As I was scraping paint off our century-old porch posts and treating it as the proper-biohazard that it is due to the lead menace and all, I wondered what we are currently ignoring today that will be sure to kill us in the future.
I don’t take lead lightly. Living in an old home means I am well aware of the dangers of old lead paint. So much so that even today as my two pre-teen children stepped out onto the porch I reflexively cautioned them not to suck on any railings — out of habit.
Our own daughter showed elevated lead levels as an infant. This prospect had me running scared to have the entire house tested. It passed with flying colors. Turns out the lead poisoning came, as it often does we were told, from a flaking antique furnishing brought in to our home from the outside. Go figure.
Again, I never make light of children’s health but the child in question is an advanced class, honor roll student so if the elevated lead levels knocked any IQ points off her score we haven’t noticed it yet. I’m hoping she has the same good luck as nearly every generation before her and turns out just fine.
I say this because as I was scraping away, Hazmat gear in place, I wondered how my mother’s generation — the Baby Boomers — ever lived to adulthood fairly unscathed (all kidding aside)? It’s an old saw going around the Internet — slept in lead-painted cribs, drank unpurified water straight from the garden hose, ate scientifically enhanced and preservative-laden foods with impunity. (Tang anyone?)
Still, while that may explain their generational draw to recreational drug use and disco (both of which are gateways to much worse things), in truth as a generation they did achieve quite a bit.
Going back further the previous generations of the 20th century brought us some of the greatest advancements and achievements of the industrial age to date. Electricity. Radio. Television. The automobile. Ultimate hold hair spray. All brought to fruition — and market — by people exposed to many things we consider scary — if not downright deadly — today.
Speaking of hair spray, I would like to apologize to the ozone for all the damage I inflicted in the 1980s when my bangs could just never be too big. Higher the hair closer to God and all that. Of course in achieving that great goal we may have inadvertently opened a direct line in the sky to Him. We wouldn’t realize that for about 20 years.
I haven’t used hair spray in years so I have no idea if it still contains all the really harmful fluorocarbons that made it work so well back in the day. Today I use spray paint with impunity and assume (but do not KNOW) that it is no longer harmful to the environment.
The government has saved me from paint that actually stays on the house, but have they addressed the issue of harmful stuff in my spray paint? I count on them to save me from myself, after all.
I often wonder how our grandparents made it long enough to BE grandparents. Lead was found not only in paint but gasoline, water pipes, and many toys. (Lead soldiers! The gift that keeps on killing?)
Food standards were more lax, medicines could contain anything from harmless herbal placebos to actual cocaine (which may have taken the sting out of any lead poisoning they suffered, come to think of it). Nowadays I can’t even buy cold medicine without proving I’m NOT a meth-maker and wrestling even over-the-counter cough syrup from the pharmacist first.
Our grandparents could have fished from nearly any lake or stream and had fresh fish for dinner with nary a care. Nowadays I’m told to eat fish for my health, but, conversely I must monitor how much fish I eat closely. Apparently there is a fine line between tuna tartare and mercury poisoning.
Not to mention that these days, in a post-BP-disaster world, I’m unsure what wine goes best with oil.
So many of the once-acceptable household goods are now, in retrospect, considered deadly that it does make me wonder what will be killing us in the future? Sunscreen? Non-organic fruit? Organic fruit? Facebook? Air?
I don’t know and I don’t think we will either — at least not for about twenty years. In the meantime I strongly suspect that the one thing all these have in common is DEFINITELY not all that good for us: stress.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt sometimes eats unsterilized fruit – just because she likes to live on the edge. She welcomes comments c/o LifeOutLoud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)