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Oz is no Wizard

by Al Wahnon

If you need a root canal, you visit a dentist, not a plumber, and if you need eyeglasses, you engage an optometrist, not a glazier. That was the essence of the response of the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) in its reply to FOX when the station’s Dr. Oz offered inaccurate and misleading advice about the hazards of carpet in the home. What are the doctor’s credentials? He’s a cardiac surgeon. He should stick to human fiber, not wool or synthetic fiber. In a recent segment titled, “Health Hazards at Home,” the meddlesome medic whipped out several Petri dishes brimming with mold, mildew and fungus and said with the authority and gravity of a scalpel bearing down on a heart, that all those disease-laden organisms can be found in carpet. And to exacerbate the illusion, he said carpet also contained formaldehyde. The CRI responded quickly and effectively—you might say, with surgical precision—launching a rebuttal that might have put Dr. Oz in intensive care. The only redeeming feature of the FOX fiasco was when the deluded doctor claimed he was worried about children crawling around on the carpet and commented: “So, as you can see, it’s really important to keep your carpet clean.”

In its response, the CRI pointed out that if the matter wasn’t so serious with possible dire consequences, it would be humorous. I agree. A cardiac surgeon diagnosing carpet is like an installer performing heart surgery. Well, not quite, but the doctor is operating outside his area of expertise. Actually, 3.7 million television viewers watch this show on a daily basis and the wrong message could have a devastating effect on consumers contemplating purchasing carpet. The FOX network was irresponsible for not insisting the inimical Dr. Oz research and certify his material before feeding it to the public. And the doctor should have done his homework without any prodding.

On addressing the doctor’s ridiculous attack on carpet, the CRI noted it is not alone in challenging the surgeon’s veracity: “Credible, consistent critics voice concern with the science, or lack thereof, behind some of what he communicates.” Of course, no legitimate criticism or honest appraisal of the program alters a single word in the presentation, nor does a basic fact ever re- place an absurd observation. He is the doctor and somewhere over the rainbow he might find the right answers, but not now, Toto.

The CRI did contact the station, did speak with the producer of the show and did make a myriad of valid points. Carpet was maligned, falsely depicted as a household hazard and possibly damaged in the marketplace. The producer was sympathetic and that was a fitting reaction, but it solved nothing. Dr. Oz was supplied inaccurate information, outdated and obsolete, and was not aware that formaldehyde hasn’t been used in the manufacture of carpet in more than 20 years. Oz didn’t know what was. And it was further explained that most carpet was made of synthetic fiber and therefore not a food source for mold, which also needs an uncontrolled supply of water.

Dr. Michael Berry, the former head of EPA’s Indoor Air Quality program, conducted a study that found carpet was among the last things to foster mold in an environment that was filled with dirt and moisture, and concluded if your carpet has mold in it you can bet your mold problem is out of control in other areas.

The CRI did an excellent job in containing the damage and putting FOX on notice. The station is being monitored by professionals and must be responsible for the honesty and accuracy of its programs.

It was the scarecrow who lamented, “If I only had a brain.”