So after weeks of hearing and reading about the potential dangers of giving your kids plastic bottles and containers containing bisphenol A (BPA)*, you know, plastic items labeled with a little "5" [CORRECTION: It is actually "7"]* in that triangle at the bottom (which apparently means "carcinogenic, proceed with caution"), that you can barely see, especially if you are getting old and decrepit like me and think you may need reading glasses, I finally did a check of our plastic bottles and containers and was dismayed to find that nearly all of them bore the dreaded No. 5.
I wasn't quite prepared to get rid of the small, snack-size containers I heavily rely upon to pack snacks for my daughter for school, but I did toss all of our "5"-bearing water bottles.
It was a painful process as the reason I had acquired all of these bottles and containers, years ago, was to help preserve the environment by not dumping plastic all over it. Now I felt torn between harming the environment and harming my daughter. Of course, I chose protecting the latter. (Btw, I know at least one person -- JJV? -- is going to tell me that the FDA says BPA is perfectly safe. But I'm not buying it. Too many scientists say it isn't. And why take the chance? Are you willing to risk your child's health, especially if there are alternatives?)
The only probably now was, I didn't have a water bottle to send my daughter to school with. So I ran (okay, I drove, sue me) over to Wal-Mart, figuring they would have tossed anything and everything containing a "5" on it and still have a pretty decent selection of water bottles and containers. WRONG.
*5/20/08 CORRECTION: I screwed up. Apparently we are to avoid plastic labeled "3," "6" and "7," particularly "7" as that is the most likely to contain BPA, though I swear I read that it was "5" that was bad for us. AAARGH. I am know kicking myself (at least mentally, as I don't think I am that flexible) for throwing out all those "5" water bottles -- though they are not recyclable. Sigh.
I guess Wal-Mart figures it shoppers don't read or listen to the news or don't care, which is probably true. (Go ahead, call me a snob or an elitist. I won't deny it. But I still shop at Wal-Mart, though I prefer Target.)
Anyway... After cruising the aisles like a restless big cat in a zoo, I finally decided to purchase a couple of bottles with a "4" stamped on their colorful bottoms, figuring a "4" had to be better than a "5," at least this week. (I was really hoping for bottles with "2"s but Wal-Mart didn't have any.)
Then I figured, while I'm there, I might as well pick up a few other things. You know how that is.
A seeming eternity later... (Why is it nothing is where it is supposed to be at Wal-Mart?)
I get the last item on my mental list, which I shall refer to as a box of "feminine product." Of course, having come to Wal-Mart short on time and not planning on purchasing much, I had decided against getting a cart or a basket on my way in, so instead had to juggle everything in my arms, which was a bit tricky.
So, looking like one of those pathetic guys in some credit card commercial, you know, the one schlepping a bunch of packages after his spouse, there I was, with an armful of stuff, on top of which rested, prominently, a medium-sized box of "feminine product," gingerly making my way to the checkout area, when a pleasant-looking woman about my age, maybe a little younger, in running garb, stopped me. "Excuse me," she said. "May I ask you a question?"
As if I had nothing better to do I stopped and said "Sure!"
"Have you ever used those?" she asked, pointing to my box of private store brand "feminine product." "No," I replied. "Don't," she said, with the kind of authority that makes you know she means business. "They're no good. They crumple up. You can't use them. I know. I still have most of the box I bought."
Ya know, over the years I've been asked by strangers for directions and for my opinion on clothing ("Do you think this makes me look fat?" Why yes, it does!), many times, but being questioned about "feminine product" in an aisle at Wal-Mart was a first.
The funny thing was, I had really been leaning towards another more expensive brand, which I liked. But the store brand, which looked the same on the box, was much less expensive, so I figured "What the heck?" But after being so emphatically warned against it, I meekly went back down the aisle and switched boxes. (Clearly the feminine hygiene gods are keeping a watchful eye on me, and you don't want to make them angry.)
Of course, I couldn't get to the register without passing the woman again, who smiled as I passed by and again engaged me in conversation. She told me I had made the right decision (phew!), though she mentioned she preferred another brand to the one I had chosen (which they didn't have). She then (jokingly, I assumed) offered to give me her barely used box of the store product (which I politely declined). We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then I resumed my course to checkout.
The phrase "the kindness of strangers" has now taken on new meaning.
(As to whether my mystery shopper was right, the world may never know. I limit myself to one blog post a year with the words "feminine product.")
*IMPORTANT BPA UPDATE! Check out this New York Times editorial, dated May 20, 2008, about BPA! Among the many nuggets/info contained in the article is this: "Until the F.D.A. rules, which it should do quickly, consumers would be wise to avoid BPA for babies and young children and use those alternatives, whether glass bottles, bottles with disposable liners or BPA-free plastic bottles. Playtex has already announced that it will stop using BPA in baby items. Wal-Mart has promised to remove all bottles made with BPA from stores in this country by early next year. Toys “R” Us has plans to phase out any baby products containing BPA by the end of 2008." And again, it is apparently plastics with a "7" in the triangle that we are to avoid, not plastics with a "5." Oy.
Milo Gets His Dig On
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