Urban Legends & Their Hidden Costs

  • Urban Legends and You

    Urban legends, superstitions and old wives tales can lead to unnecessary fear and disgust if they’re untrue, but they can also be a waste of time and money. So, before you take any email forwards and rumors as fact, consider the following stories. These old wives tales have really impacted people’s lives, and often their wallets too. Photo Credit: shakestercody
    Death By Water Bottle?
  • Death By Water Bottle?

    One widely forwarded email claims that reusing plastic water bottles is poisonous and can cause cancer. The email warns that the bottles contain the chemical DEHA, and if left in a hot car, can create chemicals that can cause breast cancer. Verdict: FALSE, according to the American Cancer Society. The chemical DEHA isn’t found in plastic bottles and even if it were, it doesn’t cause cancer. Impact: Fearing dangerous chemical reactions, consumers might opt to buy a brand new bottle of water every time they seek hydration, and that can get expensive. But hopefully by now, money-conscious Americans are realizing bottled water is a waste of money, as Mainstreet previously reported, and have been sticking to tap water or using other reusable water bottles like those made of stainless steel. Photo Credit: Muffet
    Cold Water and Cancer
  • Cold Water and Cancer

    Another popular email forward warns against drinking cold water after a meal, claiming that cold water could cause the fats you consume to harden in your intestines and cause cancer. Verdict: FALSE. Just like cold water warms when it enters your body, so do fats. Even those that are on the hard side at room temperature. Impact: Unnecessary fear, plus the cost of a teabag or the energy required to heat water. Photo Credit: mawel
    Eating Before Swimming
  • Eating Before Swimming

    According to an old wives tale, if you don’t wait 45 minutes to an hour after eating before you go swimming, you could get a stomach cramp and drown. Verdict: FALSE. The human body has enough blood in it that it can delegate some to digestion and have enough to SWIM as well, according to HowStuffWorks.com. In fact, some competitive swimmers eat something immediately before a big meet to give them the energy they need to perform well, the site says. Swimming after drinking alcohol is another story, however. Impact: When was the last time you saw a guy selling hot dogs on the beach? I bet you can’t remember, and it’s all because of this horrible myth. An entire industry down the tubes! (Boardwalks don’t count.) Photo Credit: davco9200
    Killer Pop Rocks
  • Killer Pop Rocks

    It’s been a long-held urban legend that “Mikey,” the child actor from the Life cereal commercials, died from a lethal combination of Pop Rocks candy and soda that created too much carbon dioxide gas, ultimately causing his stomach to explode. Verdict: FALSE. Not nearly enough gas can be created by the combination to make you explode, according to the TV show MythBusters. And "Mikey" appears to be alive and well. Impact: Parents can rest assured that the side effects of this combination may just be tooth decay. But that means it will be harder to make an excuse not to buy the sugary goodies. Photo Credit: Alisha V
    Kentucky Fried Meat Product
  • Kentucky Fried Meat Product

    There are plenty of documentary films and other movies discussing hormone injected chickens that have grown so big that they can hardly hold themselves up, but a once-common email forward about KFC (Stock Quote: YUM) accused the company of even more Frankenstein-like chicken growing. According to the email, KFC “birds” were genetically engineered to not have beaks, feathers or feet and could no longer be defined as chickens. Because of this, KFC could no longer go by the name Kentucky Fried Chicken, according to the legend. Verdict: FALSE. KFC repeatedly uses the word “chicken” in its promotional materials. Impact: This rumor may have lost KFC some customers to large competitors like Popeye’s. Or die-hard KFC fans have switched over to a diet that’s a bit less artery-clogging. Photo Credit: SqueakyMarmot
    Giving Wendy’s the Finger
  • Giving Wendy’s the Finger

    Many Americans rely on fast food chains for a quick, easy and fairly-cheap meal on a regular basis, but concerns about foreign objects, bugs and unwanted human and animal parts in foods could change people’s minds about quick and convenient dining. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing for consumers, it can hit fast food companies where it hurts. In one case a woman said she found a human finger in her Wendy’s (Stock Quote: WEN) chili bowl. Verdict: FALSE. Anna Ayala, who said she found the finger in her chili, reportedly planted it there herself. Impact: Chili lovers may have gone elsewhere for more expensive chili after hearing about the incident, and of course chili sales at Wendy’s probably took a hit. Photo Credit: aresauber
    Roach Tacos?
  • Roach Tacos?

    We've heard of and tried some pretty exotic sounding tacos, but according to one urban legend, roach eggs from a Taco Bell taco found their way into a woman’s mouth and her gums became their incubator. There’s another version of this story in which the eggs come from licking an envelope. Verdict: FALSE. First of all, roach eggs are found in pods and wouldn’t be found individually. Secondly, it’s unlikely that roach eggs would survive in hot food. Impact: Roaches or roach bits may inevitably find their way into food – we’ve heard of stories of flies being baked into Subway bread - but Taco Bell likely paid dearly for this false urban legend. Photo Credit: atp_tyreseus
    Nasal Sprays and Loss of Smell
  • Nasal Sprays and Loss of Smell

    Using medication and other health treatments that work directly at the site of your symptoms may seem to make better sense than taking a pill, but Zicam nasal spray has been blamed for consumers’ loss of the sense of smell. Verdict: TRUE, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but false according to the manufacturer, Matrixx Initiatives (Stock Quote: MTXX). The FDA warned consumers not to use certain Zicam cold remedies, including its cold remedy nasal gel and nasal swabs. Impact: The manufacturer’s stock price was cut in half on the announcement, according to CNNMoney.com, but users of the remedy may have suffered greater losses. Photo Credit: Ana Omelet
    “Lady” Gaga
  • “Lady” Gaga

