Personal care products like these don't disappear when they're rinsed down the drain or excreted into the toilet. Small amounts can enter groundwater and streams. Scientists want to know what the toxics mean for aquatic life.
Dave Sohm and Jennifer Coleman examine a non-stick pan for scratches. Some teflon pans leach toxic chemicals that go down the drain and into waterways where they can harm fish and wildlife.
Detergents and other cleaning products contain many ingredients that aren't among the 126 toxic chemicals on the Clean Water Act priority pollutant list. Not a single pollutant has been added to that list since 1977.
The Brightwater wastewater treatment plant in Washington's King County opened last year. Even new facilities are incapable of screening all toxics out of the wastewater they treat from homes and businesses.
When the Brightwater treatment plant was being built, construction project manager Gunars Sreibers, explained how the plastic straw-like strands suction clean water through pores. They leave most pollutants behind, but can't strain out pharmaceuticals.
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