Whether it’s the drains in your office building, shopping center, public building or your own home, clogs and build-up are a common occurrence. Keeping your facilities and piping systems in good, working condition is incredibly important, so cleaning drains should be a regularity. However, the majority of drain cleaners contain harsh chemicals which can harm your systems, not to mention the effects they can have if they contact skin or eyes, are inhaled or even ingested. We are going to take a deeper look at common drain cleaners, the dangers they create and some alternative drain cleaning options that are safer and better for the environment.
The Harmful Effects of Chemical-Based Drain Cleaners
Chemical drain cleaners can be extremely hazardous to your health and the health of those who use your facility. While some chemical cleaners are more hazardous than others, each of them carry their own health and environmental risks. In the early 2000s, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers. Add to that the fact that toilet bowl and drain cleaners are the most acutely dangerous cleaners found in most household and restroom facilities. Health hazards associated with chemical-based drain cleaners include:
- Skin or respiratory irritation
- Watery eyes
- Chemical burns
- Hormone disruption including decreased sperm count and birth defects in children
Those things can’t possibly be right! These drain cleaners could cause serious conditions such as cancer and hormone disruption? Yes, it’s all true, and here’s how:
“Ingredients with high acute toxicity include chlorine bleach and ammonia, which produce fumes that are highly irritating to eyes, nose, throat and lungs… These two chemicals pose an added threat in that they can react with each other or other chemicals to form lung-damaging gases. Combining products that contain chlorine and ammonia or ammonia and lye produces chloramine gases, while chlorine combined with acids forms toxic chlorine gas.”
“Some all-purpose cleaners contain the sudsing agents diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA). When these substances come into contact with nitrites, often present as undisclosed preservatives or contaminants, they react to form nitrosamines – carcinogens that readily penetrate the skin. 1,4-dioxane, another suspected carcinogen, may be present in cleaners made with ethoxylated alcohols. Butyl cellosolve (also known as ethylene glycol monobutyl ether), which may be neurotoxic (or cause damage to the brain and nervous system), is also present in some cleaners.”
“Chemicals that are so-called ‘hormone disruptors’ can interfere with the body’s natural chemical messages, either by blocking or mimicking the actions of hormones. Possible health effects include decreased sperm counts, increased rates of male birth defects such as cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) and hypospadias (where the urethra is on the underside of the penis), and increased rates of some kinds of cancers. The alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) used in some detergents and cleaners have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen; one APE, p-nonylphenol, has caused estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells to multiply in a test tube study.”
Chemical cleaners are also hazardous to the environment. Many contain pollutants that are not easily noticed unless you read all the ingredients on the back of the container. Some drain cleaners can leave residue in your pipes that can build up over time to cause its own clog.
But beyond these more basic hazards, these chemicals have to go somewhere once we flush them through our pipes, right? Are they safe then?
“After bubbly cleaning liquids disappear down our drains, they are treated along with sewage and other waste water at municipal treatment plants, then discharged into nearby waterways. Most ingredients in chemical cleaners break down into harmless substances during treatment or soon afterward. Others, however, do not, threatening water quality or fish and other wildlife. In a May 2002 study of contaminants in stream water samples across the country, the U.S. Geological Survey found persistent detergent metabolites in 69% of streams tested. 66% contained disinfectants.“
Protecting Drains from Clogs
Sometimes to solve a problem you have to go to the source first. Be sure that your drains and piping systems have proper filtration systems that stop unwanted objects from clogging your piping (like drain covers in urinals or showers). Reducing the amount of foreign objects and materials in your drains will reduce the ability for clogs to form. You should also create a regular cleaning schedule to continually remove any build-up or material that somehow passed through your shielding devices before they become more difficult tasks. Catching the problem early is key.
A Greener Approach to Drain Cleaning
Of course, there are drain cleaning systems out there designed to protect your facility and the health of those who use it. One such system for use on restroom floor drains, mop sinks and utility sinks is the Workplace Essentials EcoDrain Service, known for the importance it places on the green initiative. The EcoDrain Service naturally eliminates odors at the source using enzymes which completely destroy odor-causing bacteria. Bacillus microorganisms decompose organic matter inside drains to reduce clogs. The EcoDrain formula is non-corrosive and non-inflammable, making it safe and naturally effective. The use of natural enzymes versus harsh chemicals is a far better alternative for the environment and your piping systems. Workplace Essentials also provides regularly scheduled service customized to meet your needs while maintaining the EcoDrain Service to its full potential.
Main Source: The Green Guide: Household Cleaning Supplies Report