Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dangerous Toys

Well, we're all gonna be safe from here on out -- the federal government announced a plan to examine toys nationwide for dangerous chemicals and elements. Lead was mentioned. Judging from the age of my parents' and grandparents' homes when I was a child, I'm quite certain I chewed on a few lead paint chips as a toddler (no comments about my current tendency to gnaw on windowsills, please -- at least I haven't reverted to slobbering, or not much, anyway).

These concerns for our safety are admirable. But long before the federal government became so maternal, most of we kids ate paint chips, fell off bicycles and conked our noggins without suffering longterm damage, rode red wagons and Flexi-Racers off short cliffs, ate bacon for breakfast every morning, and we survived. Some of us even fell headfirst out of garage attics and jumped off second-story buildings with homemade parachutes (sorry about the bedsheets, Mom).

The dangers of childhood are manifold. I first learned to weld using a tractor battery and baling wire in my parents' barn. I must have been six years old. Yeah, there was lead in the battery. And I burned my fingers. And set the barn afire. But I also learned a valuable lesson -- weld only on a fireproof surface. Sorry about the barn, Mom and Dad, but at least the cows and goats and pigs escaped, and at least I fixed my bike. And it only took you a few weeks to put a new roof on the barn, Dad.

When my own kids were youngsters, I tried very hard to locate a decent chemistry set for them (decent, meaning a bunch of bottles of stuff capable of creating smoke, small explosions and acids that might leave scars), but found it was impossible to buy such a chemistry set unless the buyer was an accredited terrorist. So I improvised, and we managed to make some nice smoke bombs along the way. Also, because I was for some time a contractor, I managed to show the girls how much fun it was to blow boulders and stumps on building sites. In contrast, my first childhood chemistry set, which I received in the mail as a reward for either selling 800 copies of Grit magazine in a month or 1,200 boxes of Christmas cards (I can't remember which), probably had stuff that would be locked up in a 12-layer-thick stainless steel safe in one of today's university labs. I'm sure there was lead in that lovely little wooden box filled with bottles and test tubes.

These days as a hobby I play around with making a bit of jewelry -- some of the solders contain lead (and, oh my God, CADMIUM!!!!). When a 2-ounce package of cadmium-containing solder arrives via UPS, included is a Hazmat information package that far outweighs the product I purchased. I promise I won't inhale the fumes.

Yes, I feel so much better knowing that Washington is watching out for us. But dammit, the good old days were more fun.

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1 comment:

Woody said...

Let's not forget sharing ice cream cones, drinking from the garden hose, putting mud on bee stings...
Heck, I used to walk to school along the railroad tracks and you want to know something funny? A train never, not once, snuck up on me. How anyone could miss the roar of the diesel or the rumbling in the ground is beyond me.
BB and pellet guns were the norm, erector sets too. And yes, even the chemistry set was standard fare.
After all the "good" the government has tried to do "for the children", we now blame the foods they eat for their obesity. Sure, it had nothing to with a forced sedentary lifestyle.