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Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Spray A Day Keeps HIV Away...?

Did you know that Lysol is clinically proven to kill the HIV virus? I was unaware of this fact until recently, when a frustrated friend of mine sent me an instant message venting about her latest momcapade. My friend is the proud mother of a precocious 11 year old boy – we'll call her “My Friend” and him “The Boy” for the purposes of this post. “The Boy” is a great kid, and “My Friend” has taken a lot of effort to ensure that “The Boy” has a real semblance of a childhood. “My Friend's” biggest fear is that “The Boy” will grow up too fast, and so “The Boy” is a truly refreshing child, a throwback to a time when kids were actually kids past the age of 10. “The Boy” plays video games and basketball. He hangs out with a group of friends whose parents all know each other. He is expressive, funny and at times silly – the way children are meant to be. However, he is also, masterfully curious – which can sometimes lead to trouble. This is one of those times.

“So my son thinks he can prevent himself from getting HIV by spraying himself w/lysol daily - I blame the propaganda in advertising for this foolishness;” this is the IM that starts our conversation. She goes on to tell me how her son and a few of his friends were caught spraying each other with Lysol after their skin and eyes became irritated from the disinfectant. (It's perfectly okay to laugh, I did – the visual IS funny). When asked why they were spaying themselves, the group (of future scientist) stated that they were trying to protect themselves from catching HIV. Parents of this motley crew, puzzled as to how the juveniles arrived at the assumption that Lysol was a state of the art prophylactic, probed the boys even further. “Lysol protects against HIV?” they asked, to which they were given the opportunity to read it for themselves. The can of disinfectant stated plainly that the disinfectant solution does kill the HIV-1 (AIDS Virus).

I don't have any Lysol laying around, but I found this official claim on the web:

“Hospital-grade tuberculocidal, virucidal, fungicidal and bactericidal disinfectant and deodorant spray kills 99.9 percent of germs within 30 seconds. Highly effective against TB, MRSA, poliovirus Type 1, hepatitis A, and HIV-1 (AIDS Virus). Prevents odors and growth of damaging mold and mildew. Does not contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Use in restrooms and food service areas.”

“My Friend” feels that the company is being irresponsible with its labeling – I disagree. After some initial online investigation, I found some interesting facts. First the language used on Lysol products made for the home is different than the language used on Lysol products made for industrial use (i.e. hospitals and restaurants). Language on home products do not typically include the HIV claim:

LYSOL® Disinfectant Spray is an EPA registered disinfectant that kills more than 99.9% of illness causing bacteria and viruses on environmental surfaces in your home.* Unlike other sanitizing products which only kill bacteria, LYSOL® Disinfectant Spray even kills nasty viruses that can cause illnesses such as the flu, the common cold, and infectious diarrhea among young children. It even works to control the growth of mold and mildew, among the most common type of allergens, on surfaces you seldom think of like plastic shower curtains. Mold spores are among the most common types of allergens in your home all year long. So killing mold and mildew can help to reduce your exposure. No wonder its the #1 brand recommended by pediatricians.

LYSOL® Disinfectant Spray can be used throughout your home on surfaces such as: doorknobs, telephones, counter tops, sinks, garbage cans, diaper pails, toilet areas, faucets. Use LYSOL® Disinfectant Spray to eliminate the following bacteria, fungi and viruses on hard non-porous surfaces*:
Viruses: Influenza, Rhinovirus (the leading cause of the common cold), Rotavirus (the leading cause of infectious diarrhea in children), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) (the leading cause of lower respiratory infection in children); Bacteria: Staph MRSA and Strep, E.Coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter; Fungi: Athlete'a Foot Fungus, Mold, Mildew
*when used as directed

Products with labels that do include the HIV language (as used earlier above) denotes that the product was intended for uses outside of the home. Also note that the home label clearly states “Use LYSOL® Disinfectant Spray to eliminate the following bacteria, fungi and viruses on hard non-porous surfaces”.

In fairness, Lysol does seem dedicated to the safe usage of their products. The intention is not to mislead the average consumer. The disinfectant does actually kill the HIV virus on hard non-porous surfaces - though HIV can only be contracted by humans through fluid interaction - so the claim could be considered a bit misleading (by angry

I found the entire situation interesting. I know a lot of people who work with children the same age as “The Boy,” so my immediate thought was whether this was an isolated incident or the beginings of an urban legend. Can you imagine, scores of kids all over the country with little understanding of biology and less understanding of sexually transmitted diseases armed only with the information that HIV is dangerous and that Lysol kills HIV? Poison control may have an epidemic in the making on their hands.

I'm including this post on Social Angst for a couple of reasons. The first is to remind parents and loved ones of preteens that it is truly never too early to discuss sex and sexually transmitted diseases. The truth of the matter (as this little anecdote exemplifies) is that if you don't make accurate information available, inaccurate information will make itself available. The second reason is to offer preteens of cyberspace a place to have their questions regarding HIV and Lysol answered accurately. Lastly this post serves to make you guys aware of what kids are we can help them think more critically.

I suggested to “My Friend” that “The Boy” needs to serve a couple hours of community service in response to this situation. A two page paper assignment may persuade him to ask mom first the next time he has health questions. However she decides to handle it, making the point that he should come to her with health questions, should be the ultimate goal.

More Information on HIV: Fact Sheet - Stopping the Spread of HIV - Get information on how to talk to your children about HIV. - More information about talking to children about HIV. Broken down by age group.

Sources and more information:
Product Description and FAQ on
Product Description on
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