Friday, January 6, 2012

There's Arsenic in My Apple Juice!

     There’s lead in our kid’s toys. And, there’s sulfur in our sheetrock. God only knows what’s in the cabinets. And yet we keep importing products and produce from that big country in the east (name withheld to protect our economy). So really, what’s the big deal? Where’s the harm in a little arsenic, or lead, or hydrogen sulfide gas, when you can save a couple of bucks? Haven’t you heard? We’re in a recession. Health is a small price to pay when you’re talking about saving money.
     But if you are concerned about avoiding the perils of hazardous material exposure when eating, buying toys, homes or remodeling you must use your common sense (see K&B Insider #123, Common Sense, Priceless!). The best way to begin is by reading labels, assuming you still can read after exposure to all those noxious fumes. If not, have your BFF (Best Friend Forever) read the label for you. If the product does not have a label, ask the proprietor for a Material Data Safety Sheet, which lists the properties (both harmful and inert) of the product.
     And, don’t be fooled by the bar code number. “Urban Legend” has it that the first two or three digits of a product’s bar code number indicate which country it was made in. For example, labels beginning with 690, 691, 692 or 695 originate in China. However, additional research seems to indicate that these digits only refer to where a product was shipped from. So clever manufacturers are able to manipulate the system and ship from a country other than where the product was made.
     In the remodeling industry, most cabinet and countertop manufacturers have been making a concerted effort to clean up their act. Now you can purchase American made cabinets that have little or no harmful ingredients, such as volatile organic compounds, at very competitive prices; although they will never be as inexpensive as cabinets made in countries where the average hourly wage is less than a (US) dollar.
     Some of these same countries sell granite counters with high levels of radon, a cancer causing, radioactive gas. Just shut off the lights and see them glow! But hey, they’re cheap! Consider instead quartz composite countertops which are certified by various environmental organizations as to their lack of harmful emissions or buy granite that has acceptable radon emissions.
     Now, I’m not saying that everything made in America is great, in fact some of our stuff could stand a little room for improvement, but at least there are some government standards to adhere to. And I’m not saying that exposure to some chemicals is all that bad. When I was an Industrial Arts teacher, for many years I taught both woodworking and printing. In print shop we handled type that was made primarily of lead and washed our hands with kerosene. Having dinner with a friend (product liability attorney) the other day, I mentioned this and said it didn’t seem to adversely affect me! Her reply was, “think of what you could have been”!
     So sit back, take a deep, formaldehyde filled breath, and watch the kids sip arsenic laced apple juice while putting their lead painted toys in their mouths. It really doesn’t matter much because the hydrogen sulfide gas coming from the sheet rock will eventually kill you anyway. Unless, of course, you decide to spend a couple of extra bucks and buy safe products from a country you can trust.

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