Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Service of Arsenic in Baby Food

Thursday, October 21st, 2021


Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

In upper school I read that some Victorian women took a tiny bit of arsenic to make their skin whiter. The poison accumulated in body tissue with adverse results. I remembered this because I couldn’t get why anyone would want to be whiter. At the time there was almost nothing I wanted more than to be tan. But I digress.


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

Period manufacturers added arsenic to paint and wallpaper–not healthy–and it was many a murderer’s favorite ingredient. Think Amy Archer-Gilligan the serial killer celebrated in the 1944 movie “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Archer-Gilligan, who was said to have killed between 20 and 100 people, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1919 and lived until 1962.

So I sat up straight when I saw Allison Prang’s Wall Street Journal article “House Subcommittee Hits Baby-Food Makers Over High Metal Content,” with subhead “Report by Democratic members calls out companies over arsenic levels, recalls and product-testing requirements.”

Prang reported: “Some top baby-food makers didn’t appropriately recall products that contained higher arsenic levels than allowed by the government, according to a recent congressional report.”

She noted: “Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury naturally occur in soil and water. Baby-food makers have said their products contain these metals at safe levels.”


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay  

Consumer Reports added some information:

  • Can manufacturers exacerbate the situation adding to the damage of naturally occurring metals? CR: “parts of the manufacturing process, including the addition of vitamins and mineral mixes, may be contributing to the problem.”
  • According to CR, the process to remove toxic heavy metals “isn’t effective enough.”
  • More info about where heavy metals come from. CR:  “most of the heavy metals in food come from soil or water that has been contaminated through either farming and manufacturing practices (such as pesticide application, mining, and smelting) or pollution (such as the use of leaded gasoline).”
  • CR maintained it’s possible to manufacture food with low/acceptable levels.
  • Babies’ brains, minds, immune and cardiovascular systems can be harmed possibly lowering IQ and creating behavior problems and ADHD. There’s also risk for skin and bladder cancer.
  • Are some foods more prone than others? CR: Yes: rice, sweet potatoes, apple juice, and grape juice.
  • And if you make your own baby food? CR says it will “eliminate the risk of any heavy metals from additives used in the food” but may not lower them in the child’s diet and depending on the food may increase them.

I’m equally amazed and appalled that major companies didn’t recall foods identified for having unacceptable levels of arsenic and other heavy metals. What marketer can live with these decisions? How dare these people jeopardize the health of babies and the reputations of the well-know brands they represent?


Image by 5686750 from Pixabay 

Service of Need to Know: If You’re in the Covid Trial Placebo Group, Do You Get a Vaccine ASAP?

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Photo: newatlas.com

I admire anyone who volunteers to test a potentially lifesaving drug. I was curious as to why piling on $billions from the US Government and Bill Gates Foundation, among many, helped speed up discovery of a vaccine by over three years. I guess it’s because the human guinea pigs are paid and to have the numbers injected to ensure efficacy and safety at $250 or more a pop requires deep pockets on the spot.

Carl Zimmer and Noah Weiland pose a dilemma in their New York Times article, “Many Trial Volunteers Got Placebo Vaccines. Do They Now Deserve the Real Ones?”  Seems it’s not an easy “yes” or “no.”   The tens of thousands injected with the placebo who thought they’d get a real shot in the arm after the vaccine was approved may wait as long as two years they reported.

Photo: savethestudent.org

Some scientists think these volunteers “should be moved toward the front of the line in exchange for [her] service for the greater good.” Last week “18 leading vaccine experts — including a top regulator at the Food and Drug Administration — argued that vaccinating placebo groups early would be disastrous for the integrity of the trials. If all of the volunteers who received placebo shots were to suddenly get vaccinated, scientists would no longer be able to compare the health of those who were vaccinated with those who were not.”

As background they explain that “It’s vital that neither the volunteers nor the staff running the trial know who is randomly assigned to get the vaccine or the placebo. This ‘blinding,’ as it’s called, eliminates the chance that people will behave differently depending on which treatment they get, potentially skewing the trial’s results.”

Pfizer “said it would propose to the F.D.A. that volunteers who got the placebo could get the real vaccine.” Richard Peto, a medical statistician at the University of Oxford and his colleagues argue that “once a placebo group disappears from a clinical trial, the chance to collect rigorous data about a coronavirus vaccine will vanish.”

Researchers claim they need to keep secret the placebo group to learn about how long the vaccine protects the recipients, how many get sick in subsequent months as compared to the placebo group.

