For Pete’s Sake, Just Wash Your Hands
Published February 15, 2018 | Opinion
A few days ago, I went to my bank to deposit some money into my account. When I walked up to the teller, I noticed that her face was extremely inflamed and she looked uncomfortable. I asked her if she was okay, and she apologized. She said, “Oh, I’m sorry but I seem to be having an allergic reaction to something.” I asked the bank teller if she knew what might have caused it. She said she wasn’t sure but that she thought it might be related to the Lysol they had been spraying around the office that morning. “With all the people coming down with the flu, we’ve been trying to disinfect everything,” she said.
I offered some empathy. “Yes, it does seem like an awful lot of people are getting sick lately.”1 But Lysol? I remembered reading once how toxic Lysol was and how it should be avoided as a household cleaning product. The U.S. government classifies Lysol as a pesticide.2 3 “Ah no, though,” I told the teller, “stay away from that stuff.”
In 2011, the Daily Beast included Lysol disinfectant spray in its list of “most toxic home-cleaning products.” The publication noted ethyl alcohol, carbon dioxide, and triethanolamine as the “potentially harmful ingredients” in the product and that they were “suspected of causing cancer, developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity, respiratory toxicity.”5 Reproductive toxicity? Apparently, during the first half of the 20th century douching with Lysol was a form of female contraception.7
By 1940, the commercial douche had become the most popular birth control method in the country, favored by women of all classes. It would remain the leading female contraceptive until 1960, when a breakthrough technology—oral contraceptives—knocked it off its lofty pedestal. An inexpensive alternative to male and medical methods, the antiseptic douche was ineffective, even dangerous. Scores of douching preparations, though advertised as modern medical miracles, contained nothing more than water, cosmetic plant extracts, and table salt. On the other hand, many others, including the most popular brand, Lysol disinfectant, were soap solutions containing cresol (a constituent of crude carbolic acid, a distillate of coal and wood), which, when used in too high a concentration cause severe inflammation, burning, and even death.8The active ingredient in Lysol is benzalkonium chloride9 10 (also known as alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride11 12). Well, it turns out that benzalkonium chloride can produce allergic reactions such as a “rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.”13 So that might explain my bank teller’s bright red face.
Lysol is not something you want to be spraying around your home or office. There are much better ways to avoid catching influenza. Here are a few of them, as recommended by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC):
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick. If you are sick, stay home.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and eat healthy foods rich in vitamins C & D.
- Get adequate sleep, lower stress and exercise regularly when you are well.
- Consider holistic options like chiropractic, homeopathic, naturopathic and acupuncture to heal and stay well.14
There have been reports of accidental injections of benzalkonium chloride into humans. In one case, a male nurse attempted suicide by injecting himself with benzalkonium chloride. The individual was ultimately treated for acute respiratory distress syndrome and survived.21 In another case, a dental patient was accidentally injected with benzalkonium chloride instead of a local anesthetic while having her tooth extracted. The patient developed “chin and neck swelling led to dyspnea” and she “lost consciousness.”22
According to NVIC’s Barbara Loe Fisher, “Reported reactions to anthrax vaccine have ranged from mild to severe local reactions, fever, chills and nausea that resolve without permanent damage to serious reactions resulting in permanent autoimmune and brain dysfunction, including chronic disabling fatigue, persistent headaches, severe joint pain and crippling arthritis, numbness and muscle weakness, severe memory loss, paralysis, seizures and death.”23
Back to the “flu.” Wash your hands. Plain soap and water.