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Rumors, hoaxes, urban legends and old wives' tales related to health and medicine.
  1. The Kidney Thieves

Acid Rain Alert
Forwarded emails and text messages claim the appearance of a "dark circle" around the moon means acid rain will fall between the 20th and 28th of the month and may cause skin cancer in those exposed to it.

AIDS From Contaminated Pineapple?
False rumor claims a 10-year-old boy contracted AIDS after eating pineapple from a roadside vendor who was infected with HIV.

Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer
This false rumor has been thoroughly trounced by medical professionals.

Aqua Dots Recall
TRUE: Forwarded emails and Internet postings warn that a popular children's toy called Aqua Dots ('Bindeez' in Australia) are made with a substance that breaks down into the 'date rape' drug GHB.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous?
Is it true that poinsettia plants are poisonous if ingested, especially by small children and pets?

Asbestos in Tampons
Toxic tampons? Two versions of this email alert are circulating, one more fraudulent than the other.

Asparagus and Cancer
Emailed article attributed to a biochemist offers medical case histories collected with the help of alleged cancer expert "Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S." purporting to prove that eating asparagus may prevent and/or cure cancer.

Aspartame Warning
"Rabidly inaccurate" email flyer dating from 1995, alleging that NutraSweet causes just about every malady known to humankind.

BBQ Melts Contact Lenses, Causing Blindness
Anecdotal stories claim the heat from a backyard barbecue can melt plastic contact lenses and fuse them to the eye, causing severe injury and blindness.

Bananas Spread Flesh-Eating Disease
Necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and deadly disease, allegedly infects an entire crop of Costa Rican fruit.

Beetle Boy
Newspaper accounts of the ordeal of Chandan Goswami, a 13-year-old Indian boy who astounded physicians by urinating live beetles.

Bird Flu, Tamiflu and the Donald Rumsfeld Connection
Forwarded email asserts a conspiratorial connection between the worldwide alarm over a possible avian flu pandemic and Donald Rumsfeld's financial interest in the company that patented the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

Blue Cross on Medicare Premium Increase
Viral message attributed to Blue Cross-Blue Shield claims monthly Medicare insurance premiums will increase to $247.00 in 2014 thanks to ObamaCare.

Bottled Water: Don't Drink Bottled Water Kept in Car
Forwarded email warns women not to drink bottled water that has been left in a car because the heat supposedly releases cancer-causing toxins which "leak" from the plastic into the water.

The 'Blue Star' LSD Tattoo
Email alert claims that colorful cartoon stickers laced with LSD pose a threat to children everywhere.

Brain Maggots / Sushi Worms
Disturbing images of what appears to be a worm infestation of a live human brain are circulating attached to two completely different stories, both of which are terrifying, but false.

Breast Infestation (Photo & Video)
Emailed image and video purport to document the medical case of anthropologist Susan McKinley, who failed to seek treatment for a rash and wound up with an infestation of larvae in her breast.

Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins
Viral message attributed to Johns Hopkins University claims alternative cancer treatments are more effective than chemotherapy and radiation.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite (Photos)
Emailed photos purport to show the progressive deterioration of a wound caused by the bite of a brown recluse spider.

Canola Oil Is Hazardous to Your Health!
Here we go again!  Net rumormongers claim that canola, usually touted as one of the healthier food oils, is actually very toxic to human beings.

Cockroach Eggs on Envelopes
Postal Service worker's tongue gives birth to live cockroach!

Cell Phones Cause Gas Station Explosions
Still unsubstantiated, but 'tis better to be safe than sorry.

Copper Pennies and Bee Stings
Forwarded email claims that taping a copper penny over a bee sting (or hornet sting) will provide overnight relief from redness and swelling

Citizens Against Breast-Feeding
Hoax, or a legitimate uprising of prudes?  The truth exposed!

Cockroach Egg Tacos at Taco Bell
A fast-food horror story, as told in six different locations around the U.S.

