Summer safety appears best left to the individual, not the product

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Sunburns, insect bites and the exposure of flabby flesh are among the common banes of summer. And Americans wanting to protect themselves from such hazards shouldn’t rely too much on gadgets to do it for them. Here’s why.

Today’s Wall Street Journal takes the Oregon Scientific Portable UV Monitor for a spin. It’s supposed to assess safe amounts of sun exposure based on skin type. Writer Lauren Goode, newly determined to protect her own skin, gave it a whirl. She writes: ‘It reported that the UV index level was between 3 and 5, and suggested I could stay in the sun for a maximum of 39 hours and 59 minutes.’ She quite wisely did not follow its guidance.


The L.A. Times Health section evaluates the Off! Clip-on, which uses a fan to send insect repellent floating about the user. Writer Chris Woolston recounts of his first-hand experience with the product at the edge of Montana pond: ‘Desperate for protection, I flipped the switch on my Clip-on. The fan started humming, and I eagerly waited for the result. Did it make any difference? Hard to say. Did Custer, at the Little Bighorn, miss the Sioux who were back tending camp?’

Then there’s this news on unsafe sports and safety products from the Consumer Products Safety Commission:

Stamina Products is recalling about 11,000 elliptical cross trainers because the instructions didn’t adequately emphasize the need to tightly secure the pedal shafts to the cranks. If the user doesn’t do this, ‘serious injury’ can ensue.

Thane International meanwhile is recalling about 48,000 Orbitrek Elite and Orbitrek Elite Magnetic Elliptical Exercise Gliders because those instructions don’t properly explain where to install the spring washer. In this case, a ‘fall hazard’ can result.

Other recalls?

* Baby floats that can let children fall into the water.

* Night lights that can catch fire.

* Sports balls with lead paint.

* Play pens (calling them yards doesn’t make them so) that can unlatch suddenly.

* Smoke alarms that don’t work.

And that’s just for starters. And just for July.

For the full July list, read here. For even more recalls, check out the agency’s site.

And then let common sense be your guide. You might be better off.

-- Tami Dennis