When we heard the news this morning that SpongeBob SquarePants notebooks made in China were being recalled for having dangerous levels of lead paint in their metal spiral bindings, we checked the small print on our own SpongeBob notebook (above), the one we feverishly scribbled in a couple of years back to keep "the blogging monster at bay" during a flight to the heartland. It turned out that while our notebook had, indeed, been made in China, the serial number didn't match the ones being recalled. Besides, chewing on metal spiral bindings makes our teeth hurt.
We blogged about the "gawky 'square' who wins in the end" -- as Tunku Varadarajan aptly describes the pored one today in Opinion Journal -- here on New Year's Day last January , and the Google-search hits have been flooding in from all over the world daily ever since.
Now, thanks to Chinese bad business practices, we can once again in good conscience troll for hits by baiting our bloghook with the poriferan newsmaker who -- as of 7 a.m. today -- has 56,814 blog posts listed on Technorati. As soon as we publish, make that 56,815.
Update: Check out Goomp's mini history lesson on the use of lead paint in the comments. More anecdotes and observations from imail this afternoon:
Goomp: We had a lovely friendly goat on my father's farm that died from eating lead paint from secondhand lumber that was used to build her pen.
He: Things like the Mystic River Bridge would withstand the pigeons and the elements much better with lead paint.
We: How about warships? Are they allowed to use lead paint?
He: Good question about warships. Some men who spent their lives as painters contacted lead poisoning. Perhaps they were not careful about getting it on their skin or breathing fumes in enclosed places. I remember painters wearing masks at such times and gloves to keep their hands clean.
You've piqued our interest, Goomp. Google, here we come.
Update II [for lead-abatement-regulation junkies]: A host of Federal Government agencies are on the lead-abatement case. We started reading and skimming linked pages, but our eyes glazed over. A few items relevant to the above discussion with Goomp:
Paint containing more than 0.06% lead was banned for residential use in the United States in 1978 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protects workers from lead exposure in the workplace or in connection with their jobs.
Since the 1980's, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its federal partners have phased out lead in gasoline, reduced lead in drinking water, reduced lead in industrial air pollution, and banned or limited lead used in consumer products, including residential paint. [This is where SpongeBob comes in.]
USDOT highway transportation programs are coordinated by The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in cooperation with states and other partners. [Removal and abatement of lead paint on the Mystic River Bridge, e.g.]
The Naval Safety Center is currently implementing "changes in standard operating procedures . . . to bring shipboard painting operations into regulatory compliance . . . Various elements that were once considered safe have now been designated hazardous by new environmental and worker safety regulations." [Warships]
a fun read, check out Robert Lowes's essay on how the market eventually
prevails in the face of Government regulations from Hell, posted at the
website of environmental services company Blastox. Excerpts:
It's about time. In Phase I, everyone was fazed by government regulations, the technologies they spawned, and the fear of lawsuits. Excess ruled the day. The cost of recoating steel structures bearing lead paint doubled and tripled.
In Phase II, however, the industrial painting field is recovering a sense of calm. What used to be experimental in the way of lead paint removal is becoming routine. Contractors are adjusting to OSHA's lead paint dictums. Owners are realizing the wisdom of overcoating. Reflecting this new sense of sanity, once-soaring costs are sinking. "The marketplace is working out the problems," said Eric Kline, manager of technical services with consulting firm KTA-Tator Inc. in Pittsburgh.
The invisible hand will out.
Update III: This just in:
Pigeon Dung Contributed to Minneapolis Bridge Collapse. Experts say the corrosive guano deposited all over the span's framework helped the steel beams rust faster.
Hmmm. No word of what kind of paint or cladding may have covered those steel beams. Inquiring minds want to know.