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Lysol wipes, Kleenex and other disinfectant products are flying off the shelves as Americans seek to keep the novel coronavirus from entering their homes, but disposing of the items as you would regular toilet paper may be creating a health hazard unrelated to COVID-19.
Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a warning recently urging Americans to only flush toilet paper, and to dispose of disinfectant wipes and “other non-flushable items” in the garbage.
“Flushing only toilet paper helps ensure that the toilets, plumbing, sewer systems and septic systems will continue working properly to safely manage our nation’s wastewater,” the EPA said. “While EPA encourages disinfecting your environment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, never flush disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items.”
For those who are concerned about safely disposing of these items, there are steps you can take to cut down on risk of contamination that do not involve flushing the products in the toilet. Brad Wright, vice president of health care solutions at Covanta, a waste management company, previously told Fox News that guidelines are generally provided by local communities, but placing items in a tightly sealed bag, and then placing it within another bag is a safe way to dispose of it.
Flushing these products can cause a backup in internal plumbing or even the local sewer and septic systems, which could disrupt more than just your own bathroom.
“Fixing these backups is costly and takes time and resources away from ensuring that wastewater management systems are otherwise working properly,” the EPA said.
“Having fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks,” the agency said. “Our nation’s wastewater employees are everyday heroes who are on the frontline of protecting human health and environment every single day.”