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From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: use bulk formaldehyde as porta-potty  chemical
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2004 00:29:14 -0500
Message-ID: <>

Pardon my french but...  F*ck-off, Janet.  You don't have a clue.  And boo-hoo
if I hurt your tender widdle feelings.

To answer the original question, "it depends".  Mainly on what concentration
formaldehyde you buy.  It doesn't take very much concentration at all to stop
critter growth.  Best thing to do is experiment.  Start out small, just a few
ml to the tank, and see what happens.  You may find out like I did, that you
don't need anything at all except in the heat of the summer.

Chlorine bleach (or swimming pool chlorine, easier to handle) also works well
and is a LOT easier to obtain and handle.

I was born with a genetic problem that resulted in the skin on my feet and
hands drying out, cracking open, getting infected, going gangrenous and
occasionally trying to kill me from the age of about 3 until about 18.
Literally dozens of doctors tried and failed to treat the condition with
everything from Grenz Rays (very high does soft Xrays) on down.  One of the
more interesting treatments involved my wrapping my feet in gauze, soaking the
wrap in 30% formaldehyde, placing a bag over each foot and sleeping in the
contraption.  Took several months to figure out that it didn't work (or more
accurately, it did work but quickly lost effectiveness.)  Didn't do any harm

Experiences like this (plus an education in science, of course) are why I have
not patience with people like Janet who bray like jackasses with their balls
in vices every time they come upon a scary sounding multi-sylable chemical
name that they don't understand.


On 15 Feb 2004 03:53:52 GMT, prinjrw@aol.comupyours (Janet Wilder) wrote:

>In article <>,
> (Alan Horowitz) writes:
>>the portable-chemical-toilet thing seems to have been originally based
>>on marked-up formaldehyde solutions as the deodorant.
>>I want to buy bulk formaldehyde and use that.   How much is needed?
>Please go polute someone else's planet.  There are Nature-friendly products out
>there made of enzymes and/or bacteria that do just as good a job without
>murdering drain fields and septic systems.
>Most responsible RVers don't use formaldehyde-based products any longer.
>The Road Princess
>Residentially Challenged
>Spelling and punctuation is up to my editors. I take no responsibility

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: use bulk formaldehyde as porta-potty  chemical
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 03:23:28 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 03:47:42 GMT, RichA <richatpa*nospam*> wrote:

> On the other hand the other non-harmful (as far as we know) chemicals
>are readily available.  If I need holding tank chemicals and the only
>kind I can find contains Formaldehyde that's what I'm going to use.

I bet most people who choose a non-formaldehyde "safe" alternative have no
idea what is in it or the relative safety.

Let's take Thetford's SupremeGreen, "for those who prefer non-formaldehyde",
for example.  Thetford has their MSDSs located here:

If one looks here:

for the MSDS on SupremeGreen, one sees that the active ingredient is Bronopol.
Nice, innocuous sounding trade name for a chemical I'd never heard of.  So I
googled.  I could not find an MSDS for the pure chemical but there is lots of
info on the net.

For instance, this outfit lists the stuff in its compendium of pesticides.

One interesting item is that another trade name is Myacide.  Ohhhh, there is
one of those "cides", you know, like, insecticide.  The chemophobes are
getting restless.  Listed elsewhere as a biocide.  Now the chemophobes are
REALLY restless.

If one looks at Thetford's MSDSs for the formaldehyde- and bronopol-based
products, one sees that the high concentration toxicity is about the same for
the two chemicals as described by their LD50 concentrations - 270mg/kg (oral)
vs 270 mg/kg (skin absorption)
Above is a fact sheet presented to patients who present positive to an allergy
test for formaldehyde.  Interesting to note down near the bottom of the page
that bronopol is listed as releasing formaldehyde. Hmmmmmm....  Great unrest
in the chemophobe camp.

If we look at the data sheet on bronopol here:

we see that the chemical formula is C3H6BrNO4 and the chemical name is
2-bromo-2-nitro-1,3-propanediol.  OH MY!  Not only is it a chlorinated
hydrocarbon, it is also an organic nitrate.  And it liberates free oxygen
radicals!!!!!!!  The chemophobes are in open stampede.

<tongue in cheek>
In layman's terms, formaldehyde must be better.  After all its formula,  CH2O,
is 5 letters shorter than C3H6BrNO4.  And the name "Formaldehyde" is 19
letters shorter than 2-bromo-2-nitro-1,3-propanediol.  Shorter is less scary
and intimidating, right?

<\tongue in cheek>

If "formaldehyde" is too intimidating a word for you, here are some synonyms
that sound much nicer:

formalin 40
formic aldehyde
methyl aldehyde
methylene glycol
methylene oxide
polyoxymethylene glycols

Just tell your camper friends that you use paraform in your holding tank.
They'll think you're dumping candles or something...  Or use morbicid if you
want to make people wonder about you.