Dr. Anthony Fauci Photo: businessinsider.com

Zimmer and Weiland reported that “If the companies were to encourage unblinding their trials, that could also harm their chances of receiving the F.D.A.’s full stamp of approval — a license. And allowing a trial to continue may also be good for their bottom line, because knowing when immunity from a vaccine begins to wane will dictate how frequently people will need their product.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci had a great solution: everyone gets an injection in reverse: Those who received the vaccine get a placebo and vice versa. Secret is preserved.

Assuming that there are fixed costs to discovering a vaccine and putting it through its approval paces, why else, other than the cost of assembling and paying sufficient numbers of human volunteer guinea pigs, would money be the answer to the record breaking time it took for discovery? Why wasn’t money used before to attack such pestilence as polio, cholera and AIDS? Do you know anyone who has volunteered to take a drug during a trial period? Do you agree that Dr. Fauci’s compromise, while costly, would be the solution to protecting the volunteers who received the placebo? Are you planning to be vaccinated?

Photo: theconversation.com

 

Service of When Outdoors is Really Indoors: NYC Restaurants Fooling Themselves

Monday, November 30th, 2020

These bubbles, steps from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, are fully closed.

Some adults remind me of the young child who denies eating chocolate with evidence smeared all over her face and fingers. Who are they fooling?

I predict these structural interpretations by restaurant owners of the pandemic rules that permit outdoor dining in NYC will soon need to be modified either because covid-cautious customers won’t come or inspectors will shut them down.

The fourth side of this tent, which opens to the restaurant, is wide open.

There are plenty of outdoor restaurant additions closed on three sides and open on the fourth. The photo at left shows two of three closed plastic walls. The fourth side that opens to the restaurant’s front door, is wide open. However I’m not sure about the fire safety implications of plastic enclosures combined with heating elements.

I took the photos of some of the most blatant examples within walking distance of my apartment.

Would you eat at an outdoor space during the pandemic that is more closed in than not? Have you seen examples of outdoor restaurants that you’d be comfortable visiting health and heat wise this winter? Do you think restaurants will maintain their outdoor spaces long after we’ve controlled the pandemic?

 

Bryant Park Grill

Service of Can You Ever Do Enough to Be Safe?

Monday, March 30th, 2020

Photo: accuform.com

For a moderately good housekeeper these are stressful times especially since I can’t find the ideal products recommended for coronavirus whistle-cleaness.

So I wonder: “Did I clean the plastic bags correctly? Are my apartment keys virus free? My credit card? Do I really have to wash my hair every time I go outside? Did I catch every nook and cranny of that tuna can or OJ bottle? What about my jacket pocket where I keep my phone? And the phone itself?”

Photo: physicscentral.com

And then I remember what happened one summer vacation in high school. I was in southern Italy with two classmates and the mother and brother of one. For our safety, Mrs. G was scrupulously careful about the water we drank–it had to be bottled. At the time we didn’t care for fizzy water but that seemed to be the only kind available. One day we found a restaurant with bottled still water. We were gleeful. As we sipped our drinks through a straw–real straw–we suddenly realized that the ice in our drinks was made with local water. None of us got sick.

Fact: My home will never be as clean as an operating room–live with it [I hope].

Joseph G. Allen’s Washington Post opinion piece “Don’t panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages” put some of my concerns in perspective. He claims low risk for “box delivered by UPS, touch packages at the grocery store or accept food delivery.” Allen is at the Harvard T. H Chan School of Public Health in its Healthy Buildings Program.

He wrote “First, disease transmission from inanimate surfaces is real, so I don’t want to minimize that. It’s something we have known for a long time; as early as the 1500s, infected surfaces were thought of as ‘seeds of disease,’ able to transfer disease from one person to another.”

Today a New England Journal of Medicine article is trending [and scaring]. “The coronavirus that causes covid-19 ‘was detectable . . . up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.’”

Photo: amazon.com

Allen shared an example of an Amazon package delivered by an infected driver who wiped his/her nose, didn’t wash hands and touched your package. “Even then, there would be a time lag from when they transferred the virus until you picked up the package at your door, with the virus degrading all the while. In the worst-case scenario, a visibly sick driver picks up your package from the truck, walks to your front door and sneezes into their hands or directly on the package immediately before handing it to you.”

Allen then described a model–think pieces of pie. “For disease to happen, all of the pieces of the pie have to be there: sick driver, sneezing/coughing, viral particles transferred to the package, a very short time lapse before delivery, you touching the exact same spot on the package as the sneeze, you then touching your face or mouth before hand-washing.”

