Your Government at Work, Protecting Your Lungs

We noted earlier how the US Department of Agriculture waited 18 days before it got around to recalling 21 million pounds of meat tainted with e Coli bacteria. They can pass the prize for procrastination over to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which knew that Stand 'n Seal grout sealant was absolutely deadly and yet the stuff remained on the shelves at Home Depot for almost a year.

It appears that a supplier to Roanoke, the manufacturer of the sealant, changed a benign ingredient to Flexipel S-22WS, a chemical whose safety data sheet says "should not be used in aerosol form because it could cause respiratory injury." As soon as it went on the market people started getting sick; two have died, and others have seriously injured lungs. Three months after the company knew something was wrong, the Consumer Product Safety Commission started looking at the issue, but did not have the equipment to really test the product. The company told Home Depot that it had fixed the problem, but all they did was add some chemicals to make it smell stronger so that people would open a window or turn on a fan.

According to the New York Times," it was not until March 2007, 18 months after the original recall, that Home Depot and Roanoke acknowledged the apparent source of the continuing problem.

The 50,000 cans used to restock the shelves in 2005, the companies conceded, "have been identified as containing the same potentially harmful formulation as the recalled batches," a Home Depot statement said.

The hazard was finally eliminated this spring, as Home Depot removed Stand 'n Seal from the market entirely and posted a notice on its corporate Web site offering a refund to anyone who, after the recall, had bought one of the 50,000 cans."

Home Depot blames the manufacturer, the commission "blames misinformation provided by the Stand 'n Seal suppliers for much of the breakdown. But at the same time, it acknowledges that it is the agency's responsibility to detect and respond to bad information, and that it had failed to do so quickly in this case."

TreeHugger Lesson: If you can't pronounce it, don't use it. If you are working in small spaces make certain they are well ventilated. There are traditional ways of cleaning tile, and sealing grout is not necessary; There is no need to expose yourself to chemicals like this. And most of all, don't believe that your government is there to protect you, because as this example shows, it is not. ::New York Times

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