Saturday, June 13, 2009

Recalling the Recall, as I Recall


Is all clothing supposed to be flame retardant? I don't recall that it is. I know that sleepwear is supposed to be flame retardant, but I guess I always thought that applied to a) things that you actually slept in, and b) mostly for children's sleepwear. I knew children's sleepwear is to be flame retardant (which explains why I spent my childhood clad in a Hefty bag when I slept), but what constitutes sleepwear. I ask because I just stumbled upon this headline: "Fire danger - six deaths reported from robes that catch fire." Whaaaa....?

Now, first of all, the headline is poorly written. It makes it sound like the robes are just suddenly bursting into flames. While sounding pretty cool, that's not really the case. Here's the thing about fire: It burns things. It's not very discriminate either. It burns damn near everything. What does fire not burn to the point of destruction? Very little if anything at all. I'm trying to think of something that fire or heat would not alter in some form and I'm drawing a blank. Dirt. That's all I'm coming up with. Dirt doesn't burn. Maybe gems, but don't quote me on that. You know, things like diamonds, rubies, emeralds. (I feel like I'm on Pyramid. Ooh! Things in a pirates booty! Or is that bounty? Never mind.) I don't think that heat can alter those. But metals, glass and textiles all will feel the wrath of the flame.

The first line of the article is confusing to me. It reads: "In the two months since a line of robes were recalled over flammability concerns, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has learned that six people have been burned to death wearing them." Now, does that mean that since the recall, six people met a charred and unfortunate end? Or does that mean that the robes were recalled and only after the recall did they learn that before the recall, six people had been burned to death? I can't imagine that it means either one because if it refers to the second scenario, then whey did they recall them in the first place? How would they have known about the death by flambe' if no one had experienced it? I don't get it.

If you simplify this equation, the answer is 5/6ths.  It's the long way around things, I agree, but this way is more impressive.  To me, anyway.The story continues with "The CPSC said five of the six victims were women -- three in their 80s -- and all were cooking when their robes caught fire." Um, wait. What now?

So, let me get this straight. These robes did not spontaneously combust whilst being worn. No, these robes, it sounds like, were being worn whilst cooking. Now I don't know if I can assume what "cooking" implies; whether that means over a range top stove or with an oven. But am I the only one who sees a couple of corresponding factors that could lead to these fiery deaths that are not going to be solved by recalling the particular robe?

First of all, five of these folks were in their 80s. Now, I'm not saying that if you're in your eighties that you should be sitting in an easy chair with a shawl around your shoulders. But I am saying that if you're in your eighties, perhaps there's the possibility that you're not quite as alert as you were when you were younger. Perhaps that's a reason for not noticing that your sleeve had gotten a little too close to the burner and was now aflame.

Second, five of the six folks were cooking at the time of all of the fire. So, should I assume that an alternative item of clothing would have caught fire the same way that the robe did or would it not have caught fire the same way that the robe did? I understand how if a garment is totally combustible that if one little piece of it is ignited how the entire thing could become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. That I get. But is this robe any more combustible than any other article of clothing is my question.

Here's my point: I have yet to read how this is the fault of the robe and why the robe is being recalled. What would be wrong with putting a label on the robes that said "Do not use near fire or heat source such as a range or an oven"? Look, don't get me wrong. If the product is unsafe, it should not be sold to consumers. But how is this robe unsafe? If you're cooking with a long dangling sleeve and it dips itself into the grease that you're making your fried chicken with and then that grease laden sleeve goes up next to a burner on the stove, guess what? It's going to catch on fire no matter what it is. How is this the robe's fault?!


According to the press release "The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction." How is wearing that particular robe an "unreasonable risk"? I don't think it is. If the robe is made out of some sort of fabric that will conduct fire at a greater rate than any other fabric, that's a different story. That becomes the story of "What dumbass decided to make a robe out of that particular fabric in the first place?"

I don't want people to die unreasonably. I'm not all that thrilled when people die reasonably, to tell you the truth. BI just don't get it.ut this just makes no sense to me. I'd really like to know what the sixth person was doing when their robe caught fire if they weren't cooking. The government seems to be having a tighter and tighter grip with it's hand in everything that the public is doing and/or consuming these days and I can't tell if it's doing anyone any good. I'm not so sure that recalling these robes is necessary. I'm far from convinced that it's going to do any more good than issuing a statement that says "Don't cook in this or you could die" would do.

Am I missing something here? Let me know if I am. I almost feel like I must be because the whole recalling of all of the robes seems a bit dramatic to me considering that, given the facts presented, telling people to not cook while wearing the robes would be equally effective.

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