Friday, June 8, 2012

Sometimes it's better to not say anything at all

Last weekend my daughter and I were on our own, so we spent the whole weekend exploring and keeping busy. We were excited to find out that it was "Family Day" at our local Farmer's Market. Family day included a pen with small farm animals for petting and lots of kid-friendly booths set up with crafts, games and snacks.

At one of the booths there was a wheel set up with different fruits and vegetables on it. The kids could spin the wheel and try to guess the names of the various foods. They were also handing out reusable bags and individually-wrapped snacks from some health-food company. While we were waiting our turn, the mom ahead of us, with two school-aged children, started explaining how she refused to give her children anything wrapped in plastic, so they would not be allowed to have the snacks. Sure, okay. Then, when the woman working the table offered her a reusable bag the woman flipped out, going on about how "those things are full of chemicals", and how no one should ever use them. Sure, you should wash your reusable bags, and some bags imported from China have been shown to have high lead concentrations, but that's not what this woman said. It's the way she phrased it that rubbed me the wrong way.

It made me want to say that it's a good thing she doesn't use anything with chemicals in it. She probably never buys clothing, washes her dishes or clothes, cleans her house, wears shoes, drinks water, eats, oh, anything. Because they're all made of... chemicals! Sometimes I feel bad for chemicals. The word has taken on such a negative connotation lately (although, perhaps for good reason) that it is difficult to have a conversation about safe chemical usage, or even useful and productive chemical usage, because it's become a term used for fear-mongering.

Yes, I want to reduce the amount of carcinogenic and teratogenic substances in the environment, and I prefer to wash pesticides off of my fruits and vegetables. But, chemicals have done a lot of good, and make up everything and everyone around us, so maybe we can try to be more specific, and more informed about the kinds of chemicals that we want to avoid instead of indiscriminately rejecting things. It's all about balance.

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