The web is absolutely covered in reviews of consumer products. People write them for free because they are just dying to tell someone, anyone, about whatever outrage has beset them with their latest purchase. I have resisted the temptation for years, but I made a discovery today that torqued me off enough to warrant a post.
When I had kids, I went through my house doing all the baby-proofing things responsible parents are supposed to do. We bought boxfuls of gizmos that were supposed to protect our progeny from themselves: toilet seat locks, baby gates, wall socket plugs, window-blind cord roll-ups, and dozens of hidden hooks and locks to hold closed whatever could be opened. Most of these things were easy enough to install and use, but others required whole weekends of measuring, marking, drilling, screwing, screaming, cursing and random trips to the hardware store and/or pharmacy. The worst of these were the anti-tip brackets – hardware that would essentially tie big furniture to the walls, so a kid wouldn't pull a bookcase down on top of themselves by climbing on it. Our boys outgrew the need for most baby-proofing years ago, but the anti-tip brackets had to be reinstalled on everything when we moved four years ago.
When you've put that much effort into doing the "responsible thing," you feel entitled to a little smugness. You think: "At least this is one thing that will not hurt my kids. I've done everything I can."
We decided to have our wooden floors refinished, which required moving all those big bookcases and cabinets and hutches that had been dutifully attached to the walls. So I walked around with my ladder and a pair of scissors, ready to cut the plastic straps that held the furniture in place. I grabbed one to cut it . . . and it shattered in my bare hand. Not just broke – shattered, as in dozens of pieces dropping to the floor. The strap that was supposed to keep a two hundred pound slab of pressboard from crushing my sons skulls just shattered in my bare hands. WTF?
I went around to the other straps, and found all to be exactly the same. Some had already broken on their own; others were intact, but would break with the touch of one finger. The plastic that once was supple and strong had someone fatigued and degraded, so it now had the tensile strength of a potato chip.
I could expect a plastic that was exposed to extreme heat, or constant light, or some other weird conditions, would eventually become brittle. But this was after a mere three years inside a climate controlled house, hidden from light behind big furniture. What could possibly have done in this plastic? And why in blazes would plastic like that be put into child safety devices?