The American Standard Champion 4 toilet is something to behold. The simple perch, elegant design, and accelerator flush valve make it, I’m told, a superior vessel for waste evacuation. And the technical department at American Standard has made some convincing videos to prove their point, demonstrating the Champ’s flawless devouring of 24 golf balls, 8 large hot dogs, or 100 cotton balls.
In what I would also categorize as superfluous, American Standard advertises the Champion 4’s EverClean surface that destroys bacteria, rendering bygone the days of scrubbing the commode. This is where American Standard really starts to lose me. Am I crazy to think that putting pesticides in toilets is a) unnecessary b) potentially harmful to my health and c) bad for the environment?
I called the good people at American Standard to see if they could step away from their rollicking experiments flushing chicken nuggets (the Champ swallowed 2.5 pounds) to tell me a little bit about the EverClean surface. They couldn’t. After repeated emails and calls, the best response I got was that EverClean is a silver-based antimicrobial. When asked whether this means a nanotechnology-derived pesticide, like nano-silver, they did not respond.
Nanotechnology is a new class of chemicals, created by shrinking the size of a given particle, like silver, so small that the properties and behavior of the element actually change. Yes, nano-silver can effectively kill bacteria, but as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes, “the same property that makes it antibacterial may render it toxic to human cells.”
In addition, the all-out nano-silver assault on benign bacteria is part of a trend of anti-microbial use doing more to cause public health problems, such as new strains of resistant bacterias, than prevent them. Unfortunately, regulators at the EPA and other federal agencies are doing little to monitor, contain or insure that manufacturers label products containing nanomaterials. As a result, nanomaterials are everywhere—from food packaging to cutting boards to condoms to jeans.
Whether American Standard simply doesn’t know if it is using nanomaterials or not, or is refusing to share that information, the company’s failure to be transparent about its pesticide use is disconcerting. Whatever the anti-microbial is, I decided I didn’t need it.
Many nanomaterials used in consumer products may end up in the environment and our food. Because wastewater treatment plants can’t break down these chemicals they end up in sewage sludge that is often applied to farmland. Check out Food & Water Watch’s report about nanotechnology here. And, in the meantime, think twice about consumer products advertising antimicrobial or antibacterial properties. Whatever this pesticide is, nano or not, you and the environment don’t need it.
UPDATE: March 9, 2012
After this blog was posted, American Standard followed up with me and disclosed that the EverClean used in the toilet bowl contains a registered pesticide with the EPA, called “StayClean A,” which is formulated with zinc oxide, not silver as they had previously disclosed. By contrast, the EverClean found in the company’s toliet seats does contain silver. According to the company representative, neither the bowls nor seats contain nanomaterials. American Standard has removed the reference to EverClean being “silver-based” from its Web site. Now maybe the company will consider simply removing all pesticides from their toilets.