After all that, I want to make clear that I'm not picking on Thetford.  I
consider both chemicals to be perfectly safe for the intended application.
I'm just pointing out that when people get that green-tinged touchy-feely
all-in-harmony-with-nature feeling after buying something labeled "green",
perhaps the emotion is misplaced.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: bulk formaldehyde, BUT WHAT OF THE DRY HANDS?
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 05:00:10 -0500
Message-ID: <>

What I had compared to dry skin is like comparing an atom bomb to a fire
cracker....  The only thing I can liken my feet and hands to are photos I've
seen of limbs after an explosive detonated nearby.

I don't know what the disease was.  Some dermatologists called it eczema but
from what I've read on the subject, eczema was just shorthand for "I don't
know."  The best theory was posed by the last dermatologist I visited when I
was about 19.  He said that this was probably genetic and that if it was it
would go away at about the age of 20 or 21 and turn into hypersensitive smell,
hay fever and allergies.  He was spot-on.  Unfortunately one allergy was to
latex which brings on complications of its own.  I could not (and still can't)
stand any sort of perfume or artificial odorants which made dating somewhat
complicated :-)

The most effective treatments were cortisone compounds, starting with the
original, Tarcortin.  This was an evil-smelling mix of coal tar and cortisone.
When the stuff broke out on my eyelids, cracking almost all the way through,
the Grenz ray treatment worked remarkably well.  Not so well on my hands and
feet.  The formaldehyde treatment worked for awhile.  In fact, "worked for
awhile" characterized every treatment.  The term "worked" has to be defined
too.  "Working" meant that it controlled the cracking well enough that I could
walk with my feet bandaged in <can't remember the -caine> soaked pads and well
enough that they didn't go septic.

Within months of my 21st birthday, all this stuff just simply vanished.  The
wounds healed, my skin got soft and smooth and I could walk normally.  There
is now no sign of the past other than the scars.

I now have very occasional, minor flareups on my feet.  The current drug of
choice is Elidel, a prescription cream.  The one before that was Valisone.
Elidel is indicated specifically for eczema but none of the previous drugs
were.  In fact, some of the drugs they tried had nothing to do with this kind
of skin disease.

I now do nothing in particular for skin care.  I'm not a fan of hand creams
but when I do get dry skin I use the hypoallergenic Neutragena non-scented
stuff.  It works, is latex-free, doesn't stink and isn't greasy.  Back then
the docs had me use Corn Huskers lotion on my hands, which also hardened and
cracked but not as bad as my feet.  Seems like it helped back then.  I tried
it again a few years ago but didn't like it at all.

In the interest of absolute accuracy, I will note that I made a small mistake
in my last post.  I had remembered getting the formaldehyde straight from the
bottle.  My memory from the pre-teens was wrong on the concentration.  My
uncle was a pharmacist and owned a surgical and drug supply company and
compounded the various treatments when I was a kid.  I inherited his formulary
books and logs.  I looked it up and found that the correct dose was 1 cup of
35% formaldehyde to a half gallon of water.  Soak the dressing in that, wrap
up the feet and bundle in plastic bags.  Still a pretty good shot of the


On Sun, 15 Feb 2004 00:41:41 -0500, "Steve Wolf" <> wrote:

>"Neon John" <> wrote in message
>> I was born with a genetic problem that resulted in the skin on my feet and
>> hands drying out, cracking open, getting infected, going gangrenous and
>> occasionally trying to kill me from the age of about 3 until about 18.
>You told us what didn't work ... what happened at 18 that solved the
>problem?  Everyone has or will have dry skin.  We all wonder what solutions
>work best.

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: use bulk formaldehyde as porta-potty  chemical
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 16:55:54 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 04:41:44 -0700, "R & A" <> wrote:

>"Neon John" <> wrote...
>> I'd be shocked, shocked if your wife's hospital didn't use
>> formaldehyde. It would be perhaps the only one in the nation.  It is
>> universally used in the pathology department and in the morgue, among
>> other places, to preserve specimens.
>    I didn't say that it wasn't used. I said that it wasn't used in the
>hospital.  The hospital she works in is a wee bit more concerned with the
>living, particularly so in the CVICU.  But formaldehyde is used in the area
>where those who have celestially checked out are waiting to be sent to the

Don't try to quibble.  Pathology is part of the main hospital (within a few
steps of the Emergency department in both local hospitals).  For that matter
the morgues are part of the county hospitals in this area.  Formalin is also a
popular cold sterilization chemical so I'd not be surprised to find its use in
other places in the hospital.

<wife ranting deleted>

You brought your wife into this.  Since she (apparently) won't sit down and
debate face-to-face, I have nothing more to say in that regard.

