Last year at the Del Mar Fair, my wife and I came across a booth where the company was selling some kind of a detox/purification product. You put your tootsies in a foot bath with an aerator, and supposedly all the bad stuff in your lower body would be drawn out through the bottoms of your feet into the bath solution. They had half a dozen people trying their system, and, sure enough, after 5 or 10 minutes the foot-bath water was a muddy black and incredibly disgusting. We were pretty dubious — but what kind of chemical process could they use to create this effect?
— Ed in Escondido
The ick factor in this question is pretty high. Anybody who’s seen the Del Mar demo or the Kinoki footpad commercials would have to agree. But if the ick factor is high, the crap factor is higher. We’re glad Ed immediately saw through the black water to suspect the toxic nonsense underneath.
For the Kinoki clueless among you, they’re adhesive footpads that you stick on before bedtime and peel off in the morning. They’re pristine white at night, black, smelly, and revolting in the morning. The pad peddlers claim the product is infused with a concoction that draws out toxins, heavy metals, parasites, and all the evil stuff lurking in our bodies that you then toss out with the used pad.
The Kinoki shuckers (and probably the Del Mar jivers) say that the active ingredients are based on “ancient Japanese medicine” — a combo of ground tourmaline, bamboo vinegar, grapefruit, milk thistle, green tea, and magickal but unidentified herbs. The ancient Japanese doctors were clearly out of their minds.
One of the elves’ favorite illustrations in the TV commercial is a tree with arrows shooting down from the leaves to the roots. Kinokis, they say, work just like trees — evil substances rush from the leaves to the roots, where they’re flushed into the ground. Uh — wha? Huh? Kinoki just lost all viewers who passed Biology 1. Trees don’t work that way. Neither do our bodies. Toxins are removed from the body through the kidneys, liver, and intestines. There’s no way they can seep through our foot skin, even though some sellers add the alluring claim that the gunk exits through acupuncture points.
Okay, enough Kinoki bashing from the elves. Any science to back them up? Plenty. These foot-flushing devices, to the media, were like raw meat before tigers. They saw an easy mark and they hopped on it. Various labs were given both new and used pads for chemical testing. No difference between them, the science guys say. No nasty metals or parasites, no telltale toxins in the used pads. Just a smelly, black appearance. Other science guys held the pads over steaming kettles or dripped on distilled water. Again the footpads turned black. Apparently, any moisture, like perspiration from your feet, will blacken both the pads and the Del Mar foot bath. Sorry, Ed, but so far, no one has tried to chase down the specific material that reacts to dampness. Maybe one of those ancient and mystickal Japanese medicinal herbs.
How many bones you pull down doing this gig? How long you been at it, and how’d you get started? Looks pretty easy. Can I do it when you’re done?
— Me, Here
Bones? Enuf to keep the elves in T-shirts and curly-toed shoes. How long? Fifty, 60 years? Yeah, about 50, judging from a count of Grandma’s worn-out aprons and pie tins. Got started when I was walking by the Reader office one day and somebody flew out the door, grabbed me by the arm, and asked if I’d like the job. Huh. Yeah. Sure. Why not? Easy? I just make it look easy. And when I’m done — I’ll never be done. What a fiesta.
In your article on why do we say “foot the bill,” you state that by the early 19th Century the meaning changed.… [This] is not correct. We accountants still use the terms “foot” and “crossfoot” today.… The schedule “foots” by adding down a column of figures. Then you “crossfoot” by adding the total of the columns from left to right to make sure that the amount or figure you calculate down in the “total column” on the right of a schedule of columns totals or crossfoots to the amount you get when you add the figures at the bottom of the columns. These are standard terms for accountants and auditors, and we say, “Does it foot?” or total correctly. Now we just use Excel to do it for us.
— Margaret, via email