July 5th, 2011

Hey Chlorine Industry-I’m a Mom FOR Cooties

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mom against toxic chemicals

Have you heard about the Moms Against “Cooties” campaign? The chlorine industry is spearheading a massive campaign targeted at moms. They are trying to promote the use of bleach in schools and daycare centers to protect children from “cooties” (really people-cooties? The last time I used the word “cooties” I was in 5th grade talking about boys not germs).

Deceptive and silly campaign

The whole campaign is ridiculous. But the piece I find most intriguing and deceptive, as also pointed out by Annie over at Phd in Parenting, is that the chlorine industry has completely hidden the fact that they are driving this campaign. The “About Us” section on the Moms Against Cooties site says “Moms Against Cooties is brought to you by Water Quality and Health Council. “ No mention of the chlorine industry. They didn’t make it easy to find out who they were. I had to Google “Water Quality and Health Council” and go to a separate site to find out the truth:

The Water Quality and Health Council is an independent, multidisciplinary group sponsored by the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association.  The group comprises scientific experts, health professionals and consumer advocates who serve as advisers to the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council.

Bring on the cooties: keep out the harmful chemicals

The Moms Against Cooties site says: “Caregivers should be careful to disinfect frequently touched surfaces on a regular basis with a simple chlorine bleach solution”.  What they forget to mention is that not all germs are bad.  Exposure to different viruses and bacteria can actually strengthen a child’s immune system. They also forgot to tell us that chlorine and bleach ARE bad.

The truth about chlorine:

  • Household bleach is the most common cleaner accidentally swallowed by children.
  • Children can be exposed to dangerous gases when cleaners containing bleach are mixed with other cleaning agents, such as ammonia
  • Chlorine reacts with organic matter in drinking water to produce trihalomethanes, which may cause cancer and possibly developmental effects
  • A recent study links children’s exposure to one byproduct, nitrogen trichloride, in chlorinated indoor pools to asthma.
  • There is some indication that chlorine by-products can cause kidney, bladder, pancreatic, and other cancers.
  • Chlorine bleach can cause severe skin, nose, throat, and eye irritation or chemical burns to broken skin.

Make the switch: How daycare centers and schools can disinfect naturally and safely without chlorine

I’m not suggesting that cleaning and disinfecting aren’t important. I am suggesting that cleaning can be done in a non-toxic and safe way.

  • Remember there’s no replacement for good ol’ fashioned soap and water.
  • Teach children good coughing and sneezing etiquette (into the crease of your elbow).
  • Use Healthy Child Healthy World’s checklist for suggestions and resources to help your preschool, daycare or school to make the switch.
  • Use non-toxic cleaners.
    • Make your own disinfectants. The Smart Mama has a few to test out.
    • My favorite DIY non-toxic disinfectant recipe: Mix together 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid castile soap, ½ cup of vinegar and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.

Remember: Some germ exposure is OK and can actually strengthen your child’s immune system. Bleach is not the answer.

What does your child’s school use to disinfect? Do you have a favorite bleach alternative?

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19 Responses to “Hey Chlorine Industry-I’m a Mom FOR Cooties”

  1. Wow! This is crazy. All that money going towards this?? It blows my mind. There are so many other ways they could be spending their money in a positive way that could actually protect the children in schools from germs. Ridiculous.

  2. I agree with you on this one! I think that a lot of kids are getting sick because we are too disinfectant-crazy! I never used anything like this while my boys were growing up (they are 4 now) and they have each only been sick 3 times in their lives, and it was from viral infections that cleared up within a few days. No allergies or anything. I say let the kids build up an immune system.

  3. Hi Stefanie-we have definitely gone overboard as a society with disinfectants! Like you said-a few germs are a good thing to build up immune systems. Amazing that your boys have only been sick 3 times! Now that’s impressive. Keep the germs coming :)

  4. Hi Meg-it really is crazy. You are so right-too bad the chlorine industry didn’t dedicate all that money towards something that would actually help children and keep them away from toxic chemicals.

  5. Hi Lori. I definitely agree on the “not all germs are bad” and that chlorine is bad. But doing some research on bleach (http://www.disinfect-for-health.org/myths-chlorine-bleach) has me giving it a little more thought. Curious as to what you think.

  6. NUTS!! Thanks for taking the steps to do that extra research and find out who is really behind the campaign.

  7. Wow, nice job smelling the rat, Lori! I hate when these industry-sponsored groups go by such trustworthy names as “Water Quality and Health Council”.

    The recent germ-phobic trend really bothers me. I don’t like fear-mongering in any form, it leads to people making bad decisions… like buying this BS! Thanks for the informative post.

  8. Thanks Andrea. I am amazed at how many people have bought into this campaign. The Moms Against Cooties site was not very forthcoming with info on who was backing the campaign-a sign that this whole thing isn’t really above-board. You’re right-fear can lead to impulsive and bad choices.

  9. The chlorine industry is apparently very sneaky Tiffany! They clearly don’t want the public to know that they’re behind this crazy campaign.

  10. Hi Stefanie-the link you sent is from the Water Quality & Health Council-aka the chlorine industry. They are the ones behind the Moms Against Cooties campaign. They want you to believe that chlorine bleach is safe, when it really can be very dangerous. Use of bleach can cause asthma, allergies, skin irritation and cancer. It can be toxic if swallowed. Take a look at this cheat sheet http://healthychild.org/issues/chemical-pop/chlorine/ for more chlorine facts.

