safety

KN, p. 192 “Deadly Poisons in the House”

 

Sheila and I have been watching an Australian murder/mystery series that recently included poison as a method of getting rid of one of the characters. An interesting case that hinged on who had access to the poison in question.

 

Mystery writers quite often use poison as a way to dispatch the victims in their books. Famed Agatha Christie used poison in several of her 66 novels, on 30 victims. Christie’s choices were based on what she needed to happen in the plot; did the poison have to be fast-acting or was it important to give the killer time to get away?

 

In “What poisons were in Agatha Christie’s books?” I listed a few of her favorite dastardly tools of death, but one of the critical aspects of choosing the correct one was its availability to the murderer.  🙂

 

Arsenic, belladonna, cyanide, etc. may be handy for a pharmacist or a chemist or a doctor, as in the Australian show, but what about the ordinary gal (poison is traditionally a woman’s choice) who wants to do somebody in? It’s not as if a housewife would normally have access to cyanide. Some medications would make you woozy or extremely nauseous if you overdosed, but over-the-counter meds are rarely going to kill someone unless a bucketful is consumed – unless an allergy is involved. There are some exceptions to that, but most will not do the job without some devious planning and execution.

 

So, what is a revenge-focused lay person to do? Assuming of course, that the fictional person is motivated, would have the guts to actually kill someone, and is not squeamish about the cleanup. Dead bodies are messy and hard to drag around.

 

We all have cleaning supplies readily available in the house or garage, so let’s take a look.

 

Bleach This is a fairly common household item used to remove stains from clothing or to kill surface bacteria. It’s well-known to be powerful as a cleaning agent and once upon a time, I poured too much into the machine when I was helping Sheila with the white wash. The shirts basically disintegrated and the ones that didn’t, smelled of bleach forever after. It would be impossible to get this smell past a victim’s nose, so it couldn’t be used in any subtle way.

 

Ammonia is often used to clean windows and is contained in many popular products in a diluted form. The ammonia smell is distinctive and too strong to be pleasant without perfume additives. Used straight out of the ammonia vat? It would burn the skin off your hands while you pass out from the fumes.

 

Remember, our housewife wants to get away with murder, not die while she’s carrying out the dastardly deed.

 

BUT, when these two cleaners (even diluted in the pleasantly scented store products) are mixed together they produce a lethal chlorine gas. If the products have been poured into non-descript spray bottles, the scenario might be to ‘accidentally’ mix up the labels and get the potential victim to help with cleaning after a messy spill in a closed space while the housewife leaves the room. The trick would be to switch the labels back before the cops arrive. Variations of this smelly method might involve cleaning a toilet with one of the clear liquids already in the toilet. After adding the other liquid, the noxious gas would suddenly waft upward toward the victim’s face.

 

Hydrogen peroxide is used as an anti-bacterial agent and some people even use it when gargling or for cleaning small cuts or abrasions.

 

White vinegar is used in cooking and in many restaurants as a gentle, yet effective, solution for shining the stainless steel.

 

BUT, when hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are mixed together, they create an acid, which can be quite harmful to the lungs. Harmful, but not necessarily deadly in small quantities.

 

Dishwasher detergents contain chlorine in highly concentrated amounts, but it’s hard to imagine how you could get an adult to ingest detergent willingly. Perhaps mixed in food? I wonder if it would foam while cooking…

 

Air Fresheners – Most air fresheners include formaldehyde which interferes with your ability to smell and phenol which can cause convulsions, coma, and even death in high enough concentrations and quantities. However, this amount would also kill our housewife while she worked with it.

 

Oven Cleaner contains lye (sodium hydroxide). A little bit of lye is used in old-fashioned soap compounds; too much of the stuff can dissolve skin off the bone.

 

Our housewife might just be better off to find out what food her victim is allergic to, then mix that with a tasty treat to be served at the next get-together. The invitation could read:
“Tea at 4pm. Body Doggie bags will be provided.”

 

The next time you look at the warning labels on the cleaning products, keep these real-life guidelines in mind:

DANGER: can be fatal if swallowed. Less than a teaspoon could kill a 150-pound adult.

WARNING: is harmful if swallowed, and drinking less than an ounce could kill an average sized adult.

CAUTION: is harmful if swallowed, and it would take anywhere from an ounce to a pint to kill an average adult.

 

http://www.achooallergy.com/blog/dangerous-household-chemicals/

 

 

*Please note: this article is posted for entertainment purposes only.

 

 

 

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KN, p.184 “Clowns and Halloween”

 

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Clowns creep me out. They always have. Not the rodeo clowns with fun painted faces and red ball noses, but the clowns with masks and fixed artificial smiles, as well as the clowns that paint faces that are intended to scare or horrify. That’s probably a subjective statement, because what may be scary to me might make you laugh or the other way around. I always thought that clowns were meant to be cheerful or goofy, but that has not been the case in certain parts of the country in the last couple of months. When the cops have to get involved, definitely not laughable.

 

Now, most likely as an unfortunate reaction to recent horror movies, clowns are being used for nefarious reasons. Since the end of August, people dressed up as clowns have been reported luring children into the woods with the promise of money, heard banging on doors, and standing on the road in the dark, looking creepy to passersby. The police are taking the threats/reports seriously, and actively follow up on the leads.

