What’s the Deal With ‘Virus Shut Out’ Necklaces?
Though banned in several countries, the bogus coronavirus prevention lanyards are still circulating
Maybe you’ve seen people wearing them, or maybe you’ve seen an ad for one online: “Virus Shut Out” necklaces that claim to keep the coronavirus at bay. They look like an identification lanyard you might have worn at a networking event or conference before the pandemic happened, only in place of a nametag is a little blue packet filled with chemicals that’s said to prevent the wearer from getting Covid-19.
This claim is false, of course. Scientists have established that the coronavirus primarily spreads through close contact, via tiny droplets emitted when people talk, cough, and sneeze, though it can also be airborne and travel distances over six feet. Preventing Covid-19’s spread requires wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing, and disinfecting surfaces regularly. The product’s claim that the chlorine dioxide inside the necklace can “produce a strong bactericidal and disinfection effect” around the wearer, thereby killing viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, is completely unsubstantiated. Also, chlorine dioxide can be dangerous to humans.
In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the sale of this product, which is manufactured by a Japanese company called Toamit. It’s also been banned in Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines for the same reason. In June, the EPA ordered Amazon and eBay to stop selling it. That’s why I’ve found it so alarming to occasionally see these necklaces in international news — and even around the neck of a friend in New York City.
Despite the bans, the necklaces are not hard to find. Facebook still hosts a group that advertises the product; one post from the creator reads: “We reiterate, VIRUS SHUT OUT TAG of TOAMIT is not Fake and We’re not a Scam.” It’s easily found on the e-commerce sites Lazada and SuperDelivery.com and on Amazon India and Amazon Japan. In March, the Hong Kong Free Press, an independent, nonprofit news site, reported that the necklaces were being widely sold in Hong Kong convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Bonjour as well as in drugstores like Watsons pharmacies, an international chain. Several government officials in South Sudan…