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January 03, 2009

Murderers!!!! (Next up: Secondhand Drinking)

Whatever would we do without scientists?

When they're not spending millions of our tax dollars to inform us of things we already know, they're discovering heretofore unsuspected dangers lurking in the very fibers of our clothing, just waiting to bite us all in the evolutionary ass:

Researchers have identified "third-hand smoke," an invisible evil that acts like a deadly Ghost of Cigarettes Past: Polluting the air, killing innocent babies and ottomans — even if they aren't present at the time.

As you can guess, this research is geared toward one end only: The banning of all smoking on private property — including your home.

Never one to eschew intolerant, divisive fear mongering (even as it denounces intolerant, divisive fear mongerers who use fear and... well, fear as an argument for imposing their policy preferences on others), the New York Times doth not hesitate to wield its much renowned flexible urban viewpoint like the jackhammer of the Gods... that is, if there were such a ridiculous thing as a Supreme Being (an idea all open-minded and intelligent people properly reject out of hand):

Parents who smoke often open a window or turn on a fan to clear the air of second-hand smoke, but experts now have identified another smoking-related threat to children’s health that isn’t as easy to get rid of: third-hand smoke.

That’s the term being used to describe the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re crawling or playing on the floor.

Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the term “third-hand smoke” to describe these chemicals in a new study that focused on the risks they pose to infants and children. The study was published in this month’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is bad, but they don’t know about this,” said Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

“When their kids are out of the house, they might smoke. Or they smoke in the car. Or they strap the kid in the car seat in the back and crack the window and smoke, and they think it’s okay because the second-hand smoke isn’t getting to their kids,” Dr. Winickoff continued. “We needed a term to describe these tobacco toxins that aren’t visible.”

Third-hand smoke is what one smells when a smoker gets in an elevator after going outside for a cigarette, he said, or in a hotel room where people were smoking. “Your nose isn’t lying,” he said. “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’”

Run. Run for your lives, people. You may have only moments left to live.

Indeed, the list of things which are slowly killing the human race by inches continues to mount. For instance, we once thought cleanliness was next to Godliness. Now, thanks to Science, we know that Mr. Clean is nothing better than a sociopathic monster out to kill our children:

Children from extremely clean homes may be more likely to develop asthma and hay fever than those who grow up on farms or in families that allow a bit of dirt in the house, researchers are reporting.

Dirt and manure may be beneficial because they are swarming with bacteria, which can help an infant's immune system to mature and develop tolerance -- instead of allergies -- to environmental substances like pollen and animal dander.

The new findings, published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, add to a growing collection of evidence for the ''hygiene hypothesis.'' This theory suggests that 20th century advances like indoor plumbing, antibiotics and cleaner homes may have contributed to recent increases in allergy, asthma and eczema by decreasing rates of childhood infection. Some infections early in life, the argument goes, help the immune system develop properly.

And as for saving the planet, well, that too has its dark side:

The more we learn, the more we learn we’ve really learned nothing at all, at least when compared to all the secrets that still lie hidden.

For example, there’s this absolutely fascinating article in today’s L.A. Times, which reports that some scientists think humanity’s ongoing obsession with hyper-cleanliness and its ever increasing microbiophobia (fear of germs), as evidenced by exploding sales of anti-bacterial products, may be contributing to the increases in some kinds of cancer we’ve been seeing lately.

It's enough to make the Editorial Staff go out into the garden and eat worms...

"In Africa, for example, the immune system is too busy chasing after worms to bother going after house dust mites," explained Dr Fallon.

"In a developed society, the immune system is looking for things to respond to.

"It's evolved to see worms and suddenly there are no worms there. So suddenly house mites, peanuts - whatever the allergies are - occupy the immune system and it responds and causes disease," he told the British Association's Festival of Science in Dublin.

In a study in Gabon, Africa, schoolchildren that were infected with worms had lower allergic responses to house dust mites than children with no worms.

When the children had their worms removed by drugs they then developed increased allergic responses.

When are people going to accept that there is such a thing as having the path made too smooth?

We humans are made to overcome obstacles and challenges. Muscles only grow stronger by being used. We only grow calluses on our hands by friction (and often, by getting blisters first). Our immune systems grow stronger by being attacked - the mechanism is challenge and response.

If we humans remove every hard thing from our paths, we will weaken and die as a species. This is so simple and obvious it should not require saying.

The princess has heard innumerable "experts" of late lauding the Obama administration for its willingness to listen to the scientific community. Will any of these brainiacs tell him the truth: that human beings need some hardship in order to flourish?

If they did, would he listen? I doubt it.