 

Some schools have banned the use of masks and even face paint for this year’s Halloween celebrations, and many have banned clown costumes altogether.

 

Target and Wal-Mart have put away the clown costumes and/or masks for this year in reaction to the rise of menacing clown sightings. Their reasoning? Halloween is supposed to be fun, not dangerous, and neither company wants to fuel the actions of some misguided individuals. Other sources for costumes are selling out the clown outfits, however.

 

The clown craziness continues to make news as people posing as clowns take to social media, with tweets, hashtags, and Facebook pages that make threats, cause school lockdowns, and otherwise create havoc. Parents and school officials alike are perplexed as to the motivation behind the social media attacks, but are taking action to avoid any possible actual harm. Several arrests were made after people reported sightings or crimes involving a clown and they turned out to be hoaxes.

 

Law enforcement continues to investigate each new sighting, because as one officer said, “This is neither funny, nor cute.” Sadly, one teenager lost his life in a stabbing as a result of a clown related incident.

 

Stay safe this Halloween and be aware of your surroundings. As always, don’t send the children out alone, even in supposedly safe neighborhoods. A trusted adult should be in sight at all times.

 

Our town has a ‘no mask’ policy for the younger skeletons and princesses. That’s a great idea, because the little ones are less likely to trip and fall if they can actually see where they’re stepping.

 

Every year, our community center holds a Halloween party after school for kids who don’t walk the neighborhood. A couple of police officers stop by to help out and show the crowd that cops are the good guys. Some local churches now host gatherings for the families in their congregations. Children hear the hype on TV, see the candy in the store, and want to join in, so supervised parties can be fun in some areas that aren’t really right for trick-or-treating.

 

Best tip? Make sure the kids look both ways before crossing the street to get to the ‘best candy’ house on the other side. Getting hit by a car tops the list as the most dangerous thing that happens to children on Halloween.

 

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article102220587.html

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/clown-sightings-south-carolina-creepy-details-released/

 

http://www.kansas.com/news/local/education/article108863892.html

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-halloween-usa-clowns-idUSKCN12C12X

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/us/creepy-clown-hoaxes-arrests.html?_r=0

 

*No clown photos included, on purpose.

 

 

 

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KN, p. 177 “Did she die of heatstroke?”

 

FrontSlopeShovelDSC_1154

It’s no secret that we’ve been doing a LOT of digging in the gardens this summer. The work can get hot and steamy, so we tend to start early in the morning. It’s not as humid and the bugs aren’t swarming in full force yet. Yesterday, I was delayed getting out there, so before I realized it, the sun was high in the sky, it was 95 degrees, I was really hot, and I was sweating something fierce.

 

And, suddenly thirsty. I was even a little dizzy and felt a headache coming on. As soon as I figured out what was happening, I dropped the tools and got myself inside. Sheila saw me ditch the shovel and headed in as well. I grabbed a cold, wet towel for my neck and she handed me some water. There was some scowling, but the crisis was averted.

 

What had happened? The heat got too much for me and I needed a tall, cool glass of water. I had left my golf cap inside, along with my bottle of water and my golf bandana, and I was paying for it. It didn’t get as far as heatstroke, but if I’d been at the golf course or the beach, and not 15 seconds from help, it could have.

 

The Mayo Clinic defines heatstroke:

 

“Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke requires emergency treatment.”

 

In the summertime, when temperatures reach in the high 90s on a regular basis, we will normally feel hot outdoors, so how do we know that there is a problem? Athletes, moms, dads, dogs, babies – everyone is vulnerable to heat stroke and we need to be aware of the symptoms.

 

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Nobody I know carries around a thermometer, so aside from the high body core temp, symptoms can include:

  • Nasty headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of sweating
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Disorientation, or staggering

 

 

How do we prevent things from getting to that point? Especially if you or your friends are planning to be out hiking, working, or camping in the heat, far away from speedy help?

WaterBottleIMG_5643

Preventing Heat Stroke

 

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, and a hat.
  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
  • Drink water – a half ounce for each pound of body weight – if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water – and that’s on a regular day with no exercise or extra heat involved.
  • Increase that amount if it’s hot outside or you are working/exercising outside.
  • Drink an extra bottle of water an hour before exercise, then during exercise, drink another 8 ounces of water every half hour, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Shift your outdoor activities to the coolest times of the day, either early morning or after the sun goes down if you can. If not, make sure to follow the rest of the suggestions.

 

 

People die from heat stroke. That’s why we are warned not to leave children and pets in hot cars. When it’s hot outside, the heat in the car gets magnified by the windows, resulting in temperatures that can be 30 degrees hotter inside the car – a disaster waiting to happen.

 

Sporting events are times where people get caught up in the competition and forget to hydrate, sometimes with tragic consequences. At the time the article below was published, the softball player’s death was unexplained, but later pointed to heatstroke. What do you think?

http://weartv.com/news/local/questions-of-heat-stroke-raised-after-preteens-death

 

I always pack a bandana or ‘cold collar’ in my golf bag, wear a hat on the course, and take plenty of water with me. I got careless at the house, but that won’t happen again.

 

For additional information:

https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/heat-stroke-hyperthermia.html

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

 

 

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