Tuesday, July 03, 2001

Health hazards

Put these formerly harmless things on your list of dangers to protect your kids from.

FIREWORKS July 4 is coming up, and with it the risk that your child will lose ... no, not a finger. His or her hearing. You may know that buying fireworks is illegal and handling them personally is unwise, but now even standing outside and listening to them has been found to be actively harmful. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that more than 5 million youngsters have suffered some degree of hearing loss from the overloud sound of fireworks, lawnmowers, and rock concerts. The researchers suggested earplugs. We suggest watching fireworks on TV, with the sound off. And never mowing the lawn.

MERCURY THERMOMETERS For my money, nothing tells your temperature like an old-fashioned mercury thermometer, the kind your mother used to use. Those digital jobs -- how do you know they're not just making it up? And ear thermometers have never worked well for me, always coming up with bizarrely low numbers that are not to be trusted. No, give me that silver bar expanding upwards, slowly but surely. Yet now, that very same precision apparatus is on the verge of extinction, simply because it contains within its glass shell a toxic substance. People are being urged to dispose of their old mercury thermometers because ... well, because when they're disposed of, they're an environmental hazard. Doesn't that mean we should all hang on to them? If we don't, at any rate, we'll never see them again, because they're being taken off the market. Why do I feel I'll never know my true temperature again?

PETTING ZOOS You say they're a charming way for children to get in touch with peaceful barnyard animals. The government says they're an E. coli contamination waiting to happen. The CDC, citing numerous cases of children being sickened by the bacteria after petting petting-zoo denizens and then putting their hands in or near their mouths, advise parents to exercise extreme caution. Alright: Rubber gloves, face masks, family fun for everyone!

COOKING WITH GAS If your daughter's prone to allergies, you might want to switch to electric. In a test of more than 700 Italian preteens, it was found that being in the kitchen while a gas stove was in use reduced lung function in allergy-susceptible girls. Interestingly, no such correlation was found in allergy-susceptible boys, undoubtedly because they were never in the kitchen when cooking was being done.

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