Watch out for "nature" scams
By Walter Jowers
JULY 20, 1998: Remember laundry balls, the $75 plastic balls full of blue water that were supposed to replace several years' worth of laundry detergent? For a while, enviro-conscious types were buying and selling 'em like old men swapping pocketknives down at the town square. Well, if you like laundry balls, you're going to love ozone generators.
Did you know that the average person spends 90 percent of his time indoors? And that the U.S. government rates indoor air pollution as the nation's biggest pollution problem? Are you tired of pesky odors, sniffles, sneezing, and wheezing?
Well, ladies and gents, you can clean up your indoor air the all-natural way, with an Alpine Air Purifier. It works the same way nature does, through ionization and the creation of natural levels of ozone. Ozone is nature's own disinfectant! The Alpine Air Purifier electronically reaches into every corner within range, purifying air even through walls and doors!
Please, tell me you were getting suspicious when you got to the adjective "all-natural." Tell me you felt the scam wave break over you when you envisioned an air cleaner doing its magic through walls and doors.
If you've already bought one of these ozone-blowing air purifiers, I don't want to hurt your feelings. But the fact is, you're a victim. The sales guy told you it works like a thunderstorm, right? He looked you in the eye and said, "Remember the way air smells after a good, strong storm? Not like pine or vanilla or some artificial spray, but just really, really clean?" (This is actual marketing talk, taken from the Web site of a California company that sells Alpine Air ozone generators.)
That kind of sales talk is hard to resist. Who wouldn't want a machine that promises to override cat-box funk, sneaker odor, and bad-potato-salad-in-the-fridge reek? Especially if the same machine will cure your allergies and maybe even your asthma. Shoot, if an ozone machine could really do all that, I'd have one in every room of my house.
But here's a little bit of the ugly science: OSHA reported the following in its Industrial Exposure and Control Technologies: Regulated Hazardous Substances Report, "The primary health effect associated with ozone is lung damage.... Ozone may initiate, accelerate, or worsen a bacterial or viral respiratory-tract disease." The study also stated that short-duration exposure to ozone caused dryness of the throat, nose, and eyes.
Long story short: The amount of ozone really needed to clean up indoor air would make people, pets, and plants in the house sick. Anybody who says otherwise is just blowing ozone up your pants.
If your house smells bad, you don't need an ozone machine. You need soap and water and elbow grease. Wash down the walls and mop the floors. Empty the cat box. Throw out the rotten stuff in the fridge. Take out the trash. I know this routine works, because that's what my aunts back in South Carolina did. These hardworking women keep their houses cleaner than surgical instruments. If a grandbaby decides to lick the floor, the floor will get dirtier than the baby's tongue. My aunts' houses are by-God clean, and they smell good.
If you've got a problem with allergy-inducing particles--dust, pollen, mold, or spores--you just need to install legitimate air filters. Here at my house, we've put 4-inch-thick accordion filters in the heat-and-air returns. They do a pretty good job of keeping the dust down. If you need more filtration than that, you can install electronic air filters, or even HEPA filters. (Asbestos cleanup crews use HEPA filters.)
If your house smells like cigarette smoke, give up the butts and start dipping snuff. Over the weekend, I went downtown to the Museum of Tobacco Art and History, and I've decided snuff smells great.
Don't waste your money on gadgets for the gullible. Lay off the laundry balls and the ozone machines. They're like Outgro, the old ingrown-toenail remedy that boasted it wouldn't "affect the growth, shape, or position of the nail." That's code for, "Outgro does nothing."
And stop falling for that "all-natural" hype. Listen to me: All this stuff's natural. Every bit of it, even plutonium. There are no supernatural ingredients.
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