Posted by Cassandra at January 3, 2009 10:27 AM

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It never ceases to amaze me -- Libs think they'll live forever if the rest of us will just get our collective act together. And most of them also favor "death with dignity" -- so long as it's somebody else doing the dying...

Posted by: BillT at January 3, 2009 12:47 PM

...innumerable "experts" of late lauding the Obama administration for its willingness to listen to the scientific community.

Would that be the scientific community that's been moaning that anthropogenic cee-owe-two is causing irreversible global warming or the scientific community that's been moaning that anthropogenic cee-owe-two is causing irreversible global cooling?

Posted by: BillT at January 3, 2009 12:54 PM

It's like I always say... sometimes the comedy just writes itself!

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2009 01:05 PM

Third hand smoke is a real problem - it is what makes smokers STINK! :P Unfortunately, for those of us who have developed a real sensitivity to cigarette smoke, it can have the same effect as standing next to a smoker with a lit cigarette. Cubicle neighbor comes back to his cubicle after taking a break, and I almost ask him not to get too close. I don't know what it is, but many cigars don't affect me this way, and no pipe tobacco I have ever smelled.

And, I have been saying for a long time that we need a little more dirt in our lives. Keeps the body strong. Of course, I also think merry-go-rounds should be brought back because a few bruises teaches about centrifugal force better than any classroom.

Posted by: Gerald at January 3, 2009 01:14 PM

Oh, I should specify: I don't think 3d-hand smoke is going to kill us all. It just makes you into a terribly vile, smelly person whom others desire to spray down with Febreeze....

Posted by: Gerald at January 3, 2009 01:15 PM

ssSCIENCE! with peer review by NYT :p
Nasty little facts that do not bow to the Flexible Urban View Point cannot be "science".

oh and a very Happy New Year from the
wastelands of Angmar er.. AAFES checkout
in dark wet and cold Germany

Posted by: darkriders at January 3, 2009 01:42 PM

Unfortunately, for those of us who have developed a real sensitivity to cigarette smoke, it can have the same effect as standing next to a smoker with a lit cigarette.

I'm sorry that it bothers you Gerald, but I think there are always accomodations to be made in living/working with others.

At the point at which smokers are asked to leave the building and go outside just to have a cigarette, I think they have done enough to accommodate others.

Perfume bothers me (often it can bring on a migraine if it's strong enough - I avoid department stores for this reason). But that doesn't give me the right to tell someone else not to wear it.

Many Asians are very offended by our body odor. They can smell the red meat we eat in our perspiration and it smells rank to them. Believe it or not, when I stopped eating meat for 3 years, I became aware of it on some (but not all) people to and it bothered me at times. When I ate certain meats, I became ill. My body just wasn't used to the fat anymore. But being nauseated and thinking that way of eating was healthier (and it was) didn't give me the right to tell anyone else how to live, either :p

I've never felt better in my life than I did during those 3 years. But I would never enforce that on anyone else, and it was a real PITA trying to find foods that conformed to that way of eating, especially when I traveled. That's why I eventually gave it up. It was too much work when I moved to the east coast and asking family and friends to accommodate my quirks seemed inconsiderate. In California, people are more attuned to that sort of nonsense. Not so much back here :p

We have to adapt to our surroundings sometimes if we want to live in society. I would ask to be moved to another cubicle if it really bugs you. Sounds like a chemical sensitivity (since cigar smoke doesn't bother you - must be one of the additives).

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2009 02:21 PM

Soap and water clean. Nothing majorly offensive there.

Living in Germany among people who thought daily showering was a waste of water was irritating.

When I was enciente, my poor liver was having a horrid time with the shedding of hormones, to the point of any and every smell drove me to bouts of vomiting.

I started taking lemon water and the offensive odors disappeared.

I don't care if someone smokes near me as along as there is adequate ventilation.

However, they prolly didn't tell you that the vermin who live in houses hate third hand smoke.

Posted by: Cricket at January 3, 2009 02:56 PM

They can smell the red meat we eat in our perspiration and it smells rank to them.

One of the things LRRPs would do before they went for an extended walk in the triple-canopy was go on a tuna fish and vegetable diet for three days. No scented soap, no deodorants, no shaving cream.

First time I flew them, I got a shock -- I could swear I'd smelled VC...

Posted by: BillT at January 3, 2009 03:48 PM

Many Asians are very offended by our body odor. They can smell the red meat we eat in our perspiration and it smells rank to them.

Maybe you aren't aware of it, but I have smelled the difference on Asian bodies as to what they eat and drink, and because it is different, I don't necessarily find it all the pleasant either.

it isn't the meat dear, it is the different culture. I just happen to think that caucasians are a little more polite about it, and just ignore the difference.

