Tokyo tap water is no longer suitable for babies 12 months or younger. The impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster spreads. Black smoke is seen coming out of Unit 3 at the nuclear plant and workers are evacuated again. Won't be allowed back for 24 hours. Not to worry you . . . but they have no idea why it's smoking. Japanese Broccoli is now found to give you a healthy glow (an extra "benefit") and the import of many Japanese foods from the region have been banned by the U.S. FDA and by Hong Kong, soon to be followed by South Korea. One Austrian scientist says this disaster will be similar to Chernobyl, and their crud is blowing over here.
Back on the home front, we are not worried about radioactivity from Japan. Harmless! Rather than focusing on the impact of nuclear material showering down on us from the heavens, into our food, our water, our produce, onto our skin and breathed into our lungs every moment of the day now, those valiant defenders of children, the CPSC, will be holding a highly-publicized hearing on pool drains - because a newspaper currently in bankruptcy hired an uncertified lab to perform tests on drain covers that have not apparently been involved in injuries. This is a TOP priority of our nurturing government. Who says we don't need more government? Come on, baby, give me MORE!
Of course, I make light - after all, I am a blogger, I must do so. The real scourge for children, as anyone can tell you, is not airborne radioactive material, but lead - which is why our CPSC has worked so tirelessly for three years to identify dangerous items like ballpoint pens, rhinestones, brass bushings on toy car wheels, ATV engine blocks, bicycle frames and bicycle vinyl seats, branding them as unsuitable for sale (or exposure) to children under 13 years of age.
Of course, there's plenty of legal mumbo-jumbo to consider, provisos and the like. Having carefully sorted out the hazard, our CPSC has determined that pens are only dangerous if they are intended for use by children. [Ballpoint pens have a tiny brass ball at the ink end, and brass contains 2-4% lead by weight. I bet you're scared now!] The ACTUAL USE of pens is not the health concern - what matters instead is what the manufacturer intended - you know, their state of mind at the time of sale. Hasn't your mother ever told you that it's what's in your heart that REALLY matters? The CPSC took this on board. After much cogitating, they determined that it's not a problem if 100% of children use ballpoint pens - no, it's only a problem if kids use a ballpoint pen INTENDED for use by children. THAT'S unacceptably dangerous and big penalties and recalls can result if you step over the line. They must have figured out that the state of mind of the manufacturer changes the physical character of the pen - pens literally take on the power to harm when a manufacturer thinks about selling them to kids!
It's a good thing we employ so many scientists at the CPSC. I hate to think about the crazy rules they'd come up with if they didn't have such a solid grounding in real science. Of course, they also employ many lawyers . . . . Could it be the lawyers???
Of course, I jest. The CPSC is certainly right - how could such an august organization err? And experts have told them they're right - that's a double-check right there. At the February 16th hearing on the 100 ppm lead standard, Don Mays from Consumers Union, a REAL expert, kicked off his testimony by reminding the Commission that there is NO safe level for lead. [I did not provide you with a clip of those magical words, but you can dig them up yourself if you don't believe me.] Mr. Mays was joined on the consumer group panel by another RENOWNED expert, Dr. Dana Best of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Mr. Mays and Dr. Best had a revealing dialogue with Commissioner Anne Northup on the horrors of brass instruments. You will see that the CPSC has no choice, the risks to children are so severe. Here's a transcript (you can see the video here):
AN: "Do you think that children that are in the 3rd and 4th grade should be prohibited from playing brass instruments considering the lead content of that brass?"
DM: "I think children should not be exposed to lead unnecessarily. And children in the 3rd and 4th grade, I have a daughter in the 4th grade and I certainly wouldn't want her to be exposed to lead if that was coming from an instrument."
AN: "So you would not let her play, like, the horn."
DM: "I would be very concerned about that, that's for sure. She does not play the horn, she plays the violin. Ha Ha Ha."
DB: "The mouthpieces on most of those instruments are not brass."
AN: "Yes, exactly. But they're holding them. They sling them around and hold them. . . . They could practice at night and play it every day during class. That would mean an every day exposure. I just wondered if that would alarm you."
DB: "Uh, it would alarm me that children were exposed unnecessarily to lead. And that's again the responsibility of the CPSC to determine, to look at the studies on individual cases. I'm here to talk about the harms of lead to children and how they need to be protected."
Frankly, I can't remember if Ms. Northup started banging her head against a wall at that point or not . . . .
With this kind of counsel, you can rest assured that the CPSC has its priorities straight. Don Mays and Dana Best are on the case! Just PLEASE don't mention bicycle licking . . . .