He wrote to cut the chain: leave the package outside or right inside the door for a few hours and wash your hands. He continued: “you could wipe down the exterior with a disinfectant, or open it outdoors and put the packaging in the recycling can. (Then wash your hands again.)”

Regarding grocery stores: “Keep your hands away from your face while shopping, and wash them as soon as you’re home. Put away your groceries, and then wash your hands again. If you wait even a few hours before using anything you just purchased, most of the virus that was on any package will be significantly reduced. If you need to use something immediately, and want to take extra precautions, wipe the package down with a disinfectant. Last, wash all fruits and vegetables as you normally would.”

Feel better? What precautions are you taking? Any shortcuts? Can you share examples of when a goal of perfection fell short yet all was well in the end?

Photo: smartsupp.com

 

Service of Contests for Kids: We’re All Winners

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Contests that teach, encourage and reward kids to better themselves and/or their communities help us all.

Author Karen Russell told NPR “New Yorker Radio Hour” listeners on a recent August weekend about how proud she was to treat her family to a pizza when she was a kid. An avid reader, she’d qualified for a free pie with one topping through Pizza Hut’s Book It program. She’d read 10 books.

Books tossed recently at the Millbrook, NY Transfer Station

Book It was founded in 1985. It runs from October 1 to March 31 for children from Kindergarten to the sixth grade and homeschoolers can also participate.

Things may have changed since Russell won her pizza. She read printed books and today many children use Kindles and other tablets. Some may still record their books on paper and some access an app that reaches teachers who track their participation. But the goal remains–to promote reading.

The National Road Safety Foundation [NRSF] conducts contests for kids to help its campaign to drive down the number of traffic accidents, deaths and injuries here. I know about it because a colleague, David Reich, runs and promotes the contests. One is “Drive2Life,” in its seventh year, in which teens submit messages to be turned into public service announcements [PSAs] to warn drivers about the dangers of speeding. This year’s winner, a California 8th grader, received $1,000 and a trip to New York where he collaborated with Emmy Award-winning producers to script, film and edit his winning PSA, “Cars Aren’t Toys.” The PSA aired on “Teen Kids News” on 150 TV stations.

Photo: fcclainc.org

In addition to Drive2Life, there are NRSF Drive Safe student contests in Washington DC, LA, Chicago and Atlanta as well as Safe Rides Save Lives for members of Family Career and Community Leaders of America [FCCLA] and #DrivingSkills101 for Students Against Destructive Decisions [SADD] Chapters nationwide.

Can you name other great contests for children? Did you participate in any when you were a kid?

Photo: washingtonautoshow.com

Service of Speaking Up

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Speak up

I pass a row of Citibikes on my daily walk to work and last week noticed a cloth tote bag left beside one of the parked bicycles. My first thought was, “Oh, gosh, someone juggling packages left behind one of their bags.”

As I continued up the street lugging my own trove of gifts it suddenly occurred to me that this stand—and the tote–are next to one of the Trump-named buildings on First Avenue and across the street from the UN.

citibikeI soon passed a building on Second Avenue that I’d noticed was well-guarded since the Berlin terrorist attack at the Christmas market, so I mentioned the tote to one of the policemen. He said that someone had already reported it to the 17th Precinct. (He was with a terrorist troup.)

I was delighted that word had gotten around!

I most recently wrote about the “If you see something, say something,” concept well over three years ago in the post “Service of Passivity.” Nobody had mentioned to authorities the two large suitcases parked outside Grand Central Station with no human owner in evidence, until I did–and they had been there for a while.

We’ve improved!

Have you heard of other examples of the public’s pitching in to help safeguard your town or city?

safety first

 

Service of Living in Place Even If You Don’t Want To Think About It

Monday, October 17th, 2016

young person in wheelchair

I attended a program for interior designers and architects. Subject: living in place. It scotched myths that I and no doubt many others have about accessible design and aging in place and reinforced what I’ve already known for years: Anyone building or remodeling a home or apartment on their own does well to think twice and enroll the help of experts. People use accountants and CPAs for the same reason: to avoid missing beneficial opportunities.

Fisher & Paykel DCS 48" professional range

Fisher & Paykel DCS 48″ professional range

The speaker was Dawn DeLuca of Camille Rossy, a cabinetry and design company. The title of her presentation: “Designing for Independence & Dignity Without Talking About It.” We gathered in the Fisher & Paykel ExperienceCenter, a welcoming space for such informative meetings and a showroom with many of the appliances that address accessibility issues.

