or to any route that may dismantle then in any way.
The smoke detector batteries should be changed according to the manufacturer's recommendations. There are no special requirements for the disposal of smoke detector batteries.
Reviewed 16 February 2022