This blog post, originally shared in the Pharos Signal, includes information about parts of Pharos that are no longer available. Please use it for historical reference and for the other useful information it contains.
Building on our review of ceramic and porcelain tiles earlier this year, the Pharos team has added a Sanitary Ware category to our building product library. Flushometers, toilets, tanks, and toilet seats now appear in Pharos.
This was an interesting experience for us – trying to decipher the material composition of a class of products described only very generally: “vitreous china”, “stain resistant glaze”, or “plastic”. It seems that ingredient disclosure isn’t a conversation that’s been happening in this sector. While some products may contain a small amount of recycled content, the primary environmental concern in the industry has been, appropriately so, on water conservation.
Our review of these products uncovered some materials of concern.
First: antimicrobials. As might be expected in a product category where cleanliness is prized, toilets and toilet seats commonly contain antimicrobial ingredients. This practice is somewhat deceptive, however, as despite any assumptions consumers may have that these additives help keep them safe from germs, product literature specifies that antimicrobial agents are intended to prevent mildew and staining, only. [1, 2]
A wide range of antimicrobial agents can be used for these applications, but our review found silver-based antimicrobials to be the most common. There is concern that these additives can leach out of the materials into which they are incorporated and make their way through septic and sewer systems into aquatic environments . For a longer discussion of Pharos research on silver-based antimicrobials, see https://www.pharosproject.net/product/show/id/1004317.
Second: flame retardants. Some toilet seats are advertised as being flame retardant , while others may have flame retardant additives and not be advertised as such. Our research found that a range of flame retardants may be used for this purpose, particularly in thermoplastic seats, and that greater disclosure of these additives in both plastic and molded wood seats would benefit consumers.
 “Everclean Toilet Seats” product specifications, American Standard, 2014. Available www.americanstandard-us.com/assets/documents/amstd/spec/SpecSheet_3049.pdf
 “Lustra” product specifications, Kohler. Available www.us.kohler.com/webassets/kpna/catalog/pdf/en/1031217_4.pdf
 De Muynck W, De Belie N, and W. Verstraete, "Antimicrobial mortar surfaces for the improvement of hygienic conditions." Journal of Applied Microbiology: 108 (2010) 62–72.
 “Model #1955CTFR/1955SSTFR” product Specifications, Bemis Manufacturing Co, 2013. Available http://www.toiletseats.com/docs/specification-sheets/bemis/1955CTFR.pdf