Adam Ruins Hygiene

Nov 01 2015

In this episode, Adam exposed the dirty secrets lurking in our bathrooms, including how ad campaigns made us insecure about our breath, why flushable wipes aren't really flushable, how running water is a miracle of the modern age and much more. These are his sources.


 "A hundred years ago, Listerine was used and marketed as a generic household cleaning fluid."

United States. National Institute of Health. Listerine: Past, Present and Future--a Test of Thyme. By DH Fine. Vol. 38. N.p.: Journal of Dentistry, 2010. Web.

"[The makers of] Listerine dug up an obscure Latin word and told people it was a disease you could have without even knowing it."

Marchand, Roland. Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940. Berkeley: U of California, 1985. Print.

"[Listerine] says on their [own] website, “Listerine coined the term halitosis.”

"The Listerine Story." Listerine. Johnson & Johnson Limited, n.d. Web.

"They were also really, really successful. Listerine’s profits grew 4,000% in 7 years."

Marchand, Roland. Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940. Berkeley: U of California, 1985. Print.

"The soap industry poured a fortune into advertising the idea that daily showering was essential for health, and by the eighties, 90% of Americans said they showered every day."

Vinikas, Vincent. Soft Soap, Hard Sell: American Hygiene in an Age of Advertisement. Ames: Iowa State UP, 1992. Print.

"Rates of poop-related diseases have plummeted [over the course of the 20th century]."

United States. CDC. History of Drinking Water Treatment, 30 July 1999. Web.

"The Kimberly-Clark Corporation spent $140 million to develop and market the first flushable wipes."

Barnes, Julian E. "Kimberly-Clark to Sell Moistened Toilet Paper." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 17 Jan. 2001. Web. 

"'Flushable wipes' are straight up not flushable."

Goldman, Henry. "Flush-Defying Wipes Bedevil Cities as Sewers Surrender." Bloomberg Business. Bloomberg LP., 7 Sept. 2014. Web.

"Toilet paper breaks down almost instantly in water. But I put a [so-called] 'flushable' wipe in here [a blender] five minutes ago. It hasn’t broken down at all."

"Are Flushable Wipes Flushable?" Consumer Reports. N.p., Jan. 2014. Web.

"In 2013, London had to remove a 15-ton fatberg made of flushable wipes. It was the size of a city bus. They had to shut down surrounding streets for months."

Flegenheimer, Matt. "Wet Wipes Box Says Flush. New York’s Sewer System Says Don’t." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 15 Mar. 2015. Web.

"Products like exfoliating microbeads, antibiotic soaps, and unused medications all go down our drains, and the effects on our water systems can be weird."

Donn, Jeff, Martha Mendoza, and Justin Pritchard. "PHARMAWATER II Fish, Wildlife Affected by Drug Contamination in Water." Associated Press. 10 Mar. 2008. Web.

"For most of human history there was very little sanitation."

George, Rose. The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. New York: Metropolitan, 2008. Print.

"In 1858, London became so smelly [from raw sewage] it was referred to as the Great Stink."

Public Health. "Who Eradicated the "Great Stink of London"? Washington University at St. Louis, 2015. Web.

"In what was the biggest civil engineering project in history, Bazalgette built over 1,100 miles of brick sewers under London."

Halliday, Stephen. The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis. The History Press, 2013. Print.



"In Chicago, an engineer named Ellis Chesbrough jacked up entire neighborhoods by up to fourteen feet and reversed the flow of the Chicago River."

Young, David. "Raising the Chicago Streets out of the Mud." The Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing, 19 Nov. 2013. Web. 

"Modern sanitation is one of the greatest medical inventions of all time. It’s saved millions, if not billions of lives."

Childs, Dan and Susan Kansagra. “10 Health Advances That Changed the World.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 20 Sept. 2007. Web. 

"While we take our porcelain thrones for granted, 2.5 billion people have unsafe pit toilets."

"International Decade for Action 'Water for Life' 2005-2015." UN News Center. UN, 23 Oct. 2014. Web.

 For More on This Topic

Let’s Talk Crap. Seriously. Rose George’s candid Ted Talk about the problem of poop

Jack Sim Wants A Potty In Every Pad, an NPR interview with Jack Sim creator of World Toilet Day, a global summit to cherish and celebrate the underappreciated toilet.

Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940: Roland Marchand’s examination of how advertising exploited our anxieties and shaped our collective self-image.

Soft Soap, Hard Sell: American Hygiene in an Age of Advertisement: Vincent Vinikas’ journey to the origins of hygiene marketing which invented our modern notion of ‘dirty’.