Safety Commission's job is to protect us from ourselves

I rushed in the front door and ordered my wife, "Step away from the utensil drawer!"

She looked at me like I was nuts, which isn't that unusual, and went back to doing what she was doing, which was looking for stars to put on a rock she was painting to look like an American flag in the back yard. But that's another story.

"I'm serious," I said. "Take the dog and the cats outside. We may have a dangerous product in the house."

"What's that?" she asked, paying attention to me now.

"The ice cream scoop," I replied.

Yes, the ice cream scoop.

Geoff Dornan, the Appeal's capitol bureau reporter, had alerted me to this hazard because he had received a notice from the manufacturer.

It seems Geoff's ice cream scoop -- a cast-aluminum model made by Dansk -- has been recalled.

"A cap at the end of the handle of the scoop can fly off with substantial force, especially if the scoop is immersed in hot water," the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned. "The metal cap poses a risk of impact injury to nearby consumers."

The company voluntarily recalled 190,000 ice cream scoops after receiving 10 reports of the caps flying off, "sometimes traveling several feet."

Fortunately, no injuries have been reported.

Nevertheless, "Consumers should stop using these ice cream scoops immediately."

I feel a little sorry for you folks who are, indeed, scooping ice cream even as you read this. For all I know, you're in the middle of a birthday party.

But we can't be too careful.

In fact, the U.S. government employs 480 people at a cost of $54 million to protect us not only from faulty ice cream scoops but -- and this is most important -- ourselves.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. The Consumer Product Safety Commission ( does some great work. They're the ones who warned us back in 1987 not to throw lawn darts at children, because lawn darts can kill.

In fact, looking over the list of warnings from the Consumer Product Safety Commission can make a person absolutely skittish about leaving home. Or staying home. Or standing innocently in the garage with your Roto Zip Tool handheld saw, on which the handles "can separate from the body, causing the operator to be cut." (Roto Zip Tool only had to recall about 1.9 million of those babies.)

So, yes, there are plenty of defective products for which the American public needs to be warned.

What I really wonder about, though, is how effective are the Consumer Product Safety Commission's warnings to human beings who simply insist on endangering themselves with everyday products.

Here are a couple of examples:

-- For ladders: "There should only be one person on the ladder at one time."

If you're accustomed to having a crowd on your ladder, are you really going to heed such advice? Ladder-crowders tend to think, "Heck, I've had plenty of people on my ladder in the past and nobody ever got hurt. What's the government doing telling me how many people I can have on my ladder?"

-- On medicine: "Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine." The main reason, of course, is so you can watch the look on their faces while they try to swallow the stuff.

But just when you think perhaps the Consumer Product Safety Commission is interfering with Darwin's law of natural selection, in walks a reporter -- I won't say who, but her initials are F.T. Norton -- to explain how she managed to burn herself for the second time with an iron.

Now, lots of people have burned themselves while ironing. Not that many, however, have burned themselves twice while trying to iron the clothes they are wearing.

(Memo to the Consumer Product Safety Commission: As soon as you've wrapped up the series on ladder safety, I suggest some hints for people attempting to operate a hot iron.)

Another hot idea for the Safety Commission would involve trying to anticipate products they might have to recall before those products actually hit the market.

My suggestion this week would the VETBLE Steering Wheel Table, announced in a press release from a company in San Jose, Calif.

According to company spokesman Chuck Tinsley, "the VETBLE does exactly as the name implies. It turns any steering wheel into a multi-purpose table."

"A sturdy clip keeps the table in place," Chuck continued. "Generous in size, the VETBLE is large enough to hold a laptop computer. In fact, it can hold up to 10 pounds."

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that having a table for your laptop mounted on your steering wheel might not be a good idea. There would be other practical functions, of course, such as having a place to set down your cheeseburger while making a phone call.

Far be it from me, though, to thwart American innovation. Today a table for your steering wheel, tomorrow an ice cream scoop that won't explode.

Back in my kitchen, I gingerly opened the utensil drawer and poked around for our cast-aluminum ice cream scoop.

There it was, lurking with the ladels and wooden spoons and who knew what other kinds of secretly dangerous kitchenware.

Ignoring my impulse to call the Douglas County Bomb Squad, I picked up the scoop between two fingers and looked for the tell-tale Dansk name on the handle.

Nope. All mine says is "Made in Taiwan."

I let out a sigh of relief. Safe.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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