Wednesday, July 13, 2016

They're Killing Us . . . Breath by Breath

Forget about sleeper cells and the dangerous “lone wolves”. What’s really going to do us in is the dreaded imports that are slowly killing us, just as sure as a direct attack on our homeland. They’re putting arsenic in our orange juice, lead in our kid’s toys, and there’s even sulfur in our sheetrock. God only knows what’s in the cabinets. U.S. health regulators have recently reported that certain types of laminate flooring imported by Lumber Liquidators was found to have a greater risk of causing cancer, or other health problems, than previously believed. They said that “people who purchased the China-made flooring are about three times more likely to get cancer than it had calculated earlier this month.”  And yet we keep importing products and produce from countries that do not regulate their manufacturing.

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 still recovering from the recession. Our health and well being 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.

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 product liability attorney the other day, I mentioned this and said it didn’t seem to have any ill affects. 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.