A promotional pen company has just launched a new product for people who fear their writing instruments might be out to get them. The Antibac antibacterial pen is a "certified superbug killer" that supposedly wipes out the nasty germs that are crawling around on your pen, trying to infect you.
According to Senator Pens, the makers of the Antibac, the secret formula baked into the pen's surface "kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria and viruses" within 24 hours. The company also says it's the only antibacterial pen that meets British Standards for bug killing.
Among the germs the pen is supposed to kill:
- Salmonella (stomach flu)
- and, tests pending, H1N1 (swine flu)
The company's website does not explain what exactly in the pen kills the germs, but a spec sheet says it starves them of nutrients so they die, and the surface of the pen, where bacteria normally would "flourish" and be easily transferred, stays clean.
The retractable ballpoint pens apparently are sold as customized promotional pens for, among others, the food safety industry.
The Antibac is not the first, or only, antibacterial pen on the market.
For example, Staedtler makes the iRemedy pen, which has a "special additive" in the barrel and grip to kill germs (although protection does not extend to the skin, however, so if you already have germs on your hand, you're out of luck.) Liqui-Mark also offers a range of antimicrobial products, including rollerball pens. And Paper Mate sells the Flexgrip Elite Stick as antimicrobial.
(Most of these antibacterial pens seem to use some variation of silver to kill the bugs.)
But here's the thing: Antibacterial pens don't really do all that much for you.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, antibacterial products are not "demonstrably useful in the healthy household." In fact, they may make matters worse by helping to breed more resilient germs and by stifling the immune systems of children, leading to more allergy problems later.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency limits the public health claims that antibacterial products can make because "no scientific evidence exists that these products prevent the spread of germs and harmful microorganisms in humans."
The bottom line is, antibacterial pens may kill the germs on their own surfaces, but you're still going to pick up germs from every other thing you touch during the day, including your keyboard, telephone, keys and doorknobs. To deal with the germs that get on your hands, Consumer Reports suggests the old-fashioned way – washing with plain soap and water.
But what do you think, readers? Are you haunted by the thought of all those nasty little bugs on your pens?