Shannon Lush is not a chemist, and in fact has no formal qualifications whatever.
We should therefore not be surprised when she gets things wrong when the topic is anything involving chemistry or, in this case, microbiology.
Yesterday on 6PR the topic of sterilisation was raised on the breakfast show. Instead of speaking to a medical or biological specialist of some sort, however, they chose to ask Shannon Lush.
Her advice was that to sterilise something it had to be in vigorously boiling water for three minutes.
This is in fact incorrect. Although boiling water will kill most pathogens, it will not kill all pathogens. And the problem is that some of the toughest bacteria to kill are also the most deadly. An example of this is Clostridium Botulinum, one of the causes of botulism, a potentially fatal disease. In fact these spores are so tough that they are often used to test a sterilisation procedure. That is, if the Clostridium Botulinum are dead, then you can be assured that everything else is.
But Shannon Lush is apparently unaware of this. The consequence of this is that if you are unlucky enough to have Clostridium Botulinum around somewhere, and you are foolish enough to follow Shannon Lush’s advice, you may finish up with botulism, a potentially fatal disease.
As anyone who has studied biology at even high school will tell you, autoclaving is required to ensure something is sterile. An autoclave is a device that will heat water to 121°C for 15 to 20 minutes. It achieves this temperature by pressurising the water, and is a standard device in any medical or biological laboratory.
I spoke with John Solvander, the program director at 6PR a few weeks ago and told him that Shannon Lush was an amateur, and that her advice was mostly wrong.
He chose to ignore this advice, however, and now 6PR has a problem. If incorrect advice is given on how to clean a carpet or shirt it doesn’t really matter that much. But when advice is given on a medical issue that is wrong, the consequence is a potential health risk, in this case a serious health risk.
I have advised 6PR of this, and that a public correction needs to be issued. They have yet to comply with this.
There are of course several simple chemical procedures that can sterilise things, the simplest being a 70% solution of metho. This is in fact what hospitals store medical instruments in. It is simple to make at home, and is cheaper than buying an autoclave.
Anyone with even the most basic knowledge of chemistry or biology would know that, but unfortunately Shannon Lush doesn’t even meet this standard.