>    However, the previous couple of paragraphs are not the issue here.
>So, quit trying to blow smoke and change the subject.  Formaldehyde, no
>matter how it may be referred to, is dangerous and should not be used.  Too
>much data supports that statement, as you well know.

No I >DON'T< know that.  Formaldehyde is, of course, dangerous in the wrong
context.  But so are many other chemicals we use every day, things like
gasoline, drain cleaner, insecticides and who knows what else.  In fact, I bet
if you objectively compiled the hazards of gasoline and formaldehyde, gasoline
would be far worse. But like gasoline and other chemical, formaldehyde is
perfectly safe when used properly.  Disinfecting and deodorizing a black water
tank is one of those applications.

>    The following statement from Environmental Health & Safety Online should
>make the topic clear, even to you.
>"Short-term exposure to formaldehyde can be fatal; however, the odor
>threshold is low enough that irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes
>will occur before these levels are achieved. Long-term exposure to low
>levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and
>sensitization. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen and has been
>linked to nasal and lung cancer, and with possible links to brain cancer and

No, it is NOT clear to even me because it is wrong on several points.  First
off, formaldehyde >IS< detectable by odor before the onset of irritation.
It's not a particularly annoying smell in low concentrations but once one
knows the odor, one can detect it long before it becomes irritating.

The statement that formaldehyde is a human carcinogen is flat wrong.  The
correct statement would read something like "formaldehyde has been linked to
cancer in animals and is suspected in human cancer."  The term "linked" has no
causal meaning.  You and I are now "linked" since we've debated on usenet.
This is just so much blather.

Most of this blather comes from California's infamous "known to the State of
California to cause cancer" list, known as the Prop 65 list.  To refresh your
memory, Prop 65 was a voter initiative and not the result of any scientific
work.  It's a long running joke in scientific circles that some California
propeller-headed granola nuts claim to know more about cancer than the rest of
the world.  The actual list is quite entertaining.  It can be downloaded here:

This is the list that until December of last year included saccharin as a
chemical "known to the state of California to cause cancer."

When you strip all the BS away, the main problem associated with formaldehyde
is that there is a group of people out there who are extremely sensitized to
the stuff.  Just like there are people who are extremely sensitized to peanut
protein.  And that the media has sensationalized this tiny group.  In both
cases the response from the chemophobes is to ban the stuff.  Fortunately for
peanuts, the name is nice and familiar and doesn't sound like an evil

Formaldehyde is like radioactivity or asbestos.  When you start looking for
the stuff you find that it is everywhere.  It is a naturally made product that
occurs widely in nature.  And according to one industry web site I found, it
ranks 27th in the list of chemical manufacturing volume.  The thing is, unless
one has a sensitivity to the stuff or reads one of these kook threads on the
net, most people are never aware of the stuff simply because it doesn't


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Ewww, it STINKS in here!!
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 21:07:05 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 11 Aug 2004 18:18:56 GMT, "LongCoolWoman" <>

>No, not HERE (though I suppose some would debate me on that)!
>It stinks in my home.  We've been using Odorlos ever since we got our fiver,
>and we've never had a single problem, not one whiff of anything at all.
>Now, all of a sudden, it STINKS to high heaven as soon as you walk in the
>door.  The tank gets emptied and flushed out a MINIMUM of once a week, with
>a high-pressure cleaning wand constructed by dear husband, but to no avail.
>There are no leaks in the tank, no leaks in the hose, and no leaks in the

I've found that Odorlos stuff to be pretty much worthless.  I posted a few
weeks back about being stuck in a transmission repair parking lot in
Deeeetroit for 6 days while they hacked away on my transmission.

By about the 4th day the odor was unbearable, as the tank was partially filled
when the tranny blew and it was HOT.  I had been using the Odorlos stuff in
this (mom's) rig because she liked the smell.  (We really did go down the
aisle at CW and let her smell-test each brand of chemical!) By the end of that
day I'd dumped in the whole jug to no avail.

Fortunately there was a CW a couple miles away.  A friend took me there and I
bought a small container of the Thetford Campa Clean, the old reliable
formaldehyde-based treatment.  About a quarter of that container later, the
odor was practically gone.  A day later when I broke down, bought a blue turd
hauler and dumped the black tank into an abandoned septic tank behind the
shop, there was almost no odor.  The other interesting thing was that there
was NO intact toilet paper visible, only small strands.  Even though we use
good old Charmin.

With my rig, I normally don't use any treatment unless the tank is going to
have to sit with contents in it for several days.  Then I use the Thetford
formaldehyde stuff.  In other words, the tank really doesn't need any
treatment for a few days.

I had always been suspicious of the Odorlos product strictly on the basis of
the huge amount of money they spend on advertising.  My suspicions were born
out on this trip.

Oh, BTW, the Thetford product is carried by Camp Wallyworld so you can get it
most anywhere.


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