I received an email from a colleague today that once again brought the potential danger of email communication and the widespread availability of information front-and-center. I consider this person to be reasonably intelligent, like most of the people I receive these sorts of emails from. I am never sure what the immediate thought is – impatience, urgency dictated by design (of the email), or simple ignorance – but the result is usually the same. Information gets passed-along that shouldn’t see the light of day.
The specific email I received this morning informs us that a police officer advised folks in his jurisdiction to use wasp spray in place of pepper spray because it was not only cheaper, but sprayed farther and would be useful to stop an attacker without them getting within physical range.
Now, the worst part about this email is that it is totally true. A police officer really did suggest this, and because of that many people will take it at face-value as information they can directly use.
That’s where you get into trouble. Here in Florida, to use a can of wasp spray in place of pepper spray is ILLEGAL. See Florida Statutes – specifically section 3, part b -”Tear gas gun” or “chemical weapon or device” means any weapon of such nature, except a device known as a “self-defense chemical spray.” “Self-defense chemical spray” means a device carried solely for purposes of lawful self-defense that is compact in size, designed to be carried on or about the person, and contains not more than two ounces of chemical.
Not only is a can of wasp spray not compact in size or designed to be carried “on or about the person”, it contains potentially more than 2 ounces of active chemicals, depending on brand. There are several states throughout our country that have similar pepper-spray laws and some municipalities ban the use of it completely. If one were to take this email at face-value because they don’t realize laws are not uniform, they could be getting themselves into a huge amount of trouble.
The second troubling aspect of this suggestion, even if you live in an area that would legally support using something other than pepper spray, is that wasp spray contains Pyrethrin. That chemical is known to be hazardous to humans and wasp spray cans are labeled such. There is also the warning that comes first on the can – “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with it’s labeling” – of which spraying a human for the purposes of self-defense certainly is.
Perhaps in our very busy lives, we have stopped questioning so much out of sheer desperation and time-management. If it sounds legit on a first-read and it came from a source you personally trust, you let it go. That might be easier and cut-down on the amount of time you spend at work surfing for information possibly not relevant to your job. However, checking facts like this saves much more than time. Would you want to pass this on to a relative and have them be sued? Would they then turn around and sue you because you told them it was ‘ok’? Whatever the time costs may be, I submit they are still worth it. If you get information like this, the best thing you can do is sit on it until you have a chance to verify the accuracy. I have come across a few emails that were legit, and I then sent them on. Many emails, however, contain false-truths, urban myths or downright dangerous information that to someone un-educated in that field, might sound reasonable. A little research goes a long way toward not only stopping the proliferation of false information, but perhaps keeping someone you care about from being hurt.
And while we’re on the subject, most emails that have a call to action involving emailing a certain number of friends or else you won’t win the lottery, or worse, you’ll be a terrible friend and it shows you don’t love them – aren’t going to change the world. They’ll just junk-up someone else’s inbox.