Some wastewater utilities say they are facing a nasty pandemic problem: More disposable wipes

being flushed down toilets are clogging pipes, jamming pumps and sending raw sewage into homes and

waterways.
               
                    Utilities have urged customers for years to ignore “flushable”

labels on increasingly popular, premoistened wipes used by nursing home staffs, potty-training

toddlers and people who shun toilet paper. But some utilities say their wipe woes significantly

worsened a year ago during a pandemic-induced toilet paper shortage, and have yet to let up.
                           
                They say some customers who resorted to

baby wipes and “personal hygiene”

wipes appear to have stuck with them long after toilet paper returned to store shelves. Another

theory: People who wouldn’t take wipes to the office are using more while working from home.

            More disinfectant wipes also are getting improperly flushed, utilities say, as

people sanitize counters and doorknobs. Paper masks and latex gloves tossed into toilets and

washed into storm drains also are jamming sewer equipment and littering rivers.
 
            At WSSC Water, which serves 1.8 million residents in the Maryland suburbs, workers at

its largest wastewater pumping station removed about 700 tons of wipes last year — a 100-ton jump

over 2019.

            “It started last March and really hasn’t eased up since,” said WSSC Water

spokeswoman Lyn Riggins.
       
        Utilities say the wipes twist into ropy

wads, either in a home’s sewer pipe or miles down the line. They then congeal with grease and

other cooking fats improperly sent down drains to form sometimes massive “fatbergs” that block

pumps and pipes, sending sewage backing up into basements and overflowing into streams. On

Wednesday, WSSC Water said 10,200 gallons of untreated sewage reached a creek in Silver Spring

after an estimated 160 pounds of wipes plugged a pipe.
   
        You’ve seen the gross sewer-blocking fatberg pics? Here’s how government, industry and

shoppers can all help stop wet wipes clogging our drains and oceans.

    Fatbergs – those revolting sewer mountains made of

wet wipes, grease and other gunk –

have been cropping up all over the place in the past year or so, from London and Cardiff to

Staffordshire and Devon.

    As well as causing trouble in wastewater systems, wipes can find their way into oceans. Along

with other types of plastic pollution, they can cause long-term problems for sea creatures

and the marine environment.

    Wet wipes made up more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages that Water

UK investigated in 2017

    Friends of the Earth commissioned a report from research group Eunomia, Reducing

Household Contributions to Marine Plastic Pollution [PDF]. This reveals our everyday habits

that result in all sorts of plastics getting into our seas. Sometimes from seemingly unlikely

sources, such as medical wet wipes

.

    Used to be that only babies’ behinds were cleaned up with wet wipes. But in recent years, the

popularity of similar products for adults has surged—they're part of the $1.4 billion

and growing “personal wipes” category of hygiene products, according to a market research

report. You’ve seen them on drugstore shelves, and maybe you even use them. But while

adult wipes are clearly good for

business, we were curious: Are their any health benefits to using them instead of toilet paper?

    Basically, no. “There is no medical advantage to cleaning up with baby wipes for adults as

opposed to toilet paper,” says Holly Phillips, M.D., a women’s health specialist in New York

City and a medical contributor to CBS News.  “It comes down to what makes you feel clean and

fresh.” Still, keep in mind that some wipes might be pre-moistened with aloe, vitamin E, alcohol,

and other gentle- or harmless-sounding additives that might actually irritate sensitive skin and

leave your bum stinging and inflamed. “Play it safe by going for an unscented, unmedicated,

chemical-free brand of wipe,” says Phillips.

    More important than what you wipe with (remember, until toilet paper was invented in the

19th century, people used newspaper, clay, leaves, and even corncobs, which couldn’t have

felt good) is how you wipe. You’ve heard a million times to do it from front to back to

prevent the germs present in feces from getting near your urethra and causing a urinary tract

infection—but it’s still smart advice, says Phillips. You also want to wipe firmly but not press

or rub hard, which can lead to small abrasions in your anal area. And don’t leave the bathroom

until you’re all cleaned off if you can help it. Leaving a little poop behind can lead to itching

and irritation—not to mention a surprise on your thong.

    Finally, even though adult wipes are supposed to be flushable, sewer and waste officials can

tell you that it isn’t true, and wipes are clogging up pipes and sewers, causing major damage. “

Just toss them in the trash or diaper disposal,” says Phillips.

    Household wipes are hard to

come by these days. As the number of cases of the novel coronavirus began to climb quickly in the

U.S. in March, worried consumers began pantry-loading supplies like household cleaners and

disinfectants, including wipes. For months, shelves have been emptied of these products, and when

they are restocked, they’re gone within the hour. 
   
        WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic has led many people to buy whatever they can to

protect themselves, such as, disinfectant dry

wipes
, masks and gloves.
   
        However, the methods some people are using to get rid of the protective and cleaning tools

are becoming a problem.
   
      "Messy, gross," is how Lyn Riggins, who is the spokesperson for WSSC Water,

described what workers are pulling out of pumps at water treatment facilities.

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