Kills 99.9% of Germs

Ever saw those disinfectant advertisments on Astro TV? I always get irritated with the statement, “Kills 99.99% of Germs.” It sounds like it was written by lawyers with a penchant for escape clauses. I mean why not just say, “Total annilihation of bacteria!”. Same with those ladies anti-ageing creams: “Reduce the appearance of wrinkles in 2 weeks!” Hey, why not say, “Reduce wrinkles, so help me God.”

My suspicion was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal.

To cite a 99.9% fatality rate, manufacturers don’t have to kill 99.9% of all known bugs. Regulations don’t require them to disclose which bugs they exterminate, just that the products are effective against a representative sample of microbes. For instance, many products can’t kill Clostridium difficile, a gastrointestinal scourge, or the hepatitis A virus, which inflames the liver. Yet by killing other, more common bugs, they can claim 99.9% effectiveness.

This is like arguing with your professor to ask her adjust the exam results’ Bell Curve so your “F” can sneak in as a “D”. As Disraeli said, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”.


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