Food Safety

Food Poisoning Most of us worry about the food we consume, and we carefully read labels to learn what we are putting in our bodies. Occasionally, an outbreak of E Coli or Campylobacter or other pathogen is linked to food, and we turn our attention from nutrition to the basic safety of our food. For example, sprouts have been linked in this AP story to an outbreak of salmonella at Jimmy Johns restaurants. This article discusses the use of hot water baths to kill isteria and other pathogens on cantaloupes.

These stories of otherwise healthy foods like sprouts and cantaloupes posing serious health risks made me start thinking about ways we can protect ourselves from these sorts of dangers in food. One of the best blogs on this subject is written by Bill Marler, an attorney who has handled cases involving food poisoning resulting in injury or deaths. Another great article from Consumer Reports on food safety can be found here in this report on 9 foods that should be handled very carefully.

It turns out that we can take some common sense steps to protect our families and ourselves from these types of risks. Here are some tips from these sources cited above to consider:

  • use pasteurized milk and eggs
  • make sure meats, poultry and fish are heated thoroughly
  • wash raw produce very well

I hope these tips will help keep you and your family safe.

Keeping Your Home Safe When Using Space Heaters

 It seems like every year we hear depressing stories about adults or children (or pets) suffering a personal injury or death due to fires started by use of space heaters in homes.  The National Fire Protection Association reports that from 2005 to 2009, 79% of home heating fire deaths and 69% of injuries from home heating fires were caused by use of stationary or portable space heaters.

So, what can we do to protect our families from the dangers of space heaters?  Space heaters need plenty of room around them, so we should all keep adequate space around space heaters.  Also, space heaters should not be left on while you are sleeping.  A great list of tips for use of space heaters can be found at the Home Safety Council Website.

A list of recently recalled space heaters can be found on this page at the CPSC website as well. Please take a moment to review it to see if you might have a space heater that has been recalled.

On another note, readers of this blog will notice that I’ve been very late in getting it updated.  I’ve been absorbed in starting a new law firm and have not been posting nearly enough recently.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more frequently, so look for more posts on a more regular basis to the blog, and I welcome all ideas for new topics readers would like to see addressed.

Dangers of Hot Cars: Another Child Dies in Georgia

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported today that a 2 year old child died after being left in a van at a day care center in Atlanta.  The article by  Alexis Stevens and Fran Jeffries also mentions that since 1998, there have been 509 deaths involving this sort of vehicular hyperthermia, also known as heat stroke.

Normally we think of the danger associated with vehicle collisions on the roadways, but this sad case is a reminder that there are plenty of dangers other than roadway wrecks involving cars, including backovers, heat strokes, and children being trapped in trunks without trunk release mechanisms.

An organization called kidsandcars is doing great work to protect our children from these sorts of dangers.  Their website – – is a wonderful site to get information about these dangers and what we can do to protect our children from them.

As one example of a way to help remember that a child is in the back seat of a vehicle, one recent article recommends that a parent put a stuffed animal in the front seat as a visual reminder that their child is in the back seat.   There are many, many more things we can do to avoid the needless deaths and injuries from hot cars and other dangers associated with vehicles.

Please take a moment to visit these websites and read these articles to learn how to prevent your children from becoming victims of these dangerous conditions in cars.

Safety Hazards in Your Home

 When we think of safety in the home, we normally think of things like the purity of our water, lead in paint, and other well-known safety hazards.

But there are other hazards as well that are perhaps less well known but nonetheless important. Men’s Health magazine has compiled a list of 6 safety hazards in the home. Here’s the list:

  • Poisoned Produce – produce can be become tainted by things like Salmonella that can be found in raw poultry.  For example, raw chicken defrosting in the fridge can pose a risk of Salmonella dripping onto produce.   What to do?  be sure to wrap poultry in plastic wrap and keep it away from other items in the fridge.
  • Legionnaires Disease – the bacteria that can cause this disease can be found in water pipes.  What to do?  –  every 3 months, turn up the water heater to above 140 degrees, and run all faucets for 10 minutes.
  • Mercury in Light Bulbs – when compact fluorescent light bulbs break, they can release mercury gas, which is a neurotoxin.  What to do?  Hold the bulbs by the base rather than the bulb when inserting or removing them, and put the spent bulbs in the original box or double plastic bags after removal.
  • Sponges – who would have thought the humble sponge was a potential source of problems, but it turns out, according to the article, that a used sponge can harbor up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch.  What to do?  First, DON’T put them in the microwave, as suggested by The  Journal of Environmental Health recently, since there have been reports of dry sponges catching fire. A better idea is to simply put them in the dishwasher or to boil them once per week.
  • Furniture – the worry here is particleboard furniture, such as some bookshelves, because the particleboard may be glued together using formaldehyde, which is an irritant for the eyes and skin of some people. What to do? The article recommends applying a coat of varnish to the particleboard furniture to trap the vapors.
  • Radon – this is the gas that comes from decaying uranium in the soil, and it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. What to do?  Your home should be tested for Radon at least every 2 years.  If found to be at levels that are a concern, a ventilation pipe can be installed to fix the problem.

As you can see, most if not all of these potential hazards have fixes that are relatively easy and inexpensive.  I was certainly not aware of some of these hazards, and I hope readers will find this information helpful.

Safety in Rental Cars

  Rent_sign  If you travel much, then you have probably rented a car.  Usually, when you rent a car, you assume that the car has been properly maintained and that if the car has been recalled for a safety problem, the rental company has had the safety problem fixed.  It turns out, according to the Center for Justice and Democracy, that we can’t assume car rental companies are heeding safety recalls.

      In their blog at, the Center reports on the case of two sisters who died after the Chrysler PT Cruiser they rented from Enterprise burst into flames.  The vehicle had been subject to a recall for a leak of power steering fluid that could cause fires. 

      A reporter for the New York Times, Christopher Jensen, has reported on these rental car dangers, and one of his recent articles can be found here.  

      Now for the soapbox:  those who advocate for laws making it tougher to take companies to court fall silent about these kinds of cases, which expose the ugly truth that profit matters more than people to many of our nation’s largest companies.  And reporters, other than a few like Jensen, seem to sit idly by while our courts are relentlessly attacked by corporations and their allied interest groups.  When will they wake up to this assault on civil justice?