Wipes labelled 'flushable' wreak havoc on household plumbing and sewers, warns a new study.

In the first ever test of flushability of more than 100 different types of single-use wipes, researchers found that not one of them was able to fall apart or disperse safely through the sewer system - including 23 labelled "flushable".

As the wipes fail to break down they cause significant blockage problems in household plumbing, shared sewage infrastructure, and as a result the environment.

The blockages in turn cost hundreds of millions of pounds a year to fix and maintain.

Report lead author Barry Orr, a 25-year veteran Sewer Outreach and Control Inspector with the City of London, said: "This research confirms conclusively what those of us in the industry already knew - that single-use wipes, including cleansing and diaper wipes, cannot be safely flushed, even those labelled as 'flushable'.

"Manufacturers need to be regulated to properly label products, so that residents can make informed decisions that can save money, protect infrastructure and the environment by properly disposing of wipes in the garbage."

He said the research team tested 101 single-use products, 23 of which were labelled 'flushable' by the manufacturer.

To test the flushability of the wipes, they created a working model of the average home's lavatory system from toilet to sewer, including the bends and slope, plus average water pressure typical of urban infrastructure.

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Each wipe was then tested to the wastewater industries specifications for toilet and drainline clearance plus disintegration.

The report findings showed that none of the wipe samples fell apart or dispersed enough to safely pass through the sewer system without a risk of clogging or causing damage to infrastructure.

Improper disposal of these single-use products has huge impacts not only on individual residences, but also on villages, towns and cities.

From 2010 to 2018, the City of Toronto logged nearly 10,000 calls per year from residences due to "sewer service line-blocks", a lot of which is caused by people putting of non-flushable materials down toilets.

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The Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group has also estimated that the equivalent of more than £140 million is spent annually across Canada for operations and maintenance related to the removal of blockages caused by flushing wipes and other non-flushable materials.

Many of these wipes also contain synthetic fibres, including plastics, which can make their way into waterways, harming water systems and wildlife.

This occurs most often when clogged sewers lead to overflows and spillage into local waterways.

Mr Orr, a masters student at Ryerson University in Canada, said: "The report clearly highlights the need for a legislated standard definition around the term 'flushable' that ensures a product is safe to be disposed of down the toilet.

"This will in turn lead to imposing stricter regulations for the labelling of products.

"The current practice is misleading consumers and creating harm on so many levels. This study is an important step towards regulating manufacturers to change their packaging."

Nick Reid, executive director of Ryerson Urban Water, the collective of experts who did the research, said: "This important new research out of Ryerson Urban Water exemplifies the unintended consequences that can result from everyday actions taken by individuals and organisations.

"Healthy cities depend on healthy urban water strategies, and we all play a vital role in this very delicate ecosystem."

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