Blockages of pipes are mostly removed with the help of chemical products or mechanical cleaning.
Biological drain cleaners which are based on purified enzymes have a comparatively small market share.
In case of a clogged household drain, residents usually try to solve the problem with various chemical agents and probably with a plunger (1).
When nothing helps, a professional plumber is called who fights the blockage with mechanical methods what can even include dismantling of the pipe systems.
Getting help from a specialist can get very expensive so most people try to unclog their household drains by themselves.
Besides the acrid smell of chemical drain cleaners, these detergents can pose several risks.
Typical ingredients are alkalis which do not only attack the blockage but also the enamel or glaze of shower trays and basins.
However, alkalis such as sodium hydroxide is not only a threat to your sanitary installations but also to you (1)!
Sodium hydroxide is corrosive thereby constituting a hazard for human health, especially for children – even if it is highly diluted.
Over 40 children accidentally [were] treated with drain cleaner instead of dental fluid (2)– just to name one recent case of mistakenly used drain cleaner.
Even worse, some chemical drain cleaners contain sulfuric acid and thereby can be abused as a weapon for so called acid attacks – a weapon which can be bought right off the shelf.
These acid attacks are not only a problem of Southeast Asia, but also a growing one in the Western world, e.g. in the UK.
Just have a look on these newspaper articles: Torture in a Bottle. How London became the world capital for acid attacks on young men (3) or London acid attacks: 91% sulphuric acid drain cleaner on sale in UK stores (4).
But how can this dilemma be solved?!
We – the iGEM Team Stuttgart – work on a biological cleaner based on a holistic approach using E.coli. Our biological drain cleaner only contains the positive aspects of both the chemical and mechanical methods: It is easy and save to use that is why no specialist is needed for the application and thereby a lot of money can be saved. And the best, there exists no hazard for human health as we can totally go without corrosive substances. So, unclog your drains only with LIGHT UP THE PIPE!
See current article of the "fatberg monster" that blocks London sewage system: 'Total monster':fatberg blocks London sewage system (the guardian)