Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are you FLUSHING the environment away?

By gobartimes

Did you know that we spend an hour every week on the pot? While that’s an interesting bit of trivia to ponder upon, we wanted to know how it affects the environment. Stumped? Think about it – what do we use to clean our bathrooms? Toilet cleaners are available in two forms – nozzle shaped plastic bottles or automatic cleaners that get dispensed every time you flush. Where do they go from the pot? To the sewage system, source of water? Where?

What does your toilet cleaner contain?

Experts say that out of all the various types of household cleaning products, the most dangerous are the corrosive drain cleaners and acidic toilet bowl cleaners. A regular toilet cleaner contains chlorine bleach, ammonia, fragrances, detergent agents, water (written on the product as aqua), isopropyl alcohol and colourant (to indicate that the product is in use when you flush).

Watch that flush!

So now you know what a toilet cleaner contains, but what does it do every time you flush? The waste water containing residue of the chemical travels through the drain pipe and eventually reaches municipal water treatment plants along with the sewage. Then, it is discharged into nearby waterways. Although most ingredients are taken care of in the treatment plant, some aren’t. Here’s what happens:

The major ingredient in a cleaner, called surfactants or alkylphenol ethoxyltes (APEs), when discharged into the water, may harm reproduction of aquatic animals by behaving like estrogen. So, a male fish exposed to the surfactant may produce female egg-yolk proteins. Such mutations may spread to other organisms in water bodies too. Oxalic acid, found in many toilet bowl cleaners, is highly poisonous. Can you imagine what happens to living things that come in contact with it or if it percolates to ground water levels? Also, many ingredients in these cleaners do not biodegrade in soil and water, thus contaminating it.

Many people prefer to use concentrated hydrochloric acid to clean their toilets and bathrooms. Although it does the job, it’s risky. Not only once it goes down the drain pipe but also while you use it since its fumes are extremely harmful to humans.

Is there an easier way out?

Look for the label and if it reads ‘Poisonous’ or ‘Warning’, try to find an alternative cleaner. Buy cleaners that are APE-free. Another easy option is to use a combination of baking soda, soap and water using a toothbrush. For tougher stains, use borax with lemon or vinegar.

Much simpler and cheaper than you thought, right? So next time, avoid grabbing a toilet cleaner at the supermarket and use baking soda instead. Not only will you keep the bathroom clean, but the environment too!


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