'Cough CPR' for Heart Attacks
According to the American Heart Association, the "life-saving" self-CPR technique advocated in this email is not recommended in the absence of medical supervision.

The Dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO)
"Dihydrogen monoxide [otherwise known as water] is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year..."

'Death Calls' Emit Killer Cell Phone Frequencies
Forwarded emails warn mobile phone users not to accept calls from certain numbers which supposedly transmit high-frequency signals causing brain hemorrhage and death

Do Energy Drinks Contain Bull Semen?
Longstanding rumors claim the secret ingredient responsible for the boost you get from Red Bull and other energy drinks is bull semen.

Doctors Find Live Worm in Patient's Eye
Revolting photos show the surgical removal of a live worm from the eye of an unfortunate patient who purportedly contracted the parasite from ordinary house dust.

Dollar Store Toothpaste Warning
Email flier says imported brand-name toothpastes sold at dollar stores such as Dollar Tree and Greenbacks don't meet U.S. health standards and may contain dangerous amounts of fluoride.

Drinking Cold Water with Meals Causes Cancer
Email flier claims drinking cold water after a meal slows down digestion and coats the intestines with 'sludge,' leading to cancer.

Egg Whites as a Burn Remedy
Egg whites for burns? Forwarded email touts coating burned skin with raw egg whites as a "miracle healing" home remedy.

Drug-Laced Suckers/Lollipops a Threat to Children
Email flier purporting to originate from the North Little Rock Police Department warns parents that drug-laced candy in the form of suckers and lollipops pose a hazard to children and teenagers.

Dust-Off Warning: Teenager Dies After Inhaling Cleaning Spray
Circulating via email: A father's first-person account of finding his son dead after the teenager inhaled Dust-Off cleaning spray to get high.

Fan Death
If you have ever fallen asleep in a closed room with an electric fan running, you're lucky to be alive. That's what many folks in South Korea believe, at any rate, including government health authorities.

EPA to Use Poor Kids as Guinea Pigs in Pesticide Study
Email flier claims the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is launching "an outrageous new study in which participating low income families will have their children exposed to toxic pesticides."

Fellatio Decreases Risk of Breast Cancer in Women
Homemade Web page masquerading as a CNN news story claims women can decrease their risk of breast cancer by "performing the act of fellatio on a regular basis."

Febreze Warning
An email warning in circulation since January warns that the fabric deodorizer Febreze is toxic to pets.

Fish Contaminated with Deadly 'Zulican' Virus After Tsunami
Text messages and forwarded emails warn Asian consumers to avoid eating seafood because fish killed by the Indian Ocean tsunami are supposedly infected with a deadly virus called 'Zulican.'

Flour as a Burn Remedy
Flour for burns? Forwarded email claims putting plain white flour on a burn will immediately stop any pain and promote healing without so much as a blister.

Flesh-Eating Disease from Unwashed Underwear
Emailed images allegedly show examples of flesh-eating disease contracted by women who wore new bras and underwear without washing them first.

Gauging Toddlers' Earlobes
Satirical article claims "gauging" (piercing and stretching) toddlers' earlobes has become trendy among parents into body modification.

Freezing Water in Plastic Bottles Releases Cancer-Causing Dioxin
Email flier purporting to relay information from a Johns Hopkins newsletter claims freezing water in plastic bottles can release toxic dioxin and cause cancer.

Hair of the Dog: Folk Remedies for Hangover
Folk remedies for hangover: some hair of the dog for the aftermath of New Year's Eve...

Halloween Warning - Candy-Flavored Meth
Circulating via email, a 'Halloween Warning' urging parents to instruct their children to beware of a new form of crystal meth that looks and smells like strawberry Pop Rocks candy and comes in other flavors such as chocolate, peanut butter, and cola.

Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels
Forwarded email claims that electric hot-air hand dryers more unsanitary than paper towels because they blow bacteria around and spread disease.

