Do You Know What’s In Your Drain Opener?

corrosive pictogram


I am working on a products liability case today that I have pending in Cobb County, Georgia in which my client was severely burned by a sulfuric acid drain opener (SADO). “Burn” may not be the accurate term…it is more like she had her skin dissolved by the sulfuric acid drain opener. She has been treated in three burn units and has undergone nine surgeries, including numerous skin grafts and fractional laser procedures. Yet she still has permanent scars over much of her body.

Do you know what’s in the drain opener you have under your sink right now?  Have you ever used a Sulfuric Acid Drain Opener?  My guess is you have no idea whether you have ever used a sulfuric acid drain opener.  SADO’s, as they are known in the chemical industry, are arguably too hazardous to sell to the public for use by the average consumer. And the average consumer has no idea just how ultra hazardous they are. SADO’s are often pure sulfuric acid, which nothing much added to them except water. They are typically “professional strength” and really should only be sold to professionals. Some manufacturers of SADO’s don’t even employ chemists to create their formula nor was their chemical formula originally created by an actual chemist. This makes the product extraordinarily dangerous to consumers as no professional chemist has even verified what is in the formula so the manufacturer really has no idea of exactly what they are selling.

In many cases, the label on SADO’s are not adequate to warn a lay user sufficiently about the type of chemical burns they can cause if they come in contact with a person’s skin or body. Keep in mind that in many third world countries SADO’s are used as a weapon, often in domestic violence incidents in which men throw sulfuric acid onto women’s faces to disfigure them permanently.  This is the same strength sulfuric acid that is being sold to consumers as a SADO.  For many years a group of concerned chemists have tried to get the sale of sulfuric acid drain openers banned in the United States.  These concerned chemists have petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission numerous times to try to get the Commission to take action to ban SADO’s because they are simply too hazardous for use by the average homeowner. But, apparently, politics always seems to get in the way and nothing happens.  Manufacturers keep making money and uninformed consumers keep getting harmed.

These ultrahazardous SADO’s are sold  not only in Home Depot’s and plumbing supply companies, but are currently even sold in grocery stores, like Publix, right along side the wholesome food sold there. The average consumer who shops at Publix would have no earthly idea that the product she is buying to unclog a drain can also dissolve her skin. And the label doesn’t tell her that, either. These labels have very generic warnings on them that don’t adequately convey the true nature of the hazard.  One such label on a SADO simply says to flush your eyes with water for 15 minutes if you get the sulfuric acid in your eyes and one label says to wash your skin with water should you get in on your body.  But folks, if you get sulfuric acid in your eye you will be blinded.  No flushing with water will stop that.  Sulfuric acid will dissolve your eyeball.  Remember, sulfuric acid is what Walter White in Breaking Bad used to dissolve dead bodies. I believe that if good grocery stores like Publix actually knew the devastation that SADO’s can cause, they would never sell them in their stores.  Publix is in the same boat as the consumer, not being adequately warned or informed about how super dangerous SADO’s are to consumers.  If the labels on SADO’s accurately warned consumers about the true nature of the hazard, no ordinary consumer would ever buy it.  Manufacturers know and understand this, so they have absolutely no incentive to make their warning labels helpful and realistic.  The labels are largely misleading and give the consumer a false sense of safety.

The other option to SADO’s is a sodium hydroxide drain opener. They are not as caustic as SADO’s and won’t dissolve skin as sulfuric acid will.  Sodium hydroxide drain openers are typically found in homes, and are not typically used by professional plumbers.  But SADO’s should only be used by professional plumbers.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission can and should act and ban SADO’s from being sold to lay consumers and allow their use only by licensed plumbers.  As long as SADO manufacturers continue to make money off the backs of unknowing consumers, people will continue to be harmed by their product.  My client and I are doing our part in trying to change corporate behavior.  The good news is that my client has refused to let her scars from this terrible product define her life and she has become a beautiful young woman.

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