Danger: Don’t Drink This
or How stupid are we?
Responsibilities in wise chemical use
This is a repost from early 2020, when RoundUp was facing lawsuits. It is still a good read today, about being smart when using chemicals, or anything that could possibly damage you. My son and I had a good conversation about pocket knives last night. A pocket knife can be used as a tool for many reasons (a good agronomist is never found without one), but it could also be used as a weapon, so they are banned from some college campuses and in your carry-on in airports (I found that one out the hard way). It is also a good laugh about the silly warnings companies put on their labels. It will make you go out looking for more.
I was minding my own business, chilling in my living room with the television on. I frankly don’t pay much attention to the “boob tube”—I’d rather be doing something like reading, sketching, walking, putting together a puzzle, talking to my kids, or making up horrible puns with my dad.
[Okay, I have to interrupt this blog for a good one: my parents were on vacation, walking along the beach, counting jelly-fish. Being a midwesterner, I had no idea that they just wash up on the shore and lay there on the sand, so my dad took a photo of one and sent it to me. His caption: “A picture of the marmalade-fish”. Ha. Here’s the little guy now (the fish, not my dad):
So I responded—“If you see any with a guitar, I guess it would be a jam-fish, then, wouldn’t it”. Double Ha! …Come on, didn’t I at least make you groan?]
Back to our regularly scheduled program. I’m barely paying attention to the channel, glance up, and there’s this lady with GIGANTIC eyes telling me that I quite likely am on my death bed if I’ve even come near the weed killer RoundUp, and need to call her number immediately to be connected to a lawyer who can include me in a lawsuit for damages, but I need to call NOW because there’s no time to waste! [Frankly, her scary face is what might lead me to my death bed—there’s so much make-up on there and her eyes are pasted so wide open, I thought the color in my TV screen had gone wacky!]
If any of you have watched or read any news, chances are you have heard about EPA’s recent reexamination of studies related to the active ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate, and whether or not it causes long term health problems. The latest decision from EPA is that, if used as labeled, there is NOT proof that glyphosate causes cancer.
But people are still scared—and skeptical. The ad I saw is one example of how lawyers play on that fear, and the line between facts and rumors becomes hazy.
This got me thinking. I agree labeling, restrictions, studies, research, guidelines, and regulations are all very helpful and absolutely needed when using any sort of chemical anywhere. If we didn’t have guidelines on rates, times of day, temperatures, wind speeds, cautions to stay away from wildlife habitats and being aware of those cute little honeybees, we’d be in trouble. And the definition of chemical can be so loosely and diversely applied, that it’s a subject for another debate altogether. However, where do we draw the line between putting the responsibility on the chemical manufacturer and using our own common sense when utilizing their product?
Remember the woman who sued McDonald’s when she burned her skin spilling coffee on herself? How silly was that—you ordered coffee, coffee is hot, you spill coffee, hot coffee can hurt. Common sense, right? Why does there need to be a warning label for a natural consequence that an average person would understand? Have you ever read the warnings in the fine print on some other products? For example, on my sleeping medication, it warns me “may cause drowsiness”—well I should hope so! That’s why I’m taking it! And on a department store stroller, in order to not forget your child is in there—to place something valuable in the stroller as well, so you don’t forget to remove your child [Um, isn’t your child probably the most valuable asset you have?] On skin creams, to not ingest. On carpentry drills, to not use as a dental drill. Or the advice to not eat those little silica gel packets [but they look so yummy!]. On saws, to not grab the blade when it’s running. On thermometers, to not use it orally once you’ve used it rectally [ewwww]. Reminders to not operate machinery while unconscious or sleeping [I didn’t even know that was possible]. The fact that the manufacturers had to put these specific warnings on their products is an indication that someone has actually tried it at some point in time. Blows your mind, doesn’t it.
Back to our herbicide. I’m not saying there isn’t proof that glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer at all in any circumstance. But just because using glyphosate as labeled doesn’t cause long term health problems doesn’t mean I’m going to put it in my morning coffee or bathe in it. Any chemical intended to kill something isn’t meant for us to breathe in or be exposed to in large quantities—isn’t that common sense as well? Obviously not, because Bayer is still facing lawsuits. I talked to a gal last night who used to work for a tree nursery. She told stories about how they would get phone calls about people calling about their sick trees, and come to find out the individuals had sprayed weed killer around their actively growing trees. [You didn’t think about the fact that a tree is a plant? And weed killers are designed to kill plants?]
The public scare is growing to the point that Bayer is considering removing RoundUp as a product available for private users. So no more spraying your rocks or driveway or garden with glyphosate. I understand the scare about chemicals causing health concerns, but I also understand the move towards taking the chemical away from the common citizen. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and prevent more people from ending up like the gal that spills hot coffee on her lap and can’t believe she got hurt.
I guess sometimes even a warning label can’t fix things.
Thanks for reading!
February 25, 2020
Julie S. Paschold
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