Hand of Hope
TRUE: Emailed photo shows the hand of a 21-week-old fetus, Samuel Alexander Armas, grasping the finger of a surgeon performing a prenatal operation.

Hand Sanitizer Hazardous to Children
Forwarded email warns of the danger of children licking or eating hand sanitizer, which contains a high percentage of alcohol and can cause accidental intoxication or alcohol poisoning

Heroin Needle Kills Child in McDonald's Ball Pit
The "Kevin Archer" story, curiously similar to 1998's tall tale about snakes in a Burger King ball pit.

Is a Dog's Mouth Cleaner Than a Human's?
We've heard this ever since we were children and finally got around to checking up on the facts.

HIV Needles on Gas Pumps
More needle-stick incidents, this time centered in Jacksonville, Florida.

HIV Needles in Movie Theater Seats
"Welcome to the world of AIDS." The latest round of needle-stick incidents.

HIV Needles in Pay Phone Coin Slots
Are drug addicts everywhere trying to kill us all with their dirty syringes?

Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Forwarded email legitimately warns female recipients to be on the watch for a form of breast cancer known as IBC, or inflammatory breast cancer.

The Klingerman Virus
Forwarded emails originally dating from April 2000 warn recipients not to open large blue envelopes marked 'A gift for you from the Klingerman Foundation.' They supposedly contain sponges contaminated with a deadly virus.

The Klingerman Virus
Not your ordinary bogus virus alert. This one's about a real, live bug that is fatal to human beings!

Lemons and Cancer
Forwarded email claims the humble lemon is a "miraculous product" that kills cancer cells and has been proven "10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy."

Leftover Onions Are Poisonous
Forwarded email claims that uncooked, leftover onions are "poisonous" because they're "a huge magnet for bacteria," therefore especially prone to spoilage.

Lead in Lipstick
Email flier claims name-brand lipsticks contain 'cancer-causing' lead and that consumers can test for its presence in products by scratching them with a 24K gold ring.

Microchip Implants Required in Obamacare
Viral warnings claim that a provision in the Obamacare legislation will require all Americans to receive microchip implants beginning March 23, 2013.

Lemon Slices Pose Health Risk in Restaurants
New study finds that lemon slices/wedges served as garnishes in restaurants are often contaminated with health-threatening fecal bacteria.

Listerine Mosquito Control
Forwarded email claims spraying an outside area with Listerine mouthwash repels and/or kills every mosquito in the vicinity

Leptospirosis: Woman Catches Deadly Disease from Unwashed Coke Can
False email rumor claims a woman in North Texas (or Belgium, or Botswana, etc.) caught the deadly disease leptospirosis after drinking Coke straight from an unwashed can contaminated with dried rat urine.

LSD & Strychnine on Pay Phone Buttons
More pay phone hysteria, courtesy of the Internet.

Mastectomy Bill in Congress
Email flier urges women to sign an online petition in favor of the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, which would require insurance companies to cover a minimum 48-hour hospital stay for patients undergoing a mastectomy

Microwave Ovens, Plastic Wrap and Dioxin
Does microwaving foods in plastic containers or covered with plastic wrap expose consumers to deadly cancer-causing chemicals?

Microwaved Water Explodes in Man's Face
Email warns of a little-known hazard of using microwave ovens.

A Needle Can Save the Life of a Stroke Victim
Email flier claims pricking a stroke victim's fingers and ear lobes with a pin or needle until they bleed will relieve symptoms of paralysis, restore consciousness, and allow the patient to be safely moved.

Onions and Flu
Forwarded email claims placing sliced onions around the home will "collect" or "absorb" any flu virus present and protect members of the household from coming down with influenza.

Ogling Breasts Increases Men's Lifespans
'Medical study' purportedly published in the New England Journal of Medicine claims research has shown that ogling women's breasts increases men's lifespans.

