Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Maybe we SHOULD convert to metric after all. (Wonder what Lumber Liquitdators thinks?)

At this point in time (i.e., my personal time of life), I would not be jumping up and down to see a conversion to metric.

Oh, some of it I don't mind. I can do the rough mile/kilometer math pretty easily. A kilometer is roughly 6/10's of a mile. And meters to feet don't throw me off. A meet is a bit over 3 feet. I get that a kilo is 2.2, and that a litre is kinda sorta like a quart.

But, while I acknowledge that metric is a lot more logical and mathematically sensible, I don't think in it.

I think that there are 5,280 feet in a mile.  And I know how long it takes to walk those 5,280 feet. And how fast you get somewhere on the Mass Pike when you're going 70 m.p.h. I know what someone means when they say that something is the length of a football field.

My measuring spoons are tbsp and tsp; my measuring cups are, well, cups. I know that when someone calls something pint-sized they mean it's small.

What do people in metric countries say?

(And don't get me going on Fahrenheit vs. Celsius. Twenty degrees is always going so sound cold to me, even after I multiply it by 1.8 and add 32.)

Anyway, I don't start every day thinking about the glories of metric, or the mysteries of Celsius. But the latest news about Lumber Liquidators did catch my eye.

For those who haven't followed the ups and (mostly) downs of Lumber Liquidators, the company was exposed last year in a devastating Sixty Minutes segment that showed some of their Chinese suppliers admitting that laminate flooring wasn't up to California safety standards, even though they'd claimed it was. (For those who aren't addited to HG-TV, or hanging out at Home Depot, laminate flooring is fake wood that's cheaper than the real thing.)

Laminate flooring doesn't pose a clear and present danger. You're not going to get cancer from it the day after it's installed. But flooring that gives off formaldehyde is maybe not something you want to have in your house. Let's face it, ain't no one needs more exposure to potential carcinogens. We've all lived, eaten and breathed plenty of them over the years already, thank you.

Anyway, after Lumber Liquidators took a beating after the Sixty Minutes episode, it got a bit of good news when:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that tests on the company's products showed minimal health risks, which renewed confidence in the chain as the stock rebounded. (Source: Bloomberg)
But - oops - apparently someone at the CDC translated a foot to a meter, turning an 8-foot celining into 26 feet for purposes of calculation. So the formaldehyde fumes, in their initial calculation, were far more dispersed than they'd be in real life. The CDC had to come out with a corrected finding that shows that the "formaldehyde exposure is three times higer than previously proejcted."

The cancer risk is still low.(There are, however, breathing and irritation problems associated with formaldehyde. Let's face it, who wants to breathe in anything that most of us associate with the frog and fetal pig we dissected in high school biology.) But this is certainly not good news for Lumber Liquidators.

The company has taken steps to improve their quality assurance, and is no longer selling the bad, formaldehyde-emitting laminate from China.

But it's still going to have a hard time. If the CDC's calculations had been correct to begin with, the issue would have come and gone. Now what will stick in people's mind is "three times worse than originally stated."

If only we were all fluent in metric...

Pink Slip took on Lumber Liquidators issue last March, when the formaldehyde story first appeared.

No comments: