Friday, March 06, 2009

Living with Poison

Humans didn't invent poison. This two inch frog contains enough poison to kill 10 humans.

There is a lot of poison in the world. Occasionally we feed it to our kids by accident. But are things as bad as they seem to be when we scan the news? Here is some toxic food for thought.

It took more than sixty years for the U.S. to realize that lead laced exhaust was dangerously toxic and phase lead out of gasoline. We also learned that lead paint flakes were poisoning children in older homes. We are still cleaning up that mess.

During 2007 headlines like this one sprouted everywhere: “35 percent of toys contain lead, report says, Testers bought most popular children’s products at large retailers” (AP Dec. 5, 2007). Eighty percent of the toys in the U.S. are imported from China, the same place where "The scandal, in which melamine was added to raw milk to make it appear higher in protein, led to the deaths of six babies and made some 300,000 ill."says the BBC, Jan. 22, 2009.
The Chinese took action on the melamine problem. They executed two men who added the substance to milk. The U.S. congress used a different approach for lead, they passed H.R. 4040: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Effective Feb. 10, 2009.

You bet. This is America. We don't just hang a couple of guys. We hit the problem with sweeping legislation.

Not so fast.

The law is absurd and ineffective. Manufacturers, retailers, and thrift stores can't immediately conduct required tests to prove that their products do not contain more than 100 ppm of lead. Too complex. Too expensive.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission began to back pedal in January when used clothing stores were exempted from the testing. In February the commission voted to postpone the testing requirement a year for most children's products. However, you are still culpable if your product exceeds the 100 ppm limit.

Congress demonstrated ignorance. Their law will not eliminate the lead. It took decades to deal with gasoline. One commodity. Easily tested. Engines had to be revamped. Refineries had to create new blends. Gas stations had to buy new pumps.

According the Centers for Disease Control , accidents are the number one cause for children's deaths. Poison is involved in some of the accidents. And the number one poison? Medications. That stuff in the adult proof bottles.


A March 2, 2009 AP article says, "In a stunning improvement in children's health, far fewer kids have high lead levels than 20 years ago, new government research reports — a testament to aggressive efforts to get lead out of paint, water and soil."

Did it take an act of congress to get the lead out? Yes. It also took years of carefully coordinated efforts in an number of industries. Let's not stop now. But, please, can we skip the hysteria.

Let's see a few headlines that say "Thousands Die Because Parents Leave Medicine Laying Around"

Photo credit: Poison Dart Frog by Ucumari
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