Never quite looked at it that way, have you?

Posted by: Noelie at January 3, 2009 04:06 PM

Actually, I am aware of it.

And what is up with the "dear"? The only reason I'm aware of the Asian thing is because I read about it, not because anyone was ever rude enough to say anything. On the other hand, I've heard several Caucasians make rude remarks about the fish odor thing... as I'm sure Asians have been known to do amongst themselves. People are people.

Do try not to be patronizing. I was only pointing out that we all have differences and a little politeness goes a long way in helping us not to irritate the crap out of each other.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2009 04:24 PM

I'd be tempted to quit smoking myself if I could find another way to still piss off the sniveling, whining, nancy-boys like Gerald.

What makes Gerald "vile" won't go away with a shot of "Febreeze"[sic].

Posted by: Jimbo at January 3, 2009 06:46 PM

As long as we are on the subject of body odor, I tend to sweat garlic if I have eaten kimchee.
It keeps the bugs away in the summer time, so I eat it more at that time of year.

Interesting about odor being a tactical advantage or not...

Posted by: Cricket at January 3, 2009 08:14 PM

I could get really crude here and talk about my 'Klingon' sense of smell. My house was lived in by non-smokers who had smoking relatives.
The occasional whiff does catch us by surprise, but it isn't really offensive, as it isn't an overwhelming presence, just a once-in-a-while oh, yeah.

Our friend who died last year was a heavy, three pack-a-day smoker. While she had quit, her house just reeked. It was hard for her to stay off the smokes while she was surrounded by the smell.

So, while she was in the hospital, her daughter and the Engineer and I went in and opened all the windows, cleaned the curtains, shampooed the carpets, cleaned floors and walls and everything we could think of to reduce the smell.

We left her windows open 24/7 for about a week after the cleaning. Scent gone and she came back to a house that didn't remind her of her former weakness.

Posted by: Cricket at January 3, 2009 08:25 PM

It's a wonder any of us survived long enough to even be discussing 3rd hand smoke. I remember when everywhere was smoking, the only exceptions being around flammable materials and such.

I even smoked in my hospital rooms when I gave birth!

Though I'm certainly not advocating for a return to those days, I do wish people would chill about what I'm doing to myself in my own house.

Posted by: Donna B. at January 3, 2009 10:22 PM

Oh, and why is it that environmentalists seem to think all the earth's problems are caused by too many people and at the same time are so concerned about things that would kill more people off?

And why don't we have organic cigarettes without additives? Surely that would be more acceptable, wouldn't it?

Why aren't state and local governments who tax smokers and drinkers as "sinners" lamenting the health crazes that, if successful, are sure to diminish their income? Are they going to replace that with punitive taxes on gasoline to raise the price to encourage less driving?

And, can you get high off 3rd hand marijuana smoke?

Posted by: Donna B. at January 3, 2009 10:30 PM

I chuckled when all that stuff about excessive cleanliness promoting allergies first came out, as I am an awful housekeeper and none of my kids (thank God) have allergies, despite their dad having had trouble as a kid.

However, I've wondered if perhaps the culprit isn't so much the absence of nice, healthy dirt (with dogs and cats, etc. hard to avoid it, quite apart from playing war games in the yard) but that my friends who were cleaning house while I was playing Mama Velociraptor in the playground with my screaming scared brood, tended to use dozens of highly scented cleaning products, sprays, powders, air fresheners, etc. They didn't just clean, they glopped and sprayed and doused their houses with who knows what. And maybe it was all the gunk, rather than absence of grime that promoted allergies in the kids?

I have read somewhere (forget where) that taxing booze and cigarettes somewhat limits their use by teens, and this is obviously a good thing. But it seems unkind when one considers that many elderly and disabled people often value these things, and who is the state to make them even more out of sight as comforts or pleasures. Perhaps if you are under a certain age, you should pay the tax??

Although I don't smoke myself, I was appalled recently (maybe it is nationwide now?) to read a self congratulatory piece by our local hospital about how they would now forbid smoking anywhere on their grounds, not just inside closed spaces in the building. Having served as a hospital chaplain, and seen how much smoking helps calm people down and relax them. this rule seems cruel in the extreme: denying comfort to terrified or anxious relatives waiting for news of a sick or injured patient, or something to soothe the jangled nerves of an alcoholic in withdrawal, or just an anxious daddy whose wife is in labor, or a hardworking nurse or surgeon who needs a break.

It's okay for me to tell my kids that I'll kill them if they start smoking. I tell them, and they ignore, my stories about praying with dying lung cancer patients. But I don't have the right to lecture or nag others about their habits. I have plenty of dreadful ones of mine that I don't appreciate being nannied about.