    We never use bleach-there are so many safe alternatives out there! What are your thoughts on bleach?

  11. I haven’t really thought much about bleach. I don’t use it in my laundry (only eco friendly wash soap) and don’t use it around the house. It was interesting to me that it doesn’t contain chlorine and their simplified explanation of “Bleach is manufactured from salt and water to produce sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in bleach. Bleach is simply a water solution of this compound.” Would you mind if I shared this on my blog? I think it’s a great topic especially as we, all too soon, head into another school year. Thanks for all your research on this.

  12. Hi Stefanie-I just did a bit more leg work and turns out that saying chlorine bleach does not contain chlorine is true, but somewhat
    misleading. It doesn’tcontain diatomic chlorine gas, but (as you said) it does
    contain sodium hypochlorite, a form of chlorine. Very technical and confusing stuff! Feel free to share this information-it’s so important to get the word out. Thanks!

  13. This campaign is in fact a project of the Water Quality & Health Council, an organization of scientific experts, health professionals and consumer advocates who serve as advisors to the American Chemistry Council. This is not disguised in any way; “Moms Against Cooties is brought to you by the Water Quality and Health Council” appears on each page of the website. Our goal as the Water Quality & Health Council is to promote the responsible and appropriate use of chlorine disinfectant in environments where germs threaten people’s health.

    This campaign was created to promote proper disinfection techniques using bleach as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/childcaresettings.htm) and many states.

    Appropriate disinfection does not mean overuse of bleach. In fact, the WQ&HC conducted a survey this past holiday season and found that 47% of respondents over-estimated the amount of bleach needed to kill common germs (http://www.disinfect-for-health.org/holiday-food-safety-campaign-survey). You identified several risks in your “truth about chlorine” comment that result only through misuse of bleach products.

    There is an abundance of scientific data demonstrating that ineffective disinfection in homes, hospitals, child care centers, restaurants and other institutions makes children and adults ill. We believe the responsible approach to disease prevention is to provide accurate information about how to reduce the risk associated with contaminated surface, including the proper use of disinfectant chemicals.

    Effective cleaning of contaminated surfaces is an important first step in reducing risk. However, properly applied disinfectants are proven to kill the harmful bacteria and viruses that cleaning cannot remove. Finally, many green products or other alternative mixtures have not been proven to meet the standard required to be labeled as a disinfectant. So, if you select an alternative to bleach, be sure it will provide the same level of protection.

  14. Thanks for your comment Chris. I disagree-there is an element of disguise in the campaign. The Moms Against Cooties site does state that the campaign is “brought to you by the Water Quality and Health Council”. The site fails to mention that the Water Quality and Health Council is a “multidisciplinary group sponsored by the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council”. I had to uncover this information on another site. As a consumer, that feels deceptive and misleading.

    While you contend that ineffective disinfection can cause illness, there is a solid evidence that toxic chemicals, such as chlorine/ bleach, are making children and adults ill. I’m not disagreeing that disinfecting is at times important. However, there are studies demonstrating that using bleach causes a multitude of illnesses-ranging from skin irritation to cancer. There is no reason to subject anyone to toxic chemicals-especially when non-toxic alternatives are available.

    Also, germs are not necessarily bad-exposure to different viruses and bacteria can actually strengthen a child’s immune system.

  15. Just thought I’d share this link…
    http://www.dienviro.com/index1.aspx?BD=19282 read a book by Deidre Imus a few years ago and was very inspired by her work with kids, hospitals in trying to work with them to find less toxic solutions capable of the level of disinfectant needed in a hospital setting, without the effects that are so taxing especially to compromised immune systems, contradicting the ‘healing’ for the very patients in need. Anyhow, yes it is a link about her line of products developed, and I know there are MANY, many more (I love making my own)…just wanted to add to the discussion, that even in a hospital, school setting, it IS possible to find alternatives. I even remember reading about how it was an all around ‘win’ situation that saved money in many ways. Not much time for more research, better citing, but wanted to share, as perhaps a ‘jumping off point’ of inspiration for those that may not have heard. A hospital, gone green, hooray! Sure there are many others on the path, just the first to pop in mind. Great discussion, info., research.. and let’s not forget about good ‘ole hydrogen peroxide, cleans cuts just fine, why not surfaces needing disinfecting too?

  16. Hi Jenny-thank you so much for sending the link for Deidre Imus. I have heard a lot about her and her work sounds amazing and very inspirational. Such a perfect example of how disinfecting can be safe and non-toxic. There are so many safe alternatives out there. Why put anyone at risk? Really appreciate the comment.

  17. […] your own cleaning products! Until we know what’s in the products we buy off the shelf, we can mix our own with safe ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. Visit http://www.womensvoices.org for recipes and […]

  18. […] popular cleaning supply companies.  Until we know what’s in the products we buy off the shelf, we can mix our own with safe ingredients like vinegar and baking […]

  19. […] Chlorine bleach is marketed as the only way to clean and disinfect. Fortunately this isn’t the case. Cleaning and disinfecting can be done in a non-toxic and safe way. […]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

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