Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Coming Unglued

Doug, Saw this, and thought it apropos of something. Common sense for the common man. Possibly worth posting. The whole article is in the Food and Dining section of the Washington Post (Food 101). The link to the article is broken, otherwise I'd give it to you.

Coming Unglued

By Robert L. Wolke
Wednesday, August 3, 2005; Page F01

I have often wondered about the safety of the glue used to attach those little labels on fruit. It annoys me because some fruit (e.g., plums) can be damaged by peeling off the label. While I wash the fruit after I peel the labels, how safe is the stuff they use to hold the labels on?

Jeff Cooper, whom you will instantly recognize as "the father of modern combat pistol shooting," ( http://www.dvc.org.uk/{tilde}johnny/jeff/aboutjff.html ) has written, "Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands." In spite of my never having fired a pistol in combat, I tend to agree with Father Jeff.



On the other hand, Horace (65-8 B.C.), another great philosopher, although perhaps lesser known in certain circles than Cooper, wrote, "Who can hope to be safe? Who sufficiently cautious? Guard himself as he may, every moment's an ambush."

I must agree also with Horace. There is no such thing as absolute safety, except in the wishful mind of the observer.

Regarding the safety of ingested substances: Every substance, without exception, is hazardous in large enough amounts and harmless in small enough amounts. The weight of a lethal dose of potassium cyanide, for example, is at least a few hundred times the weight of label adhesive that one might ingest on an apple.

So even if the adhesive were pure potassium cyanide (which, of course, it isn't; it is U.S. Food and Drug Administration-certified food grade), you'd have to eat a few hundred sticky apples to die from it, and the apples themselves would have killed you long before that. So "fear not, dear friend, but freely live your days" (Robert Louis Stevenson)..............................

Robert L. Wolke (http://www.robertwolke.com) is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. His latest book is "What Einstein Told His Cook 2, the Sequel: Further Adventures in Kitchen Science" (W.W. Norton, 2005). He can be reached atwolke@pitt.edu.


Comments:
By the way, the Am-241 in smoke detectors is in the form of a
water insoluble oxide. So that, if you ingest it, don't ask me how,
you will excrete it in short order. Inhaling it is another matter.
An interesting question is, how quickly metalic Am oxidizes.
This has some relevance to recent events.
 
What does the oxidation of Am metal have to do with the recent Sigma event??
 
It has everything to do with the potential scope and severity of the contamination. Ingestion of the metallic form of Am-241 is much more severe than of the oxide. No one has yet indicated what form of AM-241 was involved in the contamination.
 
8/03/2005 09:13:46 PM said:
"It has everything to do with the potential scope and severity of the contamination. Ingestion of the metallic form of Am-241 is much more severe than of the oxide. No one has yet indicated what form of AM-241 was involved in the contamination."

This seems like a legitimate question for PR. Would some please ask?
 
Well fellow geniuses (genii??), you tell me, how many reactive metals really like to remain unattached to oxygen?
 
Probably don't know the answer to that question unless they can trace the Am source back to the specific glove box. Even then, you can only go by process knowledge and history.
 
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