Posted by: retriever at January 4, 2009 01:06 AM

Why aren't state and local governments who tax smokers and drinkers as "sinners" lamenting the health crazes that, if successful, are sure to diminish their income?

NJ already discovered that raising taxes on cigarettes merely made it more economically feasible for smokers to drive across the border into PA to purchase them.

NJ's solution to recoup the lost revenue?

Slap another tax increase on cigarettes...

Posted by: BillT at January 4, 2009 02:04 AM

Next up: hearsay smoke!

Don't get me wrong; as a former smoker, the smell of cigarettes, ashtrays, etc. makes me gag. However, I enjoy the smell of a good cigar and/or pipe tobacco...and will still smoke the occasional "Hecho en Habana" cigar.

Posted by: camojack at January 4, 2009 03:49 AM

BillT, the irony of the cigarette tax is that if tobacco products of all kinds are taxed to the point of prohibition, either you get a black market which denies the government revenue, or people quit buying it, which denies the government revenue. So, what does government do?
Endorse smoking in order to raise revenue?

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 12:58 PM

Not only that, I wonder to what use the states who sued the tobacco companies put their 'winnings' from the lawsuits?

Did welfare entitlements go up? Was the money used for 'smoker education' and reduction of smoking campaigns?

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 01:01 PM

So, what does government do? Endorse smoking in order to raise revenue?

In essence, it's already doing that. American cigarettes are a pretty good chunk of the favorable trade balances we have with most nations -- we export about 120 billion cigs a year, on average.

I wonder to what use the states who sued the tobacco companies put their 'winnings' from the lawsuits?...Was the money used for 'smoker education' and reduction of smoking campaigns?

"Lawmakers in Alabama have earmarked $85 million, the first installment of its tobacco payout, for a variety of youth-related programs, including the building of boot-camp-style detention centers, and will spend only $500,000 of that sum on antismoking efforts. Gov. Jane Hull of Arizona has proposed using her state's share for financing tobacco-reduction programs and rebuilding health facilities, including a psychiatric hospital. And Mayor Richard J. Riordan of Los Angeles wants to use the city's share to meet a Federal requirement that sidewalks be more accessible to the disabled."

Heh. More at


Old news, but the National Governors' Association's web page with each state's proposals has vanished down the memory hole.

Posted by: BillT at January 4, 2009 02:33 PM

I wasn't aware of what the state governors were doing (or not) with their 'windfall' profits, but why am I not surprised? What will they do when the money is gone and there are no more smokers in the state and there is a trade deficit in tobacco products?

I don't judge smokers; I don't smoke for mainly health and religious reasons. However, I have my vices that can or could be just as detrimental to my health and the last thing I want is to have someone pay for my choices, nor do I want government nannies telling me that drinking herbal tisanes is bad for me. I also don't want someone putting Celestial Seasonings or the local health food store out of business.

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 03:23 PM

Drat -- knew I'd forgotten something:

Granite exudes radon.

Where's the hue and cry over banning granite kitchen counters?

Where's the panic over innocent municipal workers being forced to toil in granite buildings?

Where's the call to evacuate the Granite State?

Why hasn't the EPA banned dairy products from Cow Hampshire, since they're derived from bovines grazing in pastures sitting smack dab atop granite bedrock?

We have a Gaiacentric disaster-in-the-making that makes third-hand smoke look like the latest news about the Arctic ice cap not melting and the gummint's just taking things for granite!

*sorry for the long intro -- must've been that fifth cup of coffee at supper*

Posted by: BillT at January 4, 2009 03:30 PM

BillT, no joke, Congress and the Senate 'for the children' idiots just passed a law prohibiting the sale of clothing to children under 12 that contains lead or phthalates.

Etsy, eBay and other 'second hand' markets are being affected, as well as manufacturers who are required to test for the contaminants.

This means that donations could dry up, as well as contributions to third world countries.

I guess that fabric stash of mine will come in handy...

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 03:52 PM

Not to mention knowing how to spin and weave. I even have dye plants.

Bring it on.

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 03:53 PM

Granite exudes radon? Butbutbutbut isn't radon 'natural?' I mean, more natural than the formaldehyde that reeks off formica?

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 03:54 PM

Ahhhh, you forget that formaldehyde is a *good* poison, because it's used to remove the demon caffeine from coffee.

...a law prohibiting the sale of clothing to children under 12 that contains lead...

Whaaaat? Are children under 12 working as X-ray technicians? That's *barbaric*!

...or phthalates.