    According to recent rumors, dance diva Lady Gaga is man or a hermaphrodite. Verdict: FALSE, according to her manager, ABC News reports. Impact: Even though this urban legend is false, Lady Gaga appears to have gained a loyal following of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which likely means more money in her pocket. Photo Credit: Billie Joe's Entourage
    Buttering Up
  • Buttering Up

    According to an old wives tale, the healing properties of butter, its coating affect and ability to ease pain make it an effective treatment for burns. Verdict: FALSE. Any treatment that’s oil based can actually prevent heat from escaping your skin which could make a fresh burn hurt even more. Plus, since it’s greasy, it can attract bacteria, making you more susceptible to infection, according to Reader’s Digest. Impact: Using butter as treatment for a burn not only uses up one vital ingredient for delicious cookies, but if it attracts bacteria and causes an infection, that could mean significant additional expenses to treat the burn. Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan
    Babies as Delicacies
  • Babies as Delicacies

    Rumor has it that grilled and barbecued human babies are the newest delicacy in all the hippest restaurants in Taiwan and baby soup is a potent sexual stimulant. Verdict: FALSE. Photos supposedly showing the preparation of baby soup and a man eating a baby have been identified as extreme art, and eating human babies is not acceptable in Taiwan. Impact: This rumor seems to appeal to a few fans of Asian movies, at least in the award-winning film Dumplings, by Chinese filmmaker Fruit Chan. Photo Credit: Evil Erin
    Abortion Art
  • Abortion Art

    A Yale art student supposedly used several of her own aborted fetuses as part of a performance art project. Verdict: FALSE. The student, Aliza Shvarts, said she inseminated herself frequently over a nine month period, then took herbal abortifacients to produce a medium to work with. According to The New York Times, these claims were also a part of her performance, and Yale confirmed that none of her project actually used blood from miscarriages. Impact: “Regardless of the facts, Shvarts triggered media mayhem. And then showed her work at a Tate Modern Museum exhibition in London the next fall.” According to Yale Daily News. Photo Credit: Ollie Crafoord
    Poisoned Business Cards
  • Poisoned Business Cards

    According to a mass email, predators have been soaking their business cards in the incapacitating drug Burundanga, which supposedly works similarly to the date rape drug just by simply touching the substance. Verdict: FALSE. The drug Burundanga does exist, but it’s not as potent as emails suggest. To be affected by the drug, direct exposure would have to occur for longer than just a few seconds. Impact: Particularly fearful people concerned about being kidnapped or taken advantage of could lose some potentially money-saving business contacts. Photo Credit: Andrew Turner
    Evil Cats
  • Evil Cats

    According to old wives tales, household felines can steal air right out of infants’ mouths and even suffocate them in their cribs. Verdict: FALSE. The shape of cats’ mouths would not allow a complete seal around a child’s face. This idea is believed to come from an assumption that cats are associated with witchcraft and other nefarious acts, according to kidshealth.org. Impact: While one may want to keep their cat out of a kid’s crib, there may be no need for expensive barriers and special doors to keep pets out of a child’s room. Photo Credit: zenera
    Annual Gun Taxes?
  • Annual Gun Taxes?

    with tax season underway, gun owners could come across rumors that they’ll have to report on their income tax forms the guns they own and pay taxes on them. Verdict: FALSE. The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action explains that this story came from a ten-year-old bill that was dropped in the Senate. Impact: Since it’s not true, gun owners can rest assured that they won’t have to pay any taxes for taking advantage of their right to bear arms. Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary
    “Fed” Killed in Kentucky
  • “Fed” Killed in Kentucky

    This may be more of a rural legend, but according to news reports last fall, a U.S. Census worker was stripped and hanged in Kentucky with the word “Fed” written on his chest. Verdict: FALSE. While some Americans will vehemently defend their freedoms, this census worker wasn’t the victim of a seemingly senseless murder. He staged the event and committed suicide, The Washington Post reported. Impact: Fearful visitors from the north may have put off plans to tour bourbon distilleries in the state. Photo Credit: Photomish Dan
    Twitter Haiti Hoaxes
  • Twitter Haiti Hoaxes

    According to some posts on Twitter, American Airlines has been offering free flights to Haiti for doctors and nurses and UPS has been sending packages under 50 pounds there for free as well. Verdict: FALSE. American Airlines says the rumor is false, according to CNN.com, and UPS posted on its blog that the shipping deal was fake as well. Impact: Trips planned and items purchases to take advantage of these rumored offers may have led to Americans spending money on tickets and items that they won’t be able to use or send abroad. Photo Credit: Don Hankins
    Catching Colds From the Cold
  • Catching Colds From the Cold

    It’s still a commonly-held belief that cold weather leads to the common cold. Verdict: FALSE. As much as your parents or grandparents might urge you to dress warmly, temperature does not actually cause the common cold, according to Healthcare South, an association of doctors. Impact: Outerwear powerful enough to protect you from polar climates can be expensive. You may consider a very heavy coat an “investment” that will prevent the common cold, but being overly bundled up in the winter could be a waste of your precious wardrobe money. Photo Credit: Orin Zebest
    Chocolate-Induced Breakouts
  • Chocolate-Induced Breakouts

    Possibly to discourage an unhealthy diet, or at least provide some way to explain teenaged acne, parents have long told their children that chocolate and other unhealthy foods can cause breakouts. Verdict: FALSE. Junk food loving teenagers can rejoice! Chocolate and greasy foods don’t inevitably cause pimples, says stylelist.com. Impact: Junk food can actually be cheaper than the healthier stuff, which may be a short-term benefit. But in the long term, eating healthy will almost always pay off. Photo Credit: Fotoos Van Robin
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