Here are some highlights that DeLuca, a certified Living in Place Designer, shared:

  • Accessible design in not ugly. A quick look around the showroom at the handsome, sleek pullout dishwashers—lower than the counter–and stoves with knobs in front that DeLuca had identified as appropriate for people with disabilities promptly put to rest the fable that it is.
  • Did you know that the average American home is built for males aged 35?
  • People live in one home for some 13 years and over a century, the lifecycle of a home, 20 will live in it and in the period, 6,000 guests/visitors will cross its threshold. Of these, 1,000 are at risk of injury.
  • The bill for falls in the US in 2013 was $34 billion and is projected to reach $68 billion by 2018. This does not include indirect costs lost in work productivity and the need to move if the home can no longer accommodate the injured person.
  • Living in place is not exclusively about the elderly
  1. People with disabilities are not just older adults
  2. Designers and architects should consider making homes safe in the initial design rather than focusing on fixing a place to accommodate an injured resident
  • DeLuca asked if any in the audience used a “disability assistance device.” When she gave the example of eyeglasses, many hands shot up.
  • Designers and architects should assemble collaborative teams such as a
  1. medical advisor and physical therapist to detail needs of a disabled person and to address safety issues for that disability
  2. child proofers
  3. contractor familiar with code  
  4. home inspector
  5. Specialists for autistic spectrum childproofing to counsel about elevating light switches and electrical outlets for example and confirming that TVs and furniture are secured to walls. Every two weeks a child dies because a TV falls on him/her.
  6. Structural engineers for people over 250 lbs.
  • Proactive design includes
  1. Installing outlets at the top and bottom of a stairway regardless of the age and physical dexterity of current homeowners. Should anyone in future need a stairway chairlift the installation savings are considerable.
  2. Contrasting colors for stair flooring is essential.
  3. Shower grab bars should be on top of shower controls and installed to withstand 250 lbs in all directions
  4. Kitchen appliances need a landing place either next to or behind them.
  5. Never place a cooking surface under a window that opens. Heat can break a window and with a gas stove, wind can cause fire
  6. Consider raised flowerbeds for gardeners who can’t bend over
  7. While all things shiny are in fashion, reflections cause problems for people with eye issues and the aging
  8. Single leaver faucet controls are cleanerdoor handle with return
  9. Lighting inside cabinets and drawers literally shedding light on what’s inside
  10. All levers should have a return not only to address stability but to avoid catching—and ripping–clothes
  11. Reverse door swings: Doors should open to the hallway in case the homeowner faints so rescuers can get in the house/apartment/room to help.
  12. Motion-censored LED strips under handrails

    Dawn DeLuca

    Dawn DeLuca

  • Denial about potential injuries is rampant in the land. “That won’t happen to me,” most people say when hearing of a friend or relative’s accident. Statistics prove otherwise. DeLuca said that one in five Americans have disabilities and fewer than 15 percent are born with them. 63 million have disabilities and 11 million need daily personal assistance.
  1. Five percent of kids 5-17 have disabilities; 10 percent ages 18-64
  2. 3.6 million people use wheelchairs

Because so many prefer to avoid discussion of the inevitable of potential accidents, future medical diagnosis of a family member or natural aging, DeLuca suggests interior designers and architects slip in many of the proven precautionary options as a matter of course. Much can be done seamlessly without giving a doomsday speech. So while at first I thought poorly of this approach, it has grown on me. Your thoughts?

Photo: dailymail.co.uk

 

Service of the Rules Are Not For Me

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

 above the rules

Some are above the rules. To illustrate the point I’ve chosen a public figure who doesn’t flinch at keeping countless others waiting; bicyclists who ignore traffic rules potentially causing others harm and an actress who doesn’t care if she ruins an irreplaceable museum piece.

Tick Tock Not

Mayor Bill de BlasioMayor de Blasio, [photo, right], holds up the works because he can’t get places on time. His actions tell the public, “Tough; live with it.” He hadn’t held the title long when his reputation was forged: He doesn’t like early meetings and tends to be tardy at any time. Headlines still track his arrival often over the real news–why he went or spoke somewhere.

Talk about Traffic Rules

Last week, WOR 710 a.m. morning drive radio talk show hosts Len Berman and Todd Schnitt addressed the lawless bicycle situation in the city. Schnitt, who just moved his family to New York from Florida, said he’s teaching his children to look both ways before crossing a one-way traffic street so as not to get hit. Berman reported once being almost downed by a bike outside a sports arena.

bike against trafficEvery night as I wait for the light at 53rd Street and First Avenue, where the new bike lane I recently wrote about threatens, I must remind myself to look both up and downtown as bikes speed by both ways.