About time. No one *over* the age of 12 should wear a leisure-suit, either.

Posted by: BillT at January 4, 2009 04:34 PM

Where would we be without scientists? Perhaps, dying of a treatable disease. Perhaps, at near starvation levels. Perhaps, at the whim of any dictator that you can't defend yourself against.

Scientists have had more to do with freeing people than any other group. Being one of those bulb-headed, science types, I suppose my ideas are suspect.

Science and politics are two different animals.

Posted by: Allen at January 4, 2009 05:03 PM

Phthalates are added to plastics to make them more malleable (read 'chewable' for the average ten month old), and, I daresay, to certain fabrics.

My stash is natural fibers, but aren't 'no iron' cottons part of the ban?

Yanno, why not just ban the use of the stuff in food, clothing, furniture and home building materials?

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 06:23 PM

Allen, I have a question here: Cancer is treatable, but not necessarily with the AMA's standard of surgery, radiation and chemo. Why are alternatives repressed? Especially when they have been proven to work, and with scientific studies?

Posted by: Cricket at January 4, 2009 06:25 PM

Oh for all that is holy - when was it decided and whose stupid idea was it that life was supposed to be "safe"? When has life EVER been safe? Life was not meant to be safe, it was meant to be LIVED.

Unfortunate things happen in life - I would descend into the deepest pits of despair if life "happened" to one of my children.

But that does not change the fact that my children have been given life to live, not to watch.

Posted by: airforcewife at January 4, 2009 08:04 PM


I poke fun all all kinds of professions. Mine included.

Scientists come under fire for thinking that they are objective when more often than not, they have a really hard time eliminating human bias (that's "politics" to us folks at home) from their work.

My Granddad was a research chemist. My sister in law is a plant geneticist. My brother's a theroetical mathmetician (and we're talking really abstruse mathematics - the non-applied kind. I'd tell you what he does but I'd have to kill you :p Or possibly myself.) Show me a scientist whose work isn't impacted by politics and I'll show you... well, I'm not sure this chimeric beast exists.

I'm afraid I have to beg to differ. Science and politics are *not* different animals so long as science is funded by tax dollars and scientists write grants. I've seen how the sausage is made and it isn't a pristine process.

Like any other human endeavor, there are good and bad actors. I hardly think I bash scientists on a daily basis, so I think I can be forgiven if I take the occasional whack at scientists, along with every other profession, when they do something funny. We all have our foibles.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 4, 2009 09:26 PM

Science and politics are two different animals.

Yes, but they're symbiotes. Neither can exist without the other.

Posted by: BillT at January 5, 2009 01:40 AM

And, well, this is nothing new, either.

"Scientists", going back to the Classical Greek era, always had a wealthy or political (or usually both) patron to fund their work.
Some patrons were principled, and were interested in the "truth", some patrons were not.

Galileo was a great example. His patron was the Catholic Church, and he was fine with the church until he got on the wrong side of a "religious" spat, which really had nothing to do with his discoveries or work. Most of the educated churchmen at the time were pretty confortable with what he found out and wrote about. But once he crossed the line into their 'politics', his status and discoveries were used against him in a 'political' way.
Once you start to take their money, whether getting grants or sponsorships or whatever, you are at the mercy of this sort of chicanery. There are only about 5-10% of so-called "scientists" that actually do anything really productive anyways. The balance are doing busy work, washing glassware (heh), teaching (not unimportant but not groundbreaking), shuffling paperwork as managers or just repeating/verifying what more creative scientists have already done.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 5, 2009 09:19 AM

One of the things LRRPs would do before they went for an extended walk in the triple-canopy was go on a tuna fish and vegetable diet for three days. No scented soap, no deodorants, no shaving cream.

It is funny, the things we sense (and smell) and are never even aware of consciously. I have read that our sense of smell plays a role in mate selection (we can pick up the scent of genetically compatible mates, and are more likely to be attracted to those whose genes complement ours). Interesting, no?

People differ.

Personally I find it amusing that we all grew up (at least people my age did) in a world where most adults smoked. So are we all doooooooomed?

For Pete's sake - when I was pregnant with my first, many women still did not quit smoking (as Donna mentions). That was pretty common. People smoked at my place of employment (and I worked right up until I delivered a 10+ pound baby). I sat in the break room while my friends puffed away. Somehow I'm not seeing that I delivered a low birthweight baby.

People forget that correlation does not equal causation. There are a lot of very poorly designed studies out there, and I often wonder how well other variables are controlled for?

I was recently rather surprised to realize that in this day and age, virtually every one of my close friends smokes (well, one just quit - good for her! :). Statistically, that's a bit odd.

