Bright Ideas: Tips and News Snippets for a Better, Safer Life

  • It’s the BBQ season — when hundreds end up in ER with burns, mostly suffered while starting the grill. With a charcoal grill, never use flammable fluids to restart or speed up the burning coals.
  • The American public seems to have plenty to grumble about. The newly-published database from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau contains over 90,000 com-plaints about banks, mortgages and credit cards. Here’s a summary:
  • To make homes safer for older people, change door knobs to lever-handles, place non-slip mats in bathtubs, and install touch or motion-detecting faucets that easily turn on and off.
  • Toddlers who don’t yet have a full set of teeth should not be given grapes, apple pieces, popcorn, hot dog chunks or hard vegetables. Download this useful child safety guide from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital:
  • On the subject of child safety, a Nevada sheriff’s office has produced a downloadable Safety Activity Book full of useful tips for youngsters, most of which are not locale-specific. Get it here:
  • And still on the subject of educating our younger citizens, billionaire Warren Buffett has lent his name to a new animated web series called The Secret Millionaires Club. It’s never too early to learn the value of a dollar and the difference between needs and wants, he says. Find it here:
  • This being vacation season, if you plan to be away from your home, check windows are closed and locked, ask neighbors to be vigilant, cancel newspapers and mail, and lock away all tools that might be used to force entry. Don’t hide keys — thieves always know where to look.
  • 100-pound propane cylinders produced by the Manchester Tank & Equipment Company are being recalled because of a fuel-leakage risk on the valve thread. Call (800) 640-6327 or visit for more information.

Tune in to Recalls for Kids in Danger

Protecting our children is probably one of the most important roles we have to play as parents, teachers and community members. The main reason is that kids often aren’t capable of protecting themselves; they’re unaware of the dangers that lurk around every corner.

For example, one organization dedicated to child safety, Kids In Danger (KID), recently highlighted the number of child-related products, from clothing to toys, that are withdrawn from sale every year because they pose some sort of risk.

That’s bad enough but more worrying is that many parents and adult supervisors never get to hear about the recalls, so children continue to use these products. In fact, an average of two products are withdrawn every week and the number of injuries and deaths associated with them has soared in the past couple of years.

KID’s annual recall report highlights two worrying trends:

Manufacturers are still producing items that violate established safety standards. So, for example, all but one of the 22 clothing items withdrawn had breached longstanding rules on flammability, and use of lead paint or drawstrings.

Some items sold for use by very young children are not covered by any safety standards. These include certain recliners, travel beds and crib tents. “Parents assume infant sleep products have been tested for safety if they are on store shelves,” says KID. “Families have paid the ultimate price to find out this wasn’t true. Seven children died in these products.”

KID recommends that parents check the products used by their children at for recalls and injury reports, and sign up for safety updates at

Accessing KID’s website on a mobile device allows consumers to search for recall information while shopping or considering a second-hand product. In addition, says KID, parents should report problems with a product both to the manufacturer and to the Consumer Products Safety Commission at They urge elected representatives to make strong standards and recall effectiveness a priority.

How to Dispose of Your PC Safely

Careless disposal of computers and other electronic equipment is a worldwide cause for alarm. Components contain poisonous chemicals that can leach into the earth and enter the food chain. Plus, as a matter of environmental common sense, it’s crazy to throw away things that can be reused or modified in some way.

Furthermore, many computers contain confidential information that could become dangerous in the wrong hands.

Fortunately, it’s now relatively easy and, in most cases, cost-free to get rid of them.

If you do have confidential information on your machine you need to destroy that first. Free digital “shredders” – programs that wipe out individual files or whole disks – are widely available. If you can’t do this, either get help from someone who can or use a professional (you may have to pay).

After that, official disposal sites are not only free but mandatory in most states. Many retailers and official refurbishers/recyclers will also take them. Some might even pay you. Contact your local waste disposal organization for more information.

Other useful sources of help are Microsoft at: and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at:

Learn if You're Gluten Sensitive

 Years ago, you hardly ever heard mention of it, but suddenly shoppers everywhere are searching for gluten-free food products. What’s going on?

Gluten, which comes from the Latin word for “glue”, is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye flours and gives baked products their chewy texture. It’s also added to some meat substitute foods eaten by vegetarians.

But at least three million Americans, and possibly as many as 20 million, are sensitive to it, and many of them don’t know it. However, as awareness grows, it just seems that there are more sufferers than there used to be – hence the growth in demand for gluten-free food.

The most common sensitivity is known as celiac disease but that’s not always as gruesome as it sounds. Symptoms might include bloating and other digestive disorders, and muscle or joint pain. See this Mayo Clinic page for a full list of symptoms:

The trouble is that these symptoms occur with many other disorders and even just come and go day-to-day for no apparent reason. So, how can you tell if you have gluten sensitivity, and what can you do about it?

Professional Advice

Naturally, if you have strong reason to suspect the disorder, you should have it checked by a health professional because there are so many varieties. However, there’s one simple test you can do to check out your suspicions: Stop eating grains of any type for 30 days.

Because gluten intolerance is at least partly an inherited con-dition (though your ancestors may not have known they had it) you can also buy a genetic home testing kit. These are ex-pensive but are claimed to be more reliable than blood tests.

For your diet – either for the test or permanently if you need it – you must eliminate all foods that contain wheat, rye or barley, which means most common baked foods and pasta. Fortunately, gluten-free alternatives are now becoming widely available and there are literally hundreds of books and web-sites providing information and recipes for a gluten-free diet.

There’s no cure for celiac disease or other gluten intolerances. The solution is entirely down to you.