Thursday, November 12, 2009

hand sanitizer: annoint thyself!

Here's a little quote from a piece on debating the effectiveness of hand sanitizer in protecting oneself from Swine Flu. Personally I look at this as fodder for a performance piece about mass media, capitalism, and religious ritual... or harbinger of apocalypse! (I jest... no really.)

"In the absence of agreement among experts, hand-sanitizer sales are soaring. And while no one has alleged that companies selling disinfectant products are exploiting the public's fear, those companies are producing significant profits.

Clorox Co. has directly credited swine flu fear for driving up sales of its Lysol disinfectant wipes. It reported earnings were up 23 per cent in the last quarter.

Other companies, such as Minnesota-based EcoLab Inc., and Ohio-based Steris Corp., have predicted sales of their alcohol-based hand sanitizer will double or even triple within the year.

'This is about the power of commerce,' said Nancy Tomes, professor and chair of the history department at Stony Brook University on Long Island of New York. 'It's being pushed by a lot of companies that make money on every bottle of sanitizer. You're a communist if you don't support the use of hand sanitizer.'

Tomes, who wrote the 1998 book The Gospel of Germs, doesn't use hand sanitizer. She believes a strong immune system is the best bet, and for her that means eating healthily and getting lots of sleep.

'What I see as most annoying is the message that there's something magical about hand sanitizer,' Tomes told 'This is not a public health issue. It's a mental health issue.'

Mental salve or not, companies will make it as long as people want to buy it. And right now there are plenty of willing buyers.

Jacalyn Duffin, the Hannah professor of the history of medicine at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., has even postulated that hand sanitizing become permanent, where people 'anoint' themselves with it before social interactions.

'It might become ritualized,' said Duffin, who began wondering about the permanency of the trend after seeing friends apply hand sanitizer automatically."

We'll see how everything pans out...

[link via]