She is almost 58 and has quit several times before but always started again. I hope this takes but I will be the last to nag or bother her. I smoked briefly as a teen. And I grew up driving around (as we all did) in closed up cars full of adults smoking. Miraculously, I survived the experience. So when I read about unquantified levels radiation on floors from thirdhand smoke, I really do have to wonder: how did they separate that out from all the other natural sources of radiation and toxins?

Or did they even try? And did they measure the levels in the babies' tissues and blood, or are they just measuring ambient toxins without even trying to find out whether there's a statistically significant different in what actually gets into the kid's body? That's what I'm talking about, Allen.

Science, like everything else, is a tool in our hands. It should not rule us and lately I've been quite annoyed at all the nonsense I'm hearing on the radio and TV that amounts to little more than a poorly disguised "You non-technical types should never question anything I say b/c this is Science and if you do, you're an untutored rube... so shut up and do as I say".

As someone who works in the tech field in software, I can tell you that no matter how much tech jargon or math you throw at a problem, if you can't explain your thinking in common sense terms to a layman, the odds are you haven't really thought your way through the problem all that well and are trying to BS your way past a lot of unexamined assumptions by using fancy words.

I don't think scientists are any worse than anyone else in this regard.

I just don't think they're any better about it, either :) They human, just as the rest of us are.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 5, 2009 09:45 AM

They human, just as the rest of us are.

And us do make mistakes at times.

You've been skimping on the coffee again, haven't cha?

Posted by: BillT at January 5, 2009 10:11 AM

Sorry about all the typos.

Kind of tired.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 5, 2009 10:18 AM

"Children from extremely clean homes may be more likely to develop asthma and hay fever than those who grow up on farms or in families that allow a bit of dirt in the house, researchers are reporting."

I've been a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster for over 16 years and have taken a lot of other people's kids into the woods. I'll vouch for this based on the medications I see kids on and what their homes are like and what their Moms' attitudes are towards their kids getting dirty. Fortunately, my wife is of the philosophy that "Every kid has to eat their pound of dirt by the time they're 5." Both my kids grubbed around in the yard when they were young and neither has any allergies at all.

Posted by: RonF at January 5, 2009 11:16 AM

I remember Sunday dinners in my youth, when my four of my mother's eight brothers, and their families, would gather at one house for the afternoon. They were all smokers of unfiltered Camels, and smoked incessantly, with the doors and windows closed. The air was blue. Large herds of very young children were exposed to this smoke, and it was so thick it could not be considered second-hand smoke, but first-hand. We all lived. In fact, I think that there were none of us that I recall having respiratory problems, except my sister, who was a "blue baby".

The children we all had have more earaches and asthma and general ill health than any of us who worked at farming jobs, in manure, around hay, setting pipe, hoeing beans, harvesting spuds.

I think we were happier and healthier getting dirty and being put in close proximity to germs. I mean, with the trend in vaccination today, children will soon be vaccinated against dryer lint and Nintendo Thumb. I don't think we are making a more resilient society with the constant focus on dangers-that-lurk.

Posted by: MathMom at January 5, 2009 12:08 PM

You simply *must* come visit the Castle. We've dust, dirt, bugs, and manure aplenty.

And we'll give you a shovel (long handled, of course) so you can come to a proper appreciation of the health benefits of country living!

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at January 5, 2009 12:39 PM

Forgot to mention earlier that asthma was found by researchers to be caused by cockroach droppings in close-in living conditions, such as low-income housing. Now we find that it is caused by excessive cleanliness in upper-income households.

Just as the growing snow and ice pack at the South Pole is evidence of global warming, this disease is convenient in the way that filth and excessive cleanliness both contribute to its spread.

Just amazing.

Posted by: MathMom at January 5, 2009 01:12 PM

Yawn. Wake me up when we get to Fifth-hand smoke.

Posted by: a former european at January 5, 2009 01:59 PM

Apropos of John's and MathMom's comments, I remember reading years ago about someone who used horseradish to treat severe hayfever/allergies. Same theory as homeopathy, sort of: trigger the body's natural defenses, or maybe reset them to a less "twitchy", hyperalert level.

I thought that was funny.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 5, 2009 02:34 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/05/2009 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at January 5, 2009 02:57 PM

When Mother Hummer stops by and gives the H3s new toys and seat covers, they aren't allowed to play with them or even take them into the garage except to go straight into the washing machine.

The 3HS smell is something. What I can't believe is that I grew up with 2HS in our garage - and hardly noticed. But after a lifetime of non-smoking and living with non-smoking drivers in smoke free garage, I don't even want stuff from a smoker near me.

