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The confusing pile of government departments in charge of that soap you just bought.

The interesting — and kinda confusing — way your cleaning products make it to market.

The confusing pile of government departments in charge of that soap you just bought.
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Seventh Generation

Congratulations! You've just bought a brand-new cleaning product that's going to revolutionize the way you clean your home/car/workplace.

It's been a long time coming, but after years of development, testing, and marketing, this game-changing clean-making innovation is now available to the world. This time next year, the person who invented it will be on stage receiving the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and Jennifer Lawrence or Michael Keaton will be getting ready to play them in a movie.



J-Law on her way to collect more award nominations, this time for playing said cleaning-supply creator. GIF from "Joy"/20th Century Fox.

In the meantime, though, it's sitting on your shelf. Getting it home from the store was easy, but its journey from future Nobel-Prize-winner's brain to your grocery store was not.

If you've ever wondered who makes sure your cleaning supplies are safe, well ... the answer's a little complicated.

According to the International Sanitary Supply Association, who oversaw a product on its way to the shelf depends on what you're planning to use it for. Let's say, for example, that your incredible cleaning product is a new type of sanitizer.

In general, hand sanitizers are considered "drugs," so it would have been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Can you see the drug in this photo? Image via Ann Godon/Flickr.

The FDA regulates and oversees food safety, medical devices, cosmetics, animal feed, and everything in between. Like eating food that won't make you accidentally sick? Then you love the FDA.

Say, though, that you're a commercial janitor and plan to use this sanitizer for work. In that case, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had a word with the product's makers.

This man's job is safer because of OSHA. Image via iStock.

The wonderful people at OSHA ensure working Americans have safe and healthful working conditions. They're responsible for making sure janitors don't use chemicals that could give them illnesses like cancer or respiratory problems.

Maybe you work in a hospital? If this product's going to assist in cleaning that hospital, it's considered a "medical device" and went through both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the FDA.

I'm in favor of anything that makes hospitals cleaner. Image via iStock.

The EPA follows rules and laws developed by Congress to protect human health and the environment. Their regulations, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act have forced companies to build environmental safeguards into their operations and remove harmful pollutants from our air and drinking water.

Who is ultimately responsible for governing cleaning products depends on whether they're considered critical (something that enters the human body and touches blood), semi-critical (something that touches the human body and mucous membranes like eyes or the mouth but not blood) or non-critical. Critical and semi-critical are governed by the FDA, non-critical by the EPA.

Oh, while we're here, does this product make any statements about being able to kill bugs, pests, or microorganisms?

If so, it's been registered with the EPA, like all products that claim to "prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate any pest," including harmful microorganisms.

Does it contain a known hazardous material? Then someone ran it by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

No babies were boxed in the making of this label. We hope! Image via Danny Norton/Flickr.

The fine folks at the Consumer Product Safety Commission are in charge of protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of certain consumer products. In this case, they've reviewed the potential health effects of chemicals used in the product.

Confused yet? Maybe a little defeated? Understandable. But you're one step closer to being an informed consumer!

For a product creator, this can be a complicated (but supremely necessary) process. For a consumer standpoint — it's even more so. Without one overall governing body for cleaning products, it can be hard to know where to look for info about about how the things that keep us clean are keeping us safe. Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful all these regulatory bodies exist. I just wish they all had one website. With pictures!

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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