Monday, December 6, 2010
Today brings us yet another round of Think Before You Tweet. Twitter Moms is hosting a Lysol Twitter Party with the theme of Healthy Babies. It is scheduled to take place on twitter from 7:00pm to 8:00pm EST on Tuesday, December 7 using the hashtag #lysolmoms. There are already more than 100 people signed up to attend the twitter party for the chance of winning one of 10 $25 gift cards (presumably for Lysol products, but that isn't really clear in the invite).
While most people are happily confirming their attendance in the RSVP section with "WOOHOO" and "Wouldn't miss it!", a few moms have decided to think before they tweet. For example, twitter moms member Teresa Avila (@WellnessMomCA) said:
I fail to see how Lysol and keeping yourself or your babies healthy has anything to do with each other. There are much safer alternatives that kill germs, without the harmful side effects!
Ethanol is the primary ingredient in Lysol spray and is highly flammable, especially under pressure. Prolonged inhalation in a closed environment will create headaches, cough, fatigue and drowsiness. Skin exposure might result in severe redness and burning. Lysol spray uses denatured ethanol, which can cause ethanol poisoning when ingested.
Lysol spray contains carbon dioxide. It is colorless and odorless. In low amounts, carbon dioxide can affect your concentration. Increased amounts will cause your breathing rate to increase. And prolonged exposure can cause death from suffocation.
When using Lysol spray, be sure there is plenty of ventilation. Do not spray near your face and risk inhaling the fumes. Use on fabrics such as rayon, acrylic plastics and wood will cause damage.
Keep Lysol spray out of the reach of children and do not expose your children or pets to the spray. Do not spray on or near food because of the risk of ethanol poisoning.
I have not used store brands for 6 years now, because of chemical sensitivities brought on by these types of chemicals along with being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which is linked to chemical exposure. I only wish I had know the statistics before.
Another member, Amanda Kloster (@onlygreencanada), posted:
I don't know how "Lysol" and "raising healthy babies" go together. Lysol products contain so many chemicals! Toxicologist Shawn Ellis found Lysol products have up to 1000 times more chemical particles than their competitors, recorded at around 1,200 parts per million (average household is about 50 parts per million). These chemicals have been found to cause permanent eye damage, kidney and liver issues, and asthma. Google it or read more at http://bit.ly/gmcvKM
I think these women are right to be concerned. I was concerned the moment the e-mail about the twitter party hit my inbox.
On a general level, I think that with any corporately sponsored twitter party, people need to be aware that the companies have their own interests at heart. Lysol is obviously not going to organize a twitter party to tell you not to use its products nor is it going to organize a neutral twitter party that will provide truly neutral information on how to best keep babies healthy. With this type of event, people attending or watching on twitter should expect a series of carefully crafted tweets by the twitter party hosts (@twittermoms and @goodgirlgonered) about how wonderful Lysol is and how it helps keep babies healthy. They should also expect people who are only interested in a $25 gift certificate to re-tweet and help spread those messages to their friends while interjecting their enthusiasm for Lysol products (whether that is true enthusiasm or enthusiasm manufactured by the potential of winning a prize).
When it comes to Lysol in particular, it looks like the company has invested a lot in developing partnerships to help spread the word that people should "routinely clean and disinfect surfaces", indicating that "cleaning with soap, water, and scrubbing removes dirt and most germs," but that "using a disinfectant cleaner kills germs, giving even better protection." The problem is that messages like these breed dirt and germ fear in our society. It has parents keeping their children out of the natural dirt outside (Dirt is Good!), teachers slathering antibacterial crap on kids hands, and people constantly disinfecting things, all while exposing kids to more and more chemicals and not allowing them to develop natural resistance to the bugs around them.
In its report called Disinfectant Overkill, Women's Voices for the Earth outlines some of the concerns with the overuse of disinfectants:
As stories on the dangers of flu viruses, contaminated foods, and contagious illnesses proliferate in the media, advertisers increasingly try to convince consumers that antimicrobial cleaning products will protect their homes and families from infection. Likewise, manufacturers have capitalized on consumer fears by producing more products that contain antimicrobial chemicals. However, it is unnecessary to disinfect one’s homes to the degree that advertisers and manufacturers would have consumers believe.
Antimicrobial cleaning products (also known as disinfectants) are specifically intended to both clean surfaces and kill germs such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi. But research has shown that some of the most common antimicrobial chemicals used in cleaners could have serious health consequences, especially for women, cleaning workers, and young children. Also, the overuse of antimicrobials contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which some scientists say could leave the public with fewer tools in the fight against infectious diseases.
I agree with this conclusion. I do not think that routine disinfecting is a good idea (despite what Lysol and its partners recommend). I think people should consider alternatives to antibacterials and disinfectants. If I have a virus spreading like wildfire through my home, in addition to regular good practices like hand washing, I might consider using a natural disinfectant product (e.g. Seventh Generation Disinfectants), but I don't see the need to use those on a daily basis. If you absolutely must use a product like Lysol in your home, I think the one important message with regards to healthy babies would be to keep it away from your babies and anything they might touch or use. But I think the best approach is just to avoid it altogether.
In its report card on cleaning product companies, The Dirt in Cleaning Product Companies, Women's Voices for the Earth gave Reckitt Benckiser, the company that makes Lysol, an overall grade of C minus. While not all of its products are considered to be a concern (7 out of 65 products were flagged as problematic), the report indicated that the five companies reviewed "are failing to provide the public with the information they need to make informed buying decisions. It’s time for these companies to act like leaders and set an industry standard for comprehensive product labeling and removal of potentially harmful ingredients from ALL of their product lines." In particular, in the case of Lysol, the report flagged the following products as problematic because they contain the toxic ingredient benzalkonium chloride which has been linked to asthma:
- Lysol Brand II Disinfectant All-Purpose Cleaner (Dilutable) - Fresh Scent
- Lysol Brand II Disinfectant All-Purpose Cleaner (Dilutable) - Country Scent
- Lysol Brand II Disinfectant All-Purpose Cleaner (Dilutable) - Lemon Scent
- Lysol Brand Disinfectant Deodorizing All-Purpose Cleaner (Dilutable) - Fresh Scent
- Lysol Brand Disinfectant Deoderizing Cleaner - Mountain Air Scent
These products are not only unnecessary, but they are also potentially hazardous to our health. Before you jump on the bandwagon and tweet in support of #lysolmoms, think about what you are doing. Even if you do use those products in your home, are you really comfortable recommending them to others given the potential hazards? How do you think it affects your social capital when you tweet about toxic products under the guise of keeping babies healthy? Is it worth it for a chance to win a $25 gift card?
Image credit: Matthias Töpfer on flickr