Posted by: Hummer at January 5, 2009 03:34 PM

And in your own home, that's not really an issue :p

The problem starts when you go out into public. Kinda conflicts with the whole no limits on my behavior unless there's 'force or fraud' deal, doesn't it?

I'm always amused to see how people will concoct all sorts of dire consequences to argue against whatever vice they don't happen to have a stake in :p The thing is, they all have a downside. That's why they're called vices, donchaknow?

I guess we can outlaw them all... "for the children". Clamp down until we're all so squeaky clean and safe that no one is allowed to do anything except the people who never want to color outside the lines even a bit. Hell, drinking probably damages your DNA - you could be held liable for lessening the IQ of your future progeny if you're dumb enough to allow them to gestate normally instead of terminating the infestation like a civilized person :p

Or we can use a little common sense ... and realize that no matter what dumb argument flies this week, pretty much everything we do DOES affect someone else. It just does. Whether we like it or not.

It then becomes a matter of competing interests, and whether the majority can quash minority interests. It appears that's what's happening here. It's getting where I've gone into any number of BARS THAT ADVERTISE CIGAR SMOKING and actually seen one or two b***hy patrons intimidate the management into telling people who came there for the express purpose of smoking a cigar and having a beer (something they can't do just anywhere) they had to freaking go outside or on the roof to smoke.

Where does the madness end?

Nevermind. We all know the answer to that.

The thing is, we can't touch the Internet, no matter how illegal or harmful something is, even if crimes are committed or children harmed. But God forbid someone be allowed to smoke in their own home, or even more ridiculous, smoke *outside* and be allowed back into the house :p

And they ask me why I drink.

Posted by: Common Sense, like Elvis, has left the building... at January 5, 2009 03:52 PM

re: washing things.

I tended to take the opposite approach, Hummer.

While I would never say my house was dirty (I vacuumed every day, for instance - I just like clean carpets), I let my boys and the kids I babysat get dirty. And I wasn't over big on washing all the time.

Dirt is good for kids while they're playing. It doesn't hurt them one bit.

I remember a neighbor screaming at me (literally) one day after a summer rain shower.

I had taken the baby girl (about 15 months) I babysat full time outside during the rainshower. We were having an absolute *ball* stomping and splashing in a rather large puddle that always used to accumulate at the end of our driveway. She was giggling so hard I thought she's stop breathing - I have rarely seen such delight in a little girl's eyes. We smacked the surface of the puddle, stomped in it, kicked the water, just had all sorts of fun in it.

After the rain stopped I scooped her up and took her inside for a warm bubble bath and a long nap.

My neighbor came to my door to inform me that "That puddle has....microbes in it."

I think I was about 23 or 24 years old at the time. I had 2 kids of my own. I just stood there, non-plussed, trying not to say what was running through my mind (she was a lot older than I was). Finally I thanked her and said I thought the situation was probably under control and shut the door.

Told Erin's mom at the end of the day and she laughed hysterically.

Microbes??? :) I played in the rain as a child.

This reminds me of a story my Mom tells of living in the Philippines where I was born. The local military wives took to sewing layettes for the native children whom (they'd decided) were wearing "unsanitary" clothes and started to teach their mothers to wash their babies.

You guessed it: the infants began to sicken and die. Their formerly robust immune systems were weakened by all this washing and protection from their environment.

I think there has to be some balance - some happy medium. And I think we are smarter now - we do take some precautions where it's sensible. But I really don't think we need to go to extremes. It's more likely we're bringing on the very thing we are trying to avoid.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 5, 2009 04:16 PM


> "In a developed society, the immune system is looking for things to respond to.

So, it's kinda like the government, then???


Posted by: Obloodyhell at January 5, 2009 06:37 PM

Thanks for making me laugh, OBH.
That's the second time today :p

You guys are the best.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 5, 2009 06:42 PM

> a little politeness goes a long way in helping us not to irritate the crap out of each other.

Unfortunately, Cass, all too many people these days GET OFF irritating the crap out of others.

There's a reason P.J. O'Rourke identified them as the "Perpetually Indignant".

Posted by: Obloodyhell at January 5, 2009 06:43 PM

> BillT, the irony of the cigarette tax is that if tobacco products of all kinds are taxed

Cricket, it gets much, MUCH better than that.

Tobacco is far and away the most profitable crop, per acre, to grow. I don't have current figures, but, 20 years ago, an acre of Tobacco netted $2,000 per acre. The next highest common crop (as opposed to something odd, like ginseng) was corn, which would net about $600 per acre. All others were more likely in the $200 to $400 per acre range.

