6 Ridiculous Myths You Believe About Stuff You Use Every Day

#3. Discarded Refrigerators Are Death Traps

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The Myth:

If you ask your granddad, he'll tell you that it's common knowledge that you have to remove the doors from a refrigerator before you discard it. Apparently, this is because refrigerators are to children what neon lights are to moths. If you go down to the local dump and find a fridge with the door still attached, it's likely that it's full of dead kids who climbed in and couldn't get back out. It's a threat so widespread that it made an episode of Punky Brewster.

NBC
The girl there only survived by lying down in healing snow.

The Reality:

Kids playing in abandoned refrigerators and suffocating is a real and present threat. If you happen to live prior to 1958. And 1958 being the year of Cracked's debut, that's probably unlikely.

In a bygone era, it wasn't uncommon for kids to tragically lock themselves in abandoned fridges, which is why the government actually passed legislation that made it criminal to discard a refrigerator recklessly. But laws to this effect are fairly archaic, because the problem with pre-1950s refrigerators is that they had latches on them that locked when the door closed. And these kinds of appliances were banned in 1958 for specifically that reason.

Paulus Rusyanto/Photos.com
1950s foods got restless and had to be latched in.

Any refrigerator built since then must be capable of being opened with no more than a 15-pound push from inside. And really, if your kid is so young that he's unable to generate 15 pounds of pressure yet somehow finds himself alone anywhere near an abandoned refrigerator, the problem is with you, and not the manufacturer.

As the old refrigerators have slowly made their way into landfills and scrap heaps, suffocation deaths have dropped drastically. They're virtually nonexistent in America. In the incredibly rare instance that a child dies inside one these days, it's always an old latch-style appliance. But, since news reports don't always include the distinction, many assume any discarded refrigerator is a coffin with a vegetable crisper. The only way a modern refrigerator is going to kill somebody is slowly over time through a steady stream of Pepperoni Hot Pockets.

#2. Your Mattress Doubles in Weight Every 10 Years from Dead Skin and Bugs

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

The Myth:

Sleeping and humping being fairly popular pastimes, there are many effective ways of marketing mattresses. You can push the quality construction of individually wrapped coils, the comfort of memory foam, and the convenience of custom settings, or you can simply pull out the increasingly popular retailer claim that your mattress doubles in weight every eight to 10 years due to disgusting shit like dead skin, dust mites, and their droppings. You don't want to sleep on a bed of filth, do you?

Christian Musat/Photos.com
OK, this makes it look good, but it probably isn't.

The Reality:

This utterly horrifying revelation is the cornerstone of the "Replace Every 8" marketing strategy utilized by a number of mattress retailers. "Replace Every 8" works because it plays on our darkest fears in a way that rhymes, implying that fully half the weight of our mattress is a writhing mass of creatures straight out of a Ridley Scott movie.

But really think about that for a moment. How heavy is a mattress? About 200 pounds or more? So in just eight to 10 years, there are enough mites and skin flakes in your mattress to match the weight of a healthy adult? Where are they hiding? How long before it just crashes through the floor into the apartment below? How long before it begins to bend light?

Yuriy Mazur/Photos.com
Will its mass eventually approach that of your mom?

Don't bother ruminating on it too long. Evan Saks, an industry expert, points out that such an exponential mass accumulation is "obviously not possible."

So who is responsible for this outrageous pack of lies? Surprisingly, it can be traced back to The Wall Street Journal, which in 2000 ran an article featuring the incredible statistic. The mythbusting website The Straight Dope contacted the article's source directly, Ohio State University researcher Emmett Glass, who set the record straight that he never said any such thing. Evidently the journalist flat-out made it up in order to make the story "more interesting." A nation of mattress salesmen thank you, ma'am.

#1. Microwaving/Freezing Plastic Containers Releases Deadly Toxins

SeanPavonePhoto/Photos.com

The Myth:

Microwave ovens have always held a place of suspicion in the minds of the fearful and nervous. It's probably because they run on plutonium and lasers. Anyway, one of the many warnings that surround the witchcraft of microwaves is that microwaving plastic containers can release deadly toxins into your food, making it a health hazard well beyond the 80 grams of trans fat you're about to chase with a Red Bull.

And as though that wasn't bad enough, these same chemicals can leach into your water if you put a plastic water bottle in the freezer. All in all, it's best to enjoy your food at room temperature.

Yelena Yemchuk/Photos.com
Solid butter's better for you; it acts as roughage.

The Reality:

The dangers of plastic in microwaves appears to have originated with a TV station in Honolulu that ran a segment in 2002 featuring one Dr. Edward Fujimoto, who explained how microwaving plastic wrap and containers can release potentially deadly toxins into your food. As with the aspartame scare, a short news segment from Hawaii that hardly anybody saw became a huge thing when someone made it into a forwarded email that raced around the globe.

Claiming to be a media release from Johns Hopkins University, the email, which looks like it was written in a hell of a rush, babbles about "dioxins" and urges you to "pass this on to your family & friends." It has the look of something that was rattled off by someone who microwaved plastic and now has five minutes to live, so you can bet it made its way around the world quickly.

Clint Spencer/Photos.com
"Typing from INSIDE microwave, connection bad, plz FORWARD."

If you ask more reputable scientists, they'll tell you that it's possible that heating plastic in a microwave might leach some substances into foods ... but nowhere near the amount that would cause you any harm. As for the myth about chemicals in plastic water bottles, while a boon for the metal water bottle industry, scientists say that cold temperatures actually inhibit the ability of chemicals to leak out of plastics.

Name dropping Johns Hopkins, by the by, was a bullshit tactic to make the email seem more reputable, as the university has never said any such thing, and wrote a press release to debunk the claims. As for the ominous sounding "dioxins," they're actually pretty poisonous and it's a good idea to stay away from them, so it's fortunate that they're not in plastics and thus pose no threat. So don't worry -- microwaving those TV dinners won't cause you any pain beyond regret.

Related Reading: We don't really understand the world around us very well, which is why all these myths about flying persist to this day. Illegal drugs have even more bullshit floating around them, like the idea that LSD somehow causes insanity. Maybe it isn't surprising we have so many different myths about drugs, we don't even understand our own bodies very well. If you think a strong immune system keeps the cold at bay, you're sorely (and sneezily) misinformed.

We have some bad news: health foods are trying to give you diabetes, the whole '8 glasses of water a day' thing is bullshit and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.

It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.

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