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WTF Friday: Your Band Kid Could DIE March 25, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.

I read this the other day and was so bowled over by the whatthefuckiness of it that I have to share.  My dissertation on “Why I Love Charo” will have to wait another week.  It’s a short article.  Go on and give it a read.

Your kid’s crusty clarinet may be harboring germs.

I don't even want to think about what kind of perv diseases you'd get from that clarinet.

First of all, YOU THINK?

Listen to this:  ““We swabbed the instruments from the mouthpiece end all the way to the bell and we also collected what was expelled from the bell and looked at the instrument cases,” he says. “And we were absolutely shocked by the results.”

You mean to tell me that fucking SCIENTISTS, one of whom is a microbiologist, were absolutely shocked to find out that instruments–in this case two clarinets, two oboes, two saxophones, two mellophones, two trombones, two trumpets, and one cornet–had bacteria on them?  Seriously, guys?  Any mother in the room could have told you that.

One of these uber-geniuses has spent THIRTY YEARS “researching the disease-producing germs lurking on common objects such as toothbrushes, dentures, athletic mouth guards and pacifiers.”

Thirty years to find out that THINGS YOU STICK IN YOUR MOUTH GET GERMY.

Can I just tell you how much I’d like to kick the “journalist” who wrote this in the vagina?  I mean, let’s set aside the fact that she wrote an article about two “scientists” who “discover” germs on things that people put in their mouths and failed to mention how much money was wasted paying people to discover things we already knew.  But okay, let’s say we let that one go.  After all, I suppose someone has to be in charge of reporting the painfully obvious.

But then there’s the part where she gives the article some punch with some nice, juicy sensationalism.  It’s the Today show, so you can see where she’s going after the Mom Demographic.  She details the diseases your kid “may” get from a dirty instrument.  They “could get” staph infections.  There’s an “increased chance” of corneal infections.  They “have the potential” to cause food poisoning.  Endophthalmitis.  Brain abscess.  Asthma.  And kids are more at risk because their immune systems are still developing.


What it doesn’t say, and what would be helpful information to have, is how many kids have actually contracted an illness from a band instrument.   Something tells me the statistics are less than staggering, even in places where kids have to share instruments and do a potentially shitty job of cleaning them.  If the numbers were bigger, I imagine the headline would have been more like “Crusty clarinets caused 150,000 staph infections last year.”  Or 1,000 reported brain abscesses.  Or even 10 cases of pink-eye.  As it is, a more accurate headline would probably be “Sharing a dirty clarinet is why your kid has had a cold all winter.”

It seems to me that if kids are sharing instruments, certainly disinfecting the mouthpiece is a good idea.  As expensive as they are, I’d want my kid to have her own reeds to use.  I know the shared recorders and slide whistles at the elementary school are cleaned with disinfectant for the same reason the dentist autoclaves his instruments between patients.  Seriously, this is something we’ve known for a long time.

But most kids I know have their own instrument, and they take it apart and wipe it down at least once a week.  Bug does it when she practices as part of her practice routine.  Why?  Because she was taught that cleaning it is part of playing it, and besides that, her mother told her THINGS YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH ARE GERMY.  The scientists in the article say that taking your instrument apart and wiping it down once a week will decrease the germs to an “acceptable level.”  Oddly enough, reaching an acceptable level is unacceptable to them, and sterilizing the instrument in ethylene oxide to get rid of all the germs is what’s recommended.

I found the Material Safety Data Sheet for liquid ethylene oxide, and let’s just say that there’s a reason you don’t see it on the shelves of your grocery store next to the bleach and ammonia.  Call me crazy, but it seems to be way more “potentially hazardous” than the crusty clarinet.  I’ll take my chance with herpes, thanks.

I’m willing to bet the money spent on the study that “discovered that germs live on the things that go in our mouths” would be enough to buy every kid their own band instrument so that they don’t have to share their germs.

But then what do I know?  I’m only a mother.



1. Gary M - March 25, 2011

Can’t wait for the María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Gutiérrez de los Perales Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Hinojosa Rasten (aka Charo) dissertation; I’ve actually seen her perform live and she’s a wonderful entertainer!

2. Aimee - March 25, 2011

Well, first of all, scientists like that have ABSOLUTELY NO COMMON SENSE. Seriously. I have one in my family who, while helping us move, wrapped tupperware in newspaper.

Second….cuchi cuchi!

3. elizabeth M. - March 29, 2011

I think you have to take any popular reporting of a scientific study with a few grains of salt. What sounds like an absurd thing to study on the face of it, might have been valid for reasons the popular press didn’t pick up on. That said, in the 80s I had a good chuckle when I read an article in our local paper on alcoholism. The researchers found that something like 80% of alcoholics believe they drink because they have problems, but really, they have problems because they drink. I wondered how many PhDs it took to figure that one out.

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