Crisis of the detergent pod

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has a certain genius for avoiding outspoken stands on important issues and leading the way on trivial matters calculated to garner broad public support. If she secures a favorable headline or two in the process, it’s no coincidence. It is the true object of her efforts.

Senator Klobuchar is a reliable vote for the Democratic Party line, but she is quiet about it. She doesn’t want to upset anybody. She wants to preside over an era of good feelings — of good feelings about Amy Klobuchar.

If I were Senator Klobuchar, I would be happy as hell to have arrived in the United States Senate largely on the strength of a good name. Her father was a talented sportswriter and daily columnist for the Minneapolis Tribune. Early in her career I had a case with her in federal court in St. Paul. In one court appearance, she identified herself for the record, as did each of the several attorneys appearing on the case. When the court reporter asked her to spell her name, the judge exploded: “Good God, man, don’t you read the newspaper?” Having read the paper over the years, we all knew how to spell Klobuchar.

Like so many Senators, however, Klobuchar must have aspirations for higher office. Thus her forthcoming book The Senator Next Door: A Memoir From the Heartland. Even the title is warm and cuddly. In the preview posted at Amazon, we learn that “she [has] fashioned her own political philosophy grounded in her belief that partisan flame-throwing takes no courage at all; what really matters is forging alliances with unlikely partners to solve the nation’s problems.” As I say, she has a certain genius.

Senator Klobuchar’s latest cause reflects her perception of the national problems requiring a federal legislative solution, and the courage with which she approaches the task. She has even posted a news release to generate the desired attention: “With poisonings from detergents packets on the rise, Klobuchar sponsors legislation to address safety concerns and protect children.”

The press release is vague in a slightly suspicious way: “Between 2012 and 2013, over 17,000 children were exposed to these [detergent] pods nationwide.” What does “exposed” mean? The press release doesn’t say, and the press isn’t asking.

Senator Klobuchar’s press release cites the American Academy of Pediatrics on the menace of detergent pods. Here is the crisis as set forth by the AAP along with its recommended solution:

According to a study in the December 2014 issue of Pediatrics, “Pediatric Exposure to Laundry Detergent Pods,” (published online Nov. 10), 17,230 children under the age of 6 were exposed to laundry detergent pods from 2012 through 2013. The most common route of exposure was ingestion (79.7 percent). One- and two-year-olds accounted for approximately two-thirds of cases. Among all children exposed, about half of cases were managed at home, 35 percent were treated and released from a health care facility, and one child died. Because children may be enticed by the colorful, candy-like appearance of detergent pods, the study authors conclude that a national safety standard is needed to improve product packaging and labeling. Researchers recommend pediatricians and health care providers educate parents and child caregivers about the dangers of laundry detergent pod exposure, and the importance of safe storage and careful use of these products; households with young children should use traditional laundry detergent instead of the more toxic detergent pods.

It sounds like a manageable crisis. Those 17,000 close encounters of the killer pod kind have translated into one death. Maybe it’s not a crisis at all.

The federal government has established the Consumer Product Safety Commission to deal with issues of consumer product safety. Klobuchar supports the legislation introduced by Senator Dick Durbin telling the CPSC what to do about the crisis of allegedly ingestible detergent pods. The name of the act is The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act. In the words of the union song, which side are you on (repeat)?

There ought to be a law, alright, but probably not this one, and probably not directed to this crisis.

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