12 September 2012

Anti Anti-Microbials

As if I don't have enough things in my life to be irritated about, my kid came home from school yesterday with a box of pencils.



Oh, but not just any pencils, pencils impregnated with Microban.

In little print, it says: "Microban protection inhibits the growth of odor and stain causing bacteria on the pencil."

Why? Why do we care that our pencils don't smell, and don't get stained? Why? Is it worth subjecting our small children to chemicals to kill these little bacteria?

I - because I am that kind of crank - started googling Microban.

Here's what it says on the Microban website:

Today, Americans are spending more and more time at their desks in school, work or home offices. Dirty desktops can create the ideal conditions for damaging microbes to grow and reproduce. In a recent study, researchers found that the average desk had 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Built-in Microban antimicrobial technology provides an added level of cleanliness for your office and school products by inhibiting the uncontrolled growth of microbes, such as bacteria that can cause odors and product deterioration.

Read that closely - maybe the desk is covered with bacteria, but this product is only going to kill the bacteria that "cause odors and product deterioration" - not bacteria that might actually make you sick.

Microban is vague about what chemical is in those pencils:

Microban utilizes a broad range of antimicrobial technologies to meet the specific needs of your product application. We’ll evaluate your efficacy requirements, manufacturing processes, product usage conditions and durability needs to find the right antimicrobial solution for your unique product.

A few of the weblinks I turned up indicated that it could be triclosan in those pencils, a chemical one really doesn't want in the hands of prepubescent girls because it's an endocrine disrupter, like BPA. And how many people do you know that chew pencils, or just hold them in their teeth while they're pulling out the measuring tape? There, triclosan in your mouth!

SafeMama notes that "it just feeds into people’s paranoia about germs and nothing else. I don’t think we’re all going to die if everything we own isn’t protected by Microban."

Rodale points out that not only are antibacterial products unnecessary, they're likely to be more expensive too.

And the The Daily Green led me to an NRDC blog and from there to the HuffPo and that's when my head exploded.

Come on. Pencils are pencils. They might get smelly or moldy. So what? Wash your hands and get on with your day. Or throw the damned pencil out - it's not like they're expensive or likely to last for a long time.

The only way we're going to stop the manufacturers from putting anti-bacterial crap in everything is to stop buying it. I never do, but still I have a box of anti-microbial pencils in my house. And yes, you can be sure I'm sending all of this information to my kid's school.

26 comments:

Claudia said...

Ugh. I hate all the anti-bacterial stuff. i will bet it's the cause of all these new food allergies cropping up - part of the "too clean" world in which we live. Also, I've never known a pencil with a bad smell. they've always smelled like...pencils. Who thinks of these things?

Patois42 said...

I completely get the exploding head action. What we as a society are suckered into buy buy BUYING is stunning. I want a follow-up on what the school says.

Awesome Mom said...

That is seriously nuts!!!!! No way would I want to have that in my house either. Are they on a secret mission to develop a super germ?

readersguide said...

This is nuts! Are moldy pencils a common problem? I've never seen one.

AnnetteK said...

Ugh. I hate antibacterial stuff too.

liz said...

Holy guacamole, that's...I'm...what the?

No. No antiseptic pencils. That's it. That's all. Just no.

Julie Pippert said...

UGH I am so not a fan of the sanitizing obsession. I hate that "magic soap." I am sick to crazy of telling my kids no I am right and that's not soap and it doesn't clean anything. I am sick of telling them no they must wash hands and use plain old soap. I am sick of being the lone voice on that so they think *I* am nuts. I use vinegar to absorb odor and natural oils for microbial, antibacterial and antifungal and I'm not even a nut about this stuff. My kids came home sick form the first week of school and my thought was: way to go, build that immune system.

Now they aren't immunocompromised or anything so I respect whatever parents need to do for those kids.

But enough with hand sanitizers. And microban pencils. PSHAW

Julie Pippert said...

Why did she come home with the box of pencils, by the way? It is usually the other way around...

De said...

Yay! 100% behind you.

De said...

Yay! 100% behind you.

Ilina said...

My head would explode too. I hate all the scare tactic antibacterial stuff. If anything, I should think it creates false security so kids don't wash their hands properly or enough.

Marinka said...