Too Beautiful to Follow Rules

And then there’s Elizabeth Hurley, a British actress, who sat on “the 16th century Great Bed of Ware,” at the Victoria & Albert Museum to snap a selfie, Henri Nuendorf wrote last month on Artnet News. “The actress reportedly triggered an alarm when she took a seat on the priceless 10-foot wide mattress to capture that perfect shot,” he wrote in “Liz Hurley Kicked Out of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum for Taking Illegal Selfie on Antique Bed.” 

Great Bed of Ware

Great Bed of Ware

“The resulting image, which Hurley shared with her 164,000 Instagram followers racked up over 3,000 likes in only five days.” He continued, “The V&A has a strict ‘no touching’ rule to preserve its historic exhibits. Touching introduces dirt and oil from the skin onto an object’s surface, which can attract dirt to linger and degrade old and fragile objects.” Her objective was to generate publicity at any cost. She did. There must be better ways to do this while not potentially ruining something irreplaceable.

I don’t have to ask one question–I know the answer: “because they can.” What does it take for others to insist on a change? Can you share other examples? Are there exceptions where rules of civility by public figures or of safety should be bent if not broken?

Exceptions to the rule

Service of Passivity II

Monday, July 7th, 2014

nyc traffic

There are umpteen examples of lackadaisical behavior by people of all ages, even in instances that might affect others adversely. I won’t stop speaking out in spite of the looks I usually get, [if I notice any reaction at all], for warning pedestrians who are distracted by their texts or too absorbed by their phone conversations to watch out for a speeding car or van heading right for them.

Locked Up

keyless lockThe ladies’ room is outside our office, accessible to tenants on this floor via a keyless lock that opens when you punch a code into a pad. I noticed that I could open the door simply by turning the handle, reported it to the building and we now have a new lock.

I was amazed to learn from someone who worked in another office on the 11th floor that she knew that the lock had been broken for quite a while. So why didn’t anyone notify building staff? We pass by a very receptive person at least twice a day to get in and out of the building. It took me less than a minute to report it on the phone. A friend observed that he thought the lethargy regarding even a potentially dangerous situation, was due to tremendous passivity that overwhelms people, propelling them into inaction. 

Phishing for Dollars

phishing for dollarsI received a phishing email from a hacker dressed as USAA, a company I use for a whole range of financial services. It took 9 minutes on hold—while I continued to work—to confirm that my suspicions were correct and to get an email address to forward the nasty missive. If everyone is too busy—or passive–to inform a company about thieves who might compromise their clients’ password, social security, credit card and/or bank account numbers, then how can a company stop and penalize hackers?

When you receive an email with all the telltale signs that a friend or colleague’s been hacked, do you let them know or do you figure someone else will?

Why is it so hard for people to take even simple, safe steps to fix or right a wrong? Are we harried and too busy? Do we think it’s up to someone else to handle? Have you noticed other examples of passivity?

 snoozing on the job

 

 

 

 

Service of Technology II

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

kennedyairport

New York Congressman Peter King, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said during a radio interview yesterday that the Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey put its money–$100 million–behind technology to handle airport security because “technology does not make an error.” Staff also thought it would save money over the cost of human patrols.

jetskiHe was referring to the jet skier who ran out of fuel and trotted up and past Kennedy Airport’s cutting edge defense system to get help. [Along with Kennedy, the $100 million also covers the systems at Teterboro, LaGuardia and Newark airports.]

verizonvan44thst1Meanwhile, an office mate in our midtown Manhattan offices has been without phone service for almost a month. This major vendor’s repair staff wanders in and out of his office every few days and there’s a crew-or at least a van–planted outside the building. With all the bundling and high tech combos fighting for space underground and the complicated nature of the wiring and computer programming, I can only assume that MIT grad students may need to be called in on the case because it’s over the heads of ordinary repair people. Another reason: The best have been fired because their salaries are too high.

Simultaneously, I tried to help a friend whose new accounting program-a well known brand-was causing fits. The default type on the invoice template was tiny. I found where I could click “12 PT” and followed all the prompts, dutifully hitting “next” and performing each step as told. I finished by assuring the program that this was what I wanted. When we returned to the template, nothing had changed: Miniscule type all ’round.

I could go on but you get the point: In this environment, how could Port Authority gurus think that “Technology doesn’t make errors?” Don’t people program, oversee and repair these high and low tech systems? Like everything else, couldn’t they break down on occasion? Do we need to learn how to use and fix what we have before leaping forward at warp speed to launch new systems?

motherboard

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