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Fashions and Carcinogens

This week’s blog post resurrects another flash from the past that still applies today.

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by


Fashions and Carcinogens

My near assault with a metal utensil on my co-worker’s Teflon-coated cookware created panic. How dare I consider attempting to retrieve one of her tasty lemon bars with anything other than a wooden or plastic spatula. Hadn’t I been informed that my careless action could not only damage her pan, but could also allow me to ingest the non-stick coating?

“That stuff leads to cancer, you know!” she said.

“Doesn’t everything cause cancer these days?” I replied, then wondered.  If Teflon is so bad, why the hell are we using it? Just another fad?

My flashback to that incident prompted me to further ponder my co-worker’s warning and how it applied to the world I currently lived in.

Being a Baby-boomer, I’ve witnessed numerous updates in trends and precautions throughout my sixty-plus years. Typewriters faded in favor of word processors, which morphed into PCs, laptops, and tablets. From watches to space capsules, everything has become computerized. Straight-leg jeans once flared to bell-bottoms, then back again. Country-comfort, meat-and-tater diets became taboo in favor of strictly vegetarian. The 1970s and ’80s encouraged platform shoes for both guys and gals. I even wore a pair––my dancin’ shoes––then watched the fad disappear only to re-emerge in the late ’90s. Due to pop princesses like Britney Spears, Madonna, and J-lo, hip-huggers and bare midriffs were resurrected from the ’60s and ’70s hippy days. And the list goes on and on.

The last two revelations led me to believe that as long as I could retain my waistline and shoe size, cleaning out my closet and donating my wardrobe to Goodwill might not be such a wise idea. Sure, I could justify my contribution as a tax-deductible means to help the less fortunate. On the other hand, if I waited long enough, I could also save money when those same clothing items made a rebound and leaped back into being vogue. Considering my current belt size, however, I nudged my focus toward everyday habits that had switched from safe to life threatening.

The first risk that came to mind was smoking. For many folks tobacco was part of life. Not everybody smoked, but Hollywood and the war years of the 1940s and ’50s certainly made taking a puff more fashionable––even for the ladies. Some cigarette manufacturers’ advertisements even claimed that inhaling their brand was healthy. By the time I reached high school, a drag from a Kool was definitely cool. Then the surgeon general announced that tobacco smoking caused lung cancer. Yikes! But, so did a lot of other things like working in a coalmine or with asbestos. Realistically, wouldn’t inhaling any foreign material for extended periods cause lung problems?

Basking in the summer sun to shade skin from winter paled to alluring bronze was another acceptable pastime that eventually suffered scrutiny. Who can say they were never sunburned? It was how we got our “sunshine vitamin D.” An entire industry of tanning oils and lotions blossomed––then added sunblocks to their lineup because the likely result of too much sun was skin cancer––basil cell carcinomas or worse.

And what about the stuff we eat and drink? For centuries red meat had been a dietary staple, until a study proved we should back off because too much red meat clogged our arteries. Nix! Nix! Stick to fish…or chicken or pork or veggies. Then Dr. Atkins proclaimed that a low-carb diet rich in protein––lots of red meat––was the key to losing weight and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Oh boy! By the way, didn’t the famed cardiologist also suffer a heart attack?

Then there’s coffee, which has endured artery-busting condemnation as well. This time, however, instead of clogging our blood vessels, coffee was supposed to make them brittle. Crack, crunch, spew, we’re dead. Geez Louise! Thankfully, for us slow risers in need of a morning jolt, more recent verdicts have claimed that coffee is good again––a hallelujah for all the patrons waiting in a Starbuck’s line.

Of course, alcohol has to be mentioned. After all, it kills brain cells and leads to sclerosis of the liver, right? But what about the study that stated a bit of red wine each day is good for more than the soul? Many Europeans have imbibed each day for centuries and lived long lives. Then there’s recent mention of how a beer a day can produce at least six prominent health benefits. Lordy may!

Regardless of the trend in consumer goods, from my perspective, one of the greatest problems lies in the fact that we humans––as a nation and across the globe––perform and depend on too many studies. Study after study, after study, after study that ultimately serves to prove all previous studies as unfounded, only to reverse their updated opinions a year or two down the road.

So, what are consumers supposed to believe, you ask? Well, not that I’m attempting to deny science, but it seems to me that, similar to fashion trends, health hazards seem to go in cycles. If you hang around long enough, what’s bad for you today will likely be okay to top-notch tomorrow.

And how can a person know what to do, what to wear, or what to consume within this study-rich environment? Simple: don’t live your life in fear. Save those bellbottoms and platform shoes ’cause they’ll likely come into fashion once more. Eat, drink, and be merry––but in moderation, because, face it folks, most anything in excess will probably kill you––even sex.  But hey, what a way to go.

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