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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: January 10, 2018

You Never Hear About"

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I try to stay current with news, issues, trends and cultural norms but it is a fact of life that as you get older, having lived more than half of half of your life expectancy, you also spend time thinking about the past. After all, by the time you are in your 60's, like me, what is past takes up an enormous amount of your total brain storage capability.

One of the things I muse on when I am doing some sort of "half-brain only required for this task" job is things that were common when I was younger that are no longer a part of life.

There are lots of examples, but one of them included the religiously-observed rule, when I was young, of "no swimming for an hour after you eat." The purported reason for this was if you swam after eating you would be stricken by a cramp, which might cause you to drown. Now on its face this was sort of silly, as our normal "swimming" was going to a shallow beach area and splashing around in the water. None of us were serious swimmers, and we weren't allowed to go in if it was over our heads anyway. Unlikely a fatal cramp would strike you down while standing in hip deep water, which was about normal "swimming" for us. Nor, I am happy to say, have I ever had a cramp so bad I think it would cause me to drown if I happened to be swimming.

A trip to the beach, if it involved food, would be a sand-covered hot dog and some cookies. Then we were forced to kill time waiting for the magical 60 minutes to pass. We didn't go swimming often, (partly because it usually wasn't warm enough!) and we hated wasting the time we had. But my Mom, my aunts and my friend's mothers, all enforced this rule. Possibly, it was because when they were kids, their parents enforced the rule. (My Dad was NOT a rule person - and I have to admit while he was lots of fun, I'd never let my kids do some of the things he let me do!)

I haven't heard anything at all about this rule in many years. I don't know if the reality of the extremely low risk of such an event actually made people reconsider, or if it was the recognition that most swimming-related drownings result from unsupervised small children or drinking too much alcohol, not eating sandy hot dogs and then swimming.

Another example is Sunday night long-distance calling rates. Sunday night was always the time relatives and friends living far away called our house for bargain-rate conversations. Sort of quaint to think about this one " even the term "long distance" has disappeared in the cell phone world.

Then there is the memory that got me the most curious. When I was young, and cut or scraped myself, mom always got out the little red glass bottle of "Mercurochrome" to treat it. The lid of the tiny bottle had a glass "applicator" attached to it, that applied the violently red liquid to the wound. I can honestly say I don't remember if it stung or not, but the red color stained absolutely everything it touched, visible on the skin for weeks afterward. The red color was so intense that you felt like it had to have nearly magical healing properties, as it was so unnatural. The disappearance of this one-time household first aid standby puzzled me, so I did a little research on this one.

The material, mainly used as an antiseptic, is still sold in some countries, but it was banned in the U.S. in 1998 because of concerns about its safety. Among other concerns, it contains mercury, a nasty toxin. Before the material was banned, the Food and Drug Administration challenged the pharmaceutical companies to present evidence or studies showing this introduction of a liquid mercury-containing substance into open wounds was not hazardous. The companies declined to do the expensive studies necessary to prove it was safe, since they had other anti-bacterial medications that were proven safe and worked well. As a result, Mercurochrome is no longer sold in the U.S.

There is no doubt the material was powerfully anti-bacterial. Mercury is so highly poisonous that even the amounts that pollute our Great Lakes waters show up in fish, and results in recommendations for limiting the amount of lake-caught fish people eat.

I ran across a reference to some other topical medications currently being sold with the highly recognizable (to old people!) "Mercura" phrase as part of their name, but these are not the same substance used in my childhood. They are chemically different, and do not contain mercury.

Given what we know now about the adverse health impacts of mercury, those FDA employees did a really good thing back in 1998. Obviously it didn't kill we children of the ඄'s to get Mercurochrome smeared into our open wounds, but it may well have put us at a greater health risk than unauthorized swimming 45 minutes after eating.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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