We must change our ways if we’re to fight fatbergs


Click to enlarge – if you can stand it!

It was a ball of grease so enormous, so destructive and so repugnant that not just London, but the whole world, recoiled in horror. The city’s biggest-ever fatberg lurked under Kingston-upon-Thames for three weeks while engineers tried to dislodge it. It will take a further six to repair the damage it caused. This bus-sized sewer monster may have been remarkable for its sheer size, but it has hundreds of relatives sitting in wait beneath streets across Britain. And it’s getting worse.

And, please, don’t think these blobs don’t live beneath cities in other lands.

Fatbergs are primarily caused by the oils, fats and grease disposed by households into the sewer system. Although these substances normally appear as liquids in the kitchen, they become solid at low temperatures in the sewers.

Items such as cotton buds and wet wipes, which do not disintegrate in the sewers like toilet paper, provide structural support for the fatbergs to latch onto and continue to grow. This leads to the blockage of sewers with resulting sewage overflow. Waste food materials such as peas, beans and other vegetable pieces also add to the problem if disposed of into the drains. Fatbergs anchor themselves to the sewer walls as the partially degraded fat reacts with calcium in sewage to form hardened soap.

Fat in sewage has been a gradually increasing problem as diet and lifestyles have evolved. Over the past three to four decades, the increase in fat, oil and grease in sewage initially caused “fat balls” in sewage and as these grew larger in size, they have been recently described as fatbergs…

Most commonly, fatbergs are removed by hand-shovelling. Jet pressure is also used either to break it up into small pieces, so they are carried with the sewage to the treatment plant, or to be removed by vacuum suction. There are new chemical and biochemical methods being developed, but these are not deployed on large scale yet…

But if we really want to fight fatbergs, we have to change our domestic habits. And it’s relatively straightforward. We can minimise the problem of fatbergs by refraining from disposing oil and fat down the sink, removing oil and fat from plates and pans before they are put in the dishwasher, and throwing wet wipes and other non-degradable items in the bin, rather than flushing them.

Reflect upon your own plumbing as well. Not the bits in your home. The parts of your body where fat gets to reside, encapsulated or not, adhesive or otherwise. Try a healthier diet, folks.

Take one dog – add water and shake!

On a beach outing recently, my friends and I watched a yellow Labrador frolic in the waves and dig with abandon in the sand. Then, to our horror, he bounded toward us and stopped. We all knew what was coming.

The shake.

I thought of this moment, being splattered with sand and sea water from this dog’s frenzied shake, as I watched the latest slide show on the Lens blog. This simple but inspired photo shoot from photographer Carli Davidson captures dogs in mid-shake. The result is a hilarious portrayal of flying fur, flopping jowls and bulging eyes.

Check out all the photos on the Lens blog.

We always seem to have dogs who assure themselves the water in their dog bowl was clean and clear – by splashing it with one paw. One of the better reasons to have tile floors.

5 toxic chemicals that are everywhere

A growing body of research is linking five chemicals — among the most common in the world — to a host of ailments, including cancer, sexual problems and behavioral issues.

We encounter them every day — in plastic bottles, storage containers, food wrap, cans, cookware, appliances, carpets, shower curtains, clothes, personal care products, furniture, television sets, electronics, bedding, cushions and mattresses. In short, every room in almost every house in the United States is likely to contain at least one of these chemicals, many of which did not exist a century ago.

They are bisphenol A, or BPA; phthalates; PFOA; formaldehyde; and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PDBEs. Tests reveal most of us now carry them in our bodies, but are they putting our health — and the health of our children — in jeopardy?

RTFA. Please. It has details about where these chemicals are in our world – and what to do about them.

Every week, in the course of producing this blog, editing articles for blogs, I learn of another product with a history of “safety” that has been compromised by increased knowledge and understanding of side effects and decay products, active ingredients that are killing and crippling us.

CCTV installed in schools to spy on four-year-olds


Tory education “expert” Tim Loughton
is chairman of Classwatch

Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils as young as four…

Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile ‘evidence’ of wrongdoing.

The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases.

But data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children.

Schools are required to inform all parents that microphones and cameras are monitoring their children.

Oh, well, that makes it all OK, doesn’t it. Sounds like someone in schools administration in the UK has been taking Nazi lessons from Dick Cheney.

Online shopping declines – just like everywhere else

Just as many Web retailers feared, online shoppers are being unusually frugal this holiday season.

During the first 23 days of November, consumers spent $8.19 billion online, a 4 percent drop from the same period last year. That marks the first annual decline since e-commerce took off.

“We thought that things would solidify in November,” said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore, who said gut-wrenching declines in the stock market and the auto industry crisis “spooked people who might have been thinking the worst was behind us…”

We have our fingers crossed that the stock market will not go through another 2,000-point meltdown and that the decline in gas prices will build up some cumulative buying power,” Mr. Fulgoni said. “However, if there is any more significant bad news just over the horizon, all bets are off.”

What shopping? I’m doing none.

Even though gasoline prices have dropped [for how long?], I’m not changing my revived frugal habits.

I grew up with frugal in a New England factory town. Turning off lights, stopping cold drafts, only necessary trips [usually by public transit back then], were automatically part of your life. Some I never stopped. You don’t forget to turn off lights, for example.

When gasoline prices skyrocketed, I stepped back and examined driving patterns and I’ve cut the number of trips to town in half. There aren’t any great reasons to increase that frequency.

I’ve been online for 25 years. Banking, shopping, all moved online as they became available – and secure. Still ain’t wasting money on getting a new HDTV 6 inches wider than the one we already own.