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Colds and Flu at the Law Office

I was at the Old Dominion/Richmond football game on Saturday. Just in case you had not heard; Old Dominion jumped out to a big lead and Richmond made a game of it at the end. One of those “barn burners, nail-biters, seat-squirmers”. Well, not that close. Had to throw that in as an old alumni for ODU… but I digress.

I had my eye on a box of popcorn. That kind of distraction kept me from noticing the woman in front of me who wound up, and then sneezed louder than the band playing. I bobbed and weaved. Fortunately, I think I dodged the germs.

This past week, someone came up to me and shook my hand. Then, she said that I probably should use some of that Purell sanitizer because she was fighting a cold. I offered a frozen smile and headed right to the dispenser. Fortunately, I dodged it again.

At the office, we offer incentives to encourage staff to get their flu shots. We do have hand sanitizer readily available and we encourage healthy lifestyles. You can’t get work done if you’re not at the office.

At, I saw an article titled “The germiest places at the office”. It is a good reminder to be alert. A Kimberly-Clark study examined 5000 areas in office buildings around the country and this is what they found as the worst places for workplace germs:

Break-room sink faucet handles, microwave and refrigerator door handles, computer keyboards, water fountains and vending machine buttons. Some explanation on those included that the break room is the first place that many stop in the morning, before they have washed their hands.

The article also included a reminder to soap up with hot water after touching common-area surfaces and remember to clean the surface of your desk and phone handles with disinfectant and sanitizer. They also threw in a reminder to regularly use a sanitizer wipe on your computer.

All good ideas as we head into flu season. Got to keep my eyes open, even when I am distracted by the popcorn.

For pic o’ day I am posting a cartoon that was sent to me. A reminder that life is how you look at it!

Salt Harms

Last week, as the snow was descending on the house and yard, it looked beautiful. I was out in it with my "camera phone", taking pictures. It was a white Christmas and I could almost hear Bing Crosby singing in the backyard.

This morning, the snow wasn't as fun. As I drove out of my driveway, I got stuck. I spent the next half hour turning, reversing and driving forward, to escape the ice. I even got the amazing idea of using the other car to push it out of the rut. Of course, I was only to blame because I had not done any shoveling. I've always heard that snow shoveling is really worse on your heart than eating lard. I'm staying with that idea, too.

It shows how things have changed. I remember people strapping on chains to the tires. Now, everyone has fancy tires that are supposed to dig in the snow. Many cars have all wheel drive. Truck drivers are not the only ones going the speed limit now, in the winter.

I also remember all the salt that was spread on the highway. Road salt was always supposed to make it easy for the snow plows and helped to keep the roads from freezing. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15 million tons of salt was used in the USA last year. Plus, since it's "natural", shouldn't we feel good about it?

Well, of course, it makes the blog because we now know that it causes problems. A Google search brings articles on salt harm; some more than 10 years old. We now know that melting snow and ice causes the salt to run off on to vegetation, soil, streams and rivers. The runoff kills fish and vegetation and has even been found in residential drinking water. Fortunately, some other alternatives are being used and Scientists are working on new ideas.

In the practice of law, you sometimes find out information in litigation that might not be helpful, but is interesting. For instance, when someone broke into a Tylenol manufacturing plant and added poison to some of the bottles, deposition questioning showed that the cotton in those bottles, served no purpose. It was only there because consumers would not buy the tylenol without it. People thought that cotton kept them fresh. So, every bottle was manufactured with "fake fresh cotton". Of course, good also came out of that litigation, because safety caps were installed.

   Knowledge that someone could break into a medicine bottle caused changes. Knowledge that salt can cause harm that is long term, is also now instituting change. What has been acceptable for years does not make it right. Now, I just need to learn how not to get stuck in my own driveway!   


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