SOME time ago I wrote in this column about the many stupid ways people have died in recent years, mostly due to the upswing in popularity of taking selfies on top of cliffs, waterfalls, tall buildings, and in front of speeding trains.
There are awards handed out each year to those who die through being extraordinarily dumb. The awards are named for Charles Darwin who, with his theory of evolution, inspired the term “survival of the fittest” – the strengthening of the gene pool that occurs after the demise of weaker specimens. Thus those who depart this world by lighting a match to look for a gas leak, cutting live electrical cords with metal tools, having a vending machine squash them while stealing snacks, or using a smartphone in the bath while charging it (all genuine incidents) are the proud, posthumous recipients of a Darwin Award.
Imagine, then, how disconcerting it is to find that there are any number of what most sensible people would consider to be relatively benign household items that are just waiting to knock you off – and while the Darwin Awards could be seen as amusing, these certainly aren’t.
I had no idea, for example, that should you for some odd reason decide to eat a tube of fluoride toothpaste you could suffer a heart attack. Really. I have always believed (and feel free to disagree) that putting fluoride into the water supply is not a great idea. Now, knowing as I do that a tube of the stuff could knock you off, I’m pleased I’ve had tank water on and off most of my life, and water filters otherwise. And pretty good teeth, thanks for asking. My son has never needed a dental filling in his life and drank the same water I did. Maybe it was that gene pool in action …
People also die from swallowing batteries. I’m not, obviously (I hope), talking about a 12V car battery or even the 9V block that goes in a smoke detector. We’re talking the coin-sized variety in every cheap toy and gadget nowadays and the tiny jobs that power hearing-aids; they are often mistaken for lollies by kids and medication by those who have poor eyesight. Another deadly item most of us handle every day is the humble plastic bread bag clip. An alarming number of people swallow them – don’t ask me how, but they do. I gag if I get a speck of eggshell in my mouth; I really can’t understand how one could swallow a hard piece of plastic.
Think about that the next time you’re throwing together a salad sanger.