We’ve all been there. The drain is clogged, and you’re left with only a few options. Most frequently people resort to using Drano or some other chemical concoction to unblock their sink or tub. The main thing on people’s minds is that it gets done. The truth is that you could be exposing yourself to dangerous chemicals that are quite harmful to humans.
Drano sales are quite prolific in the United States, SC Johnson sells roughly 14.4 million dollars worth of regular Drano every year, while Drano Max sells nearly 50 million dollars worth of products in the same amount of time. It’s clear that people prefer to use Drano when they have a drain problem.
But what is the go to drain problem solver doing to our health? The Drano ingredients include chemicals that are quite dangerous if consumed or inhaled and include sodium hydroxide, aluminum chips, sodium nitrate, sodium chloride and a dye called sun chemical pigment green 7.
These chemicals are quite harmful if swallowed or inhaled or come in contact with your eyes or skin, and cause severe abdominal pain, breathing difficulty, vomiting, burns, loss of vision, and even death. The treatment for coming in contact with these materials is quite invasive and includes an endoscopy, fluids through an IV, oxygen, and even sometimes surgery.
Sodium hydroxide for one can cause severe nose, throat and respiratory irritation if inhaled. It is odorless, so there is no warning when it comes into contact with your respiratory system. Irritation occurs at 2 milligrams per meter cubed, so it would be relatively easy to irritate yourself when doing something as simple as pouring it down your drain.
It readily causes skin and eye irritation. Direct contact can cause chemical burns to the affected areas leading to deep-tissue injuries. Contact with very strong solutions of sodium hydroxide can hydrolyze proteins in the eyes, leading to severe damage and even blindness. If you happen to ingest some accidentally, it will result in severe corrosive injury to everything it touches, including the lips, tongue, esophagus, and stomach.
To learn more about the effects of sodium hydroxide on the body check out this fact sheet.
The aluminum present in Drano does many worrying things to the body if inhaled or ingested. Mainly it attacks the central nervous system but is also linked to liver toxicity. Metals like aluminum create brain diseases by producing oxidative stress. The prevailing belief is that aluminum is linked to degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
For more information on what aluminum exposure does to the body check out this study.
Sodium nitrate is used as a preservative in a lot of foods, mainly processed meats. However, a safe amount of nitrates to consume is up for debate; they have been known to bind to red blood cells, blocking their ability to carry oxygen. It is also linked to a higher incidence of brain tumors, leukemia, and nose and throat tumors.
Sodium chloride if ingested can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscular twitching, and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It can even cause death due to respiratory failure secondary to an acute encephalopathy. If it happens to make contact with your eyes, it will cause extreme irritation.
Ditch the chemicals
So why not avoid the chemicals altogether because inhaling them accidentally when they are used is quite damaging to your health and probable. A simple homemade drain cleaner works just the same and comes without any of the health dangers.
DIY Drain Cleaner
2 cups baking soda
4 cups of boiling water
1 cup of vinegar
What to Do
Make sure there is no water in the sink or bathtub and pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain.
Then pour 2 cups of boiling water down the drain, wait a few minutes, and the baking soda and water should dissolve what’s clogging the drain even if you can’t see it.
Then pour another cup of baking soda down the drain but add 1 cup of white vinegar and plug the drain immediately because it will bubble up.
When the bubbles have died down, add the remaining cup of boiling water. This can even be used as a monthly treatment for clogged drains.
But if you are looking for natural products to do the job, then brands like Drainbo (all natural, nontoxic) will do the trick. Or you could skip all the fuss and use a simple plunger or other pressure-based method. It might take a little elbow grease, but it certainly won’t have an effect on your health.
For more products to avoid check out this article.
NY times. Drain Cleaner Poisoning http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/poison/drain-cleaners/overview.html Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Green living ideas. Homemade Drain Cleaner http://greenlivingideas.com/2008/07/17/homemade-drain-cleaner/ Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Statista. Sales of the leading drain cleaner brands in the United States in 2015 (in million U.S. dollars) https://www.statista.com/statistics/251142/sales-of-the-leading-drain-cleaner-brands-in-the-us/ Accessed: November 30, 2016.
What’s inside sc johnson. Drano http://www.whatsinsidescjohnson.com/us/en/brands/drano/drano-crystals-clog-remover Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Agency for Toxic Substances and disease registry. Medical Management Guidelines for Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=246&tid=45 Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Global healing center. Why I’m Concerned About the Dangers of Aluminum http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/concerned-about-aluminum-dangers/ Published: December 27, 2012. Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Live strong. Why is Sodium Nitrate Bad for You?http://www.livestrong.com/article/283850-why-is-sodium-nitrate-bad-for-you/ Published: April 22, 2016. Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Cameo Chemicals. Sodium Chloride https://cameochemicals.noaa.gov/chemical/21014 Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Drainbo. http://www.drainbo.com/ Accessed: November 30, 2016.
Youtube. Homemade Drano: Does it work? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWDXncKCJhg Published: May 15, 2016. Accessed: November 30, 2016.