Thursday, 15 June 2017

Six years since, dogfish and polystyrene

I was reminded by Facebook (thanks Facebook) of the date of some surprise news. I couldn't be sure exactly what the news was, so I had to go back through this blog to find out. It was the date of the appointment at which my consultant told me that I was being offered surgery. That was six years ago. The time has flown by since and it all seems a very distant memory now.

It was that reminder, dear reader, and also some conversations I've been having lately, which have caused me to put fingers to keyboard in a rare update of this blog.

The conversations were about soap and smells and memory. This got me thinking about the soap they had in the washrooms at my grammar school which in turn led me to recall the dissection of dogfish. I studied Biology at O Level - and in fact I got it twice because they awarded me an O for my failed A level two years later. Part of the course was dissection and we pulled apart frogs' brains and also dogfish. I hated the dogfish in particular because of the smell of the fish mixed with the formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a preservative and it's what our dogfish were kept in. Without gloves we had to take up scapels and dissect these smelly fish.

It is only now that I realise there are significant health indications about formaldehyde. Thanks Wikipedia for: "In view of its widespread use, toxicity, and volatility, formaldehyde poses a significant danger to human health."
After this horrible experience, we washed out hands in very cheap soap, which obviously the school bought wholesale.  Such was my hatred of the smell of the formaldehyde and the dead dogfish that in time I began to hate the smell of that soap just as much. Imagine my horror a year later when I realised that all soap in my best beloved's parents' house was the same stuff. Every time I went to see my in-laws, I found my hands smelling of that horrible soap and hence pictures of disintegrating dogfish entered my thoughts.

Formaldehyde wasn't the only toxic substance to which my grammar school exposed me.  There was also danger in the art room where we took polystyrene tiles and, using a hot-wire contraption, we were encouraged to create sculptures. "Research has shown that when styrofoam is burnt it releases toxic chemicals and smoke that can damage the nervous system and lungs."

I'm not about to sue the education authority responsible for both the formaldehyde and the burning polystyrene but I just thought it worth recording these two exposures to toxic chemicals which occurred earlier in my life, just in case anyone researching such things ever stumbles on these ramblings.