Wow! that's crazy! It seems like they are more concerned about the pencil's well-being than the kids. I think it's great that you found out what it is.

Anonymous said...

hello ! my dad was in the korean war. And my sons are in the US Marine Corps. one is deployed right now. He is a helicopter pilot. Rest in peace Uncle Phil. victoria

Rabecca Larson said...

My first thought was, how is M getting pencils FROM school? We are given a long, specific list and expected to bring everything to school the first day (I've ranted about this school-supply tyranny on FB before.) But fortunately, the specified pencils are plain ol' Ticonderogas, no Microban.

Because adding antimicrobial coating to pencils is the most ridiculous, paranoid, false-sense-of-security marketing hooha I've heard all week! COME ON, people, pull your heads out!?

Has anyone spent time in a classroom? Everything stinks! Who cares about the stupid pencils? Also, the teachers use Clorox wipes and sanitizer products constantly and encourage the kids to do the same. This makes me nuts.

We use regular soap, inexpensive natural cleaners like Biokleen, and no antibacterial anything. Probably unrelated, but we get sick less often than anyone I know. Some years nobody gets sick at all, other years we might get one cold. This is probably attributable to our antisocial lifestyle, but it works for me.

Good for you, and I hope the teachers get something from your letter!

Emily said...

I've never ONCE in my 39 years met a smelly pencil.

The Management said...

microban on PENCILS? that's pretty outrageous. I agree with you all the way when it comes to things like this!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I can see people buying these pencils, not to keep the pencils safe but to keep the kids safe. Pencils are a shared resource in elementary school, or at least here they are; so if kids share pencils, and chew on pencils... I can imagine people thinking GREAT! and not realizing that the anti-bacterial agent is more dangerous than the bacteria itself.

Jeanne said...

My kids caught everything when they were small, and they had a rare kind of non-allergic asthma, so every bug resulted in long nights of coughing/wheezing and then eventual sinus infection. I was the queen of the antibacterial wipes.
Now, though, they are better able to fight off whatever they catch, and I've been consciously backing away from anything antibacterial.
Even in those nightmare years, though, I think I'd have backed away from pencils with chemicals--as others have pointed out, kids chew on those (and so do my cats, for that matter).

readersguide said...

The sad thing is, I really like Ticonderoga pencils.

Bibliomama said...

In an effing PENCIL? I was just explaining the whole 'antibacterial everything is not good' to Eve in the grocery store the other day. It's so hard finding liquid soap that isn't antibacterial. But I thought goddamned pencils were safe. Jesus.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It's ridiculous.

Viviane said...

First, the chemical companies invent "moldy pencils" to sell you the "safe antimicrobial" pencils, and next thing you know, the pharmaceutical companies invent fake illnesses to sell you the proper drugs... that is the subject of a book that just came out in France.

Kyla said...

Seriously! I'm not pro-germ or anything, especially with a KayTar on my hands, BUT I hate the wildfire spread of these anti-microbial products...not only because of the chemical issue, but because of the RESISTANT bacteria we are creating! I don't even buy anti-bacterial hand soap for that reason. Stinky pencils are much less of a problem than MRSA, for goodness sake. Let's all just wash our hands regularly, eh?

leanne said...

Just wow. First surprised that the school is handing out pencils. Then the fact that they are anti-microbial pencils just kinda sends things completely over the crazy cliff. I try to avoid all anti-bacterial stuff. Just give me the plain old, boring soap/pencils/stuff I had when I was growing up (writes the cranky old woman).

Christina said...

It also bothers me that several well-known shoe brands put anti-microbials(some Microban) in some of their shoes (Teva, Lands' End). And on the subject of triclosan, the majority of Bath and Body Works liquid soaps contain triclosan and these products seem to be so popular today with young kids; even some Dial bar soaps contain triclosan.

From the Microban website: "*Microban® antimicrobial product protection is engineered to protect products from bacteria, mold and in some cases algae that can cause stains, odors and product deterioration. Microban protection is not designed to protect users from disease causing microorganisms."

smrighter said...

I bought Tikonderoga for my kids last year but I don't remember the box saying it had microban. Do you think that they still have it in them? I'd rather not have to throw them out. I do remember recently seeing a box clearly labeled with microban and was surprised. Any ideas on which graphite pencils do NOT use Microban? I'd love to know.