Most folks are happy if their vacuum cleaners swallow up dust bunnies and cat hair. The Oreck Halo sucked in consumers with an appeal to their health: "Now you can kill and reduce many germs and bacteria on all your floors, while you vacuum!"
The claim by Oreck Corp. of a "germ-killing" vacuum cleaner that shoots ultraviolet rays and a portable air cleaner that gobbled germs out of the air were aimed at consumers worried about the flu, staph infections and other biological nasties in their carpets and floors.
The ads also caught the attention of a skeptical competitor, who reported it to the Better Business Bureau. The BBB in turn referred it to the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces rules against bogus advertising claims.
Last week, the FTC announced that Oreck would pay a $750,000 fine and stop advertising its Halo and Proshield Plus air cleaner as germ killers, after the FTC determined there was no scientific basis for those claims.
Based in Nashville, Tenn., Oreck is a private company founded in 1963 by Duluth native David Oreck, famous for starring in his 30-minute infomercials that demonstrate the features and benefits of Oreck vacuums.
A company spokesman, John Van Mol, said the company "doesn't believe it did anything wrong ... but just felt like their resources would best be spent providing great products and serving their customers rather than a long, drawn-out legal fight."
The Halo retailed for about $599.95, and the Proshield Plus $399.95. While the vacuums are still on the market, Oreck no longer makes any claims that they will prevent diarrhea, asthma, upset tummies or the common cold.
Surprise in the nail salon
A Minneapolis woman became alarmed about the chemicals used in two Twin Cities nail salons. She asked for a particular polish, and each nail salon substituted something in a different bottle.
So who's making sure salons are using safe chemicals? Gina Stauss Fast, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners, said her agency licenses manicurists but doesn't regulate the chemicals that they use.
But she advised anyone with a complaint about a nail salon or manicurist to contact her office "and the matter will be investigated," she said.
The board can be contacted at 651- 201-2742 or at www.bceboard.state.mn.us.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asserts that nail salon chemicals, especially solvents, can pose a health threat to salon workers, who can be exposed to toxins by handling and breathing the substances. The EPA says that ventilation of salons and glove-wearing by workers are some of the most effective ways to reduce exposure.
COMPILED BY THE WHISTLEBLOWER TEAM