Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Causes Chemical Burn
Netlore Archive: Forwarded email describes "chemical burns" sustained by a 5-year-old child when he scrubbed his own skin with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge.
Description: Viral message
Circulating since: Nov. 2006
Status: Partly true (see details below)
Email contributed by Kim C., June 19, 2007:
Subject: Magic Erasers, read if you have any contact with kids!
Analysis: The above text (or the majority of it, at any rate) originated as a November 2, 2006 blog posting on Kerflop.com, written by a businesswoman and mother of three named Jessica. Based a harrowing experience involving her own five-year-old son, she sought to warn other parents of the potential hazard posed to children by the unsupervised use of Scotch-Brite Easy Erasing Pads and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. We have no reason to doubt the sincerity of her effort.
There are two points at issue, however. One has to do with unauthorized additions to the text, including an opening paragraph referring to a different child altogether and an attached photo which never appeared in the original article; the other pertains to the question of whether or not the injuries suffered by Jessica's son were actually "chemical burns."
Who is Kolby?
As Jessica herself noted in a follow-up blog posting, it is in the nature of forwarded emails that "information is added, changed, or misused" by other parties at will. In this case a preface was added — signed by someone named Karlee — lamenting the injuries sustained by her son Kolby while playing with a Magic Eraser sponge. We have no way of knowing who these people are, let alone whether a child named Kolby actually suffered injuries similar to those of Jessica's son (whose name is Jacob).
Likewise, we have no information on the origin of the photo showing a child with burns or abrasions on his arms. According to Jessica, whom I contacted via email, the picture is not of her son — who had facial injuries — nor does she have any idea where it came from.
Given these dubious addenda, not to mention the fact that her original posting is copyrighted, Jessica requests that recipients of the message simply delete it and point interested parties to her website instead of passing the spurious email along.
Chemical burn or abrasion?
As Jessica herself admits in later postings, it is by no means an established fact that her son's injuries were chemical burns. The product safety specs for Scotch-Brite Easy Erasing Pads (MSDS) and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (MSDS) list no soaps, solvents, or other chemical ingredients of any kind. The pH factor of Magic Erasers (and presumably Scotch-Brite Pads) falls between 8 and 10 — alkaline enough, according to a poison control center consulted by Jessica, to cause a "base chemical burn." And they ought to know. But it bears pointing out that even a pH of 10 to 12 is comparatively mild on the alkalinity scale. Baking soda has a pH of 9, for example, Milk of Magnesia has a pH of 10, and soapy water has a pH of 12 (see pH scale).
Conceivably, a patch of skin — especially the sensitive skin of a child — could be made more susceptible to irritation by a weak alkali if it is mildly abraded by, say, the melamine foam surface of an Easy Erasing Pad. With vigorous enough rubbing, on the other hand, perhaps the material itself is capable of causing injuries such as those shown in the photograph. It is also possible that an allergic reaction was involved.
Product warnings updated
In any case, we oughtn't to assume the accuracy of the title of this message, "Chemical Burns to Children," nor any statements in the body of the text implying the same, because it has not been established that chemicals played any role at all.
Can children harm themselves by misusing these products? The answer is clearly yes, and despite the misadventures of her blog posting (not to mention the rancor with which it was received by some), we have Jessica to thank for the manufacturers' decision to amend their product labels to include warnings against rubbing them on the skin and allowing their unsupervised use by children.
Last updated: 08/09/07