A recent news story about a baby who died after crawling into a bucket of bleach left me thinking about the refrain, “our products are safe when used as directed.” We hear this over and over and over again. But we also hear of many cases – most of them accidents – where people fail to use products as directed.
To me, these cases raise many questions about the responsibility of manufacturers of products that contain harmful chemicals. For example, why do some companies make bathroom cleaners that require open windows when so many bathrooms have no windows? Why are some dishwasher powders filled with chemicals that are harmful to children if swallowed? Why do some glass cleaners come with ingredients you wouldn’t want a child to breathe if she pressed her nose against the window? The biggest question of all is when will these products be replaced by ones that are safe even if not used as directed? While we can’t prevent accidents, we can certainly take steps to make sure they hurt a lot less.