Ovarian Cancer and CA-125 Screening
Rumor makes misleading claims about "primary peritoneal cancer" and the value of the CA-125 tumor marker as a screen.

Paget's Disease of the Nipple
Scary email rumor imparts mostly accurate information about a very rare but real form of breast cancer.

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Safety Warnings
Forwarded emails warning that non-prescription medicines containing phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride may have adverse health effects were accurate at the time they were issued but are now mostly outdated.

Pirate's Gold Milk Chocolate Coins - Melamine Contamination Warning
TRUE: Sherwood Brands Pirate's Gold Milk Chocolate Coins imported from China may contain deadly melamine and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has warned the public not to eat, distribute or sell the candy.

Prescription Drug Pricing
Email flier purporting to originate from U.S. government budget analysts blames inflated prescription drug prices on price gouging by pharmacies.

Raw Onions on Feet to Cure Illness?
Viral message says placing sliced raw onions on one's feet overnight will cure various illnesses by absorbing toxins.

Rat Droppings/Urine Cause Hawaiian Man's Death
A plausible scenario, but did this incident really happen?

Rat Urine on Soda Pop Cans Is Lethal
Three variations of a cautionary tale making the email rounds since 1998.

SARS Infects Restaurant Workers in Asian Communities
Variants of a widespread rumor claim the SARS epidemic threatens local communities across North America via infected workers at restaurants and groceries in Chinatowns and other Asian neighborhoods.

Scrotum Self-Repair
Perhaps the most inventive use of an industrial staple gun you're ever likely to see. Grisly but true!

Shampoo Cancer Warning
This chain letter falsely claims that sodium laureth sulfate, an ingredient found in some brand-name shampoos, is carcinogenic.

Smoking Bed Bugs to Get High
Viral video claims teenagers are getting high by smoking bed bugs, which supposedly give off a hallucinogenic substance.

Snail Eats Man's Brain
Dear Urban Legends: Have people gotten sick due to snails eating their brains?

Vicks VapoRub on Soles of Feet Relieves Coughing
Forwarded email claims that coughing in children can be stopped "100% of the time" by applying Vicks Vaporub to the bottoms of their feet and covering them with socks at bedtime.

Snakes Kill Child in Burger King Ball Pit
Email warns of baby rattlesnakes hiding in restaurant playgrounds.

Sour Spray Candy Warning
Forwarded email recounts an incident in which a child experienced a laryngospasm (involuntary closure of the larynx, obstructing breathing) after drinking sour spray candy directly from the container.

Stroke Test: Is It a Stroke?
TRUE: Email offers a useful test for identifying stroke victims consisting of three simple questions.

Swine Flu Prevention Tips from Dr. Vinay Goyal / Dr. Oz
Forwarded email attributed to various Indian physicians as well as America's "Dr. Oz" purports to give sound advice on preventing H1N1 swine flu.

Swine Flu Update from Dr. Gitterle
Forwarded email from Dr. Marcus Gitterle of New Braunfels, Texas claims that swine flu (H1N1 flu) is spreading far more rapidly than officials admit and has infected 10 to 25 times more people than reported in the media.

'Toilet Spiders' Kill 5 in Chicago Airport
The deadly "arachnius gluteus" rears its ugly head across the U.S.

Wal-Mart Flip Flops Cause Skin Reaction (Photos)
Emailed images show skin rash caused by Chinese-made rubber flip flops purchased at Wal-Mart.

The World's First Male Pregnancy
The world's first pregnant man? It's funny, yes, and even sounds convincing to some. Is it art or urban legend?

Waterproof Sunscreen Causes Blindness in Children
Recycled 1998 warning alleges that children have gone blind due to exposure to waterproof sunscreens.

Zicam Cold Remedy Warning
Anonymous email alert blames zinc-based nasal cold remedy Zicam for cases of anosmia (loss of the sense of smell).

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