So, of course, when this whole anti-smoking crap took off, and the lawsuits against thee tobacco companies were filed, other than smokers (who actually paid for the suit), who got hurt the most?

Right -- the farmers who grew tobacco -- and what did that mean?

Well, of course -- the government had to increase the subsidy for growing tobacco!!!

LOL -- "Unintended consequences" has a very, very long reach.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at January 5, 2009 06:55 PM

> Not only that, I wonder to what use the states who sued the tobacco companies put their 'winnings' from the lawsuits?

Did welfare entitlements go up? Was the money used for 'smoker education' and reduction of smoking campaigns?

There is plenty of info on this if you go looking for it, actually.

1) Many of them DID apply it towards entitlements. Which, of course, still needed to be paid for when the one-time tobacco moneys ran out. THAT got a lot of states into financial troubles.

2) Most, I believe, DID apply a percentage to "stop smoking" and "smoking prevention" advertising campaigns. None of them that I have heard of applied them to actually help smokers actively quit -- such as subsidizing the price of "The Patch", which currently costs about 3x the cost of the already expensive habit it replaces.

a) The idea behind the lawsuits in the first place was that "smokers" had placed the burden of higher health-care expenses onto society. This conveniently ignored the counterbalancing effect of the fact that they shortened their lives, thus rendering even less of a burden on the social security system, for a "net gain".
b) how much of said moneys were reserved to pay for the extra upkeep supposedly represented by the smokers??? Can you say "none!"? I knew you could...

Posted by: Obloodyhell at January 5, 2009 07:24 PM

So now, because I live with a smoker, I'M killing babies with smoke? Bah, humbug.

Anything can kill you.

Something will.

Posted by: Trish at January 5, 2009 09:30 PM

I don't wash the kids stuff because of dirt. It isn't about the dirt, Cassandra. It is about the smell. When I can smell Momma Hummer's luggage though I am parked 20 feet from the guest garage, believe me, it is about the smell.

Posted by: Hummer at January 5, 2009 10:47 PM

As for the law on smoking in public, I say whoever owns the road makes the rules. If the owner wants smoking customers, non-smokers can go suck it up or go somewhere else. If they don't like it, let them buy the business and they can run it. I say this as a fuel efficient non-smoking vehicle.

Posted by: Hummer at January 5, 2009 10:49 PM

Wow :p Well, that makes sense. As I said, it is your house and you ought to be able to do as you please.

She must really smoke a lot! Since I have allergies (and we live in the woods where there is a lot of mold from leaves) we have several air filters in our house - one on the central heat pump, one portable and one that my husband uses if he wants to smoke a cigar.

I don't mind if he smokes the occasional cigar in the house. It's his house too. I've found that if we use the filters and take the ashes and cigar out after he's done, it doesn't seem to bother the house any. Of course I don't have a lot of heavy draperies either, so maybe that helps - mostly valances on the windows. I don't like piles of fabric everywhere.

re: bars. I've just be amazed at the PC nonsense. I've seen this several places. In Georgia years ago, here in DC, you name it. To me, if it's posted in an eating or drinking establishment that smoking is allowed and there are plenty of businesses around that don't allow it and you don't care for smoking... go find another one that fits your personal preferences. Don't try to force them all to fit your preferences.

I'm just waiting for them to ban peanuts at the bar due to peanut allergies.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 6, 2009 06:16 AM

I'm just waiting for them to ban peanuts at the bar due to peanut allergies.

Heh! Last time I took KtLW to our favorite watering hole, a Newcomer began complaining that the munchies in front of her contained peanuts, and *demanded* the bartender rectify the situation.

He removed the offending bowl and replaced it with a menu.

Posted by: BillT at January 6, 2009 07:02 AM

And here I was, being facetious.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 6, 2009 07:44 AM

I have a friend whose son is deathly allergic to legumes and tree nuts. She provides his lunch every day at school and has to cook from scratch because of his allergies and the presences of minute quantities of the allergens in processed foods. She has not demanded that the school take the default lunch off the menu, which is PBJ sandwiches and milk, nor has she insisted that the foods prepped there be allergen free.

The offended customer can just Bring Her Own Food.

Posted by: Cricket at January 6, 2009 08:52 AM

KtLW doesn't care for the munchies at one of the pubs I like, so she just doesn't eat them. I don't care for the nouvelle stuff at a place she considers her favorite restaurant, so I don't partake.

We don't do to either place for the side shows -- we go for the main event in the center ring.

Posted by: BillT at January 6, 2009 09:43 AM


"We don't *go* to either place..."

Darn coffee withdrawal...

Posted by: BillT at January 6, 2009 09:45 AM