WARNING LITES: Life is dangerous. Full of risk and unexpected peril just waiting to strike you down. Don't believe it? Take a closer look at the warning labels surrounding you on a daily basis.

It all started with a firefighter's helmet, which purportedly had a sticker inside that said: "Warning: Firefighting is an inherently dangerous occupation." We visited TFD's Main Station to verify this lede, but the only odd disclaimer we could find on the gear was, "Keep away from paint." But the new-and-improved Werner ladder, which had at least five different warning labels, was another story. "Be sure you are in good physical condition before using a ladder," it states. For novices in the skill of climbing, a large sticker on the last rung of the ladder warns, "Do not stand at or above this level." This was enough to spur us on to further investigation of the lengths industry will go to protect us from ourselves.

We noted recent amendments to the wimpy "could be hazardous to your health" Surgeon General's warning on cigarette cartons. (It may bear noting that by "recent amendments," we mean since the last time we picked up a pack, sometime back in the 1970s, when the sitcom Three's Company was also in fashion.) The tobacco industry has a list of warnings to choose from now, depending on companies' individual marketing strategies. Here's a partial breakdown: Many imports opt for the scientifically vague, "Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide," it being common knowledge that Americans are rubes and love their cars and everything they produce.

But the manly Marlboro and Black Death labels don't mince words: "Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and may complicate pregnancy." It's like they're saying, "Ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?"

Camel and Go To Hell cigarettes, (the latter being "cheaper than psychiatry and better than a nervous breakdown") warn, "Smoking by pregnant women may result in fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight." So practice safe sex: Don't smoke afterwards.

The Irish government is much more straight-forward: A carton of Sweet Aftons states in bold, block letters the simple slogan, "Smokers Die Younger."

And don't forget about your lighter: "Be sure flame is completely out after each use."

So you've eschewed smoke inhalation as either occupation or pastime. Don't feel smug. A variety of obstacles loom large for battery users: "Do not dispose of in fire, recharge, put in backwards or disassemble."

Caution: Helping Hand twine is "not recommended for use where personal safety is involved."

A package of scissors reads, "Warning: contains sharp edges." The Swingline company is not far behind: "Caution: staples have sharp points," followed by the more explanatory, "Staples have sharp points for easy penetration. Handle with care."

While most of Elmer's products are proudly labeled safe and non-toxic, their spray adhesive advises, "Do not spray in eyes or mouth."

And remember, those pleasantly scented Bowl Fresh toilet deodorizes are, in fact, "Harmful if swallowed." We also hear they make your tongue blue.

Kingsford charcoal briquettes are great for the barbecue, except for this: "Caution: combustible. Keep away from heat and open flame."

These days, that plastic blue Igloo Ice is running with the slogan, "Nontoxic--Better Than Ice." You figure out the implications of that one.

And don't be fooled by the single-edged, stainless-steel blades on the Gillette Widget, a disposable scraper and cutter: "This is not intended for shaving." Yeowch! While you're at it, make sure you..."Don't leave shaving gel on the stove or the radiator."

Men aren't the only ones at risk. FDS (that's Feminine Deodorant Spray) says, "Warning: Flammable. Do not use product near fire, flame, or sparks." Now there's advice rife with metaphorical food for thought. (For the inexperienced consumer, this suggestion doesn't fall anywhere near the product's intended trajectory, which is weird enough to begin with.)

Moving on, there's something almost poetic about the last sentence of precautionary measures to be followed with Pennzoil 10W-30: "Avoid generation and inhalation of oil mists." For what it's worth, they also tack on, "Don't pollute," and "Conserve resources." That's because they care.

While we're on the subject of cars, the warning label on our visor says if we make sharp turns or abrupt maneuvers, "the vehicle may rollover, go out of control and crash." It also reminds that "these driving conditions may occur on streets and highways, and off-road." Best to stay on the sidewalks, then, and be sure to keep our eyes on the visor in clutch situations.

Here's some other good advice from product labels, in no particular order: Discard broken balloons at once. Always handle your food jar with care. Do not overfill. Glass breakage can cause burns or cuts. And for God's sake, do not carry batteries in pocket or purse. TW

Image Map - Alternate Text is at bottom of Page

Desert Links
The Best of Tucson Online
Tucson Weekly's Talk Back Forum

 Page Back  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Cinema | Back Page | Forums | Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth