Reading the fine print


Yesterday in The New York Times there was an interesting article concerning, of all things, toothpaste. Eduardo Arias , a mid level government worker in Panama, decided to look at the ingredients on the tube of toothpaste he was holding in a bargain shop, the sort of place we now have in all the malls. He noticed the ingredients included Diethylene Glycol, an organic compound (hmm, must be good for you?) that had been involved in a mass poisoning when found in cough medicine. He recognised the chemical and the whole sorry saga can be read in the New York Times article. In the end it was dodgy Chinese manufacturers, again…

It would appear than our demand for cheap products, our wealth and the Chinese desire to move into the modern world is creating the sort of conditions we moved through many, many decades ago, and thankfully left behind. The age of pro-capitalism and rapid growth with very little regulation. I think most people agree that regulations can be a right pain the ass however we tend to take for granted the benefits they bring once introduced. When they are ignored, through greed (Diethylene Glycol is 1/3rd the price of Glycerine) or ignorance (some Chinese officials said it was safe) people can get sick, crippled or die. And in this day and age there is simply no need for ignorance, especially in a country that is growing rapidly and could have access to all of our blunders and NOT repeat them.

Now I don’t know if Eduardo has access to the internet but at least he was willing to learn about and remember some simple chemistry. He knew this chemical was bad for people, which brings me to today’s point. How often do you read the listing of everything your buy? I know I do for all food products because my daughter is seriously allergic to dairy, so it’s something I’ve done for a long time now. Sure, shopping takes longer checking everything over and over because the manufacturers change ingredients without other obvious packaging changes but it’s sure interesting the sort of crap that is put into our food. All sorts of chemicals, all natural, most organically based are added to food to give it that perfect crunch, texture, consistency to sate our desire for the best of everything. If you made cookies at home you would use a fraction of the ingredients and most likely end up with a perfectly fine food. You would however, know what’s in them.

So next time you’re shopping, do check the labels. Do you know what you are consuming, what you eating, what chemicals you are spraying over yourself, rubbing through your hair and why they are there? Do all those ingredients really make it that much better? Maybe choose products with simply less stuff in them, I’ve always been a fan of K.I.S.S. and that should apply to many things, not just technology. And don’t forget to check the toothpaste…

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