You may have seen “flushable wipes” popping up more in stores. A wipe that can just be flushed away and comes in varieties for both babies and adults is a convenient concept. While these wipes claim to be “flushable,” you may want to hold off on flushing them, unless you love calling your plumber in for a clogged toilet. With sales of these wipes soaring to $6 billion a year or more, it is important for consumers to be aware that these wipes may not be as safe as they appear.
Irate customers have been suing the companies manufacturing these wipes since they came onto the market. Consumers claim their toilets clogged after flushing the wipes, even though they were simply following product instructions.
Regardless of the lawsuits, many manufacturers of the wipes continue to claim their product is flushable and that tests continue to prove so. However, independent testers have found otherwise. In a report issued by California’s Orange County Sanitation District, staff noted that “field observations have found [flushable wipes] to be a cause of back-ups within the sewer system leading to sanitary sewer overflows, clogs at lift stations, and disruption within the treatment plant.”
A video posted by manufacturers depicted the wipes disintegrating after 35 minutes. However, the same report mentioned above noted the wipes were completely intact and recognizable after as long as 24 hours.
In a lawsuit filed by Dr. Joseph Kurtz, the city of New York City confirms that the wipes are wreaking havoc on the city’s sewer system. They also claim the wipes do not break down as the manufacturers advertise. The city ends up spending about $18 million a year collecting and discarding debris caught in the machinery at their 14 wastewater-treatment plants. While the wipes do not account for all the debris, the city insists there has been an increase that directly correlates with the sales of the wipes.
It is important to note that while the products claim to be “flushable,” the term is not currently legally defined nor does the Federal Trade Commission regulate it. The item can technically be flushed down the toilet; however, there’s no telling what will happen after doing so. Until the government begins regulating these products more closely, it’s probably best to steer clear of flushing any wipes. That is, unless you want to give your friendly plumbers a call for a clogged toilet.