Mercury vs. Arsenic

During afternoon classes today, a coworker of mine who is a fish-eating vegetarian began telling me why I shouldn’t eat chicken. A student had started teasing her for not eating meat and as a means of redirecting I asked the woman why she had chosen to become a vegetarian.

“Well,” she said, “my ex-husband had a spiritual leader in India who told him that when he eats meat he is also inheriting the soul of the animal at the time of slaughter. After that, it was ruined for me.”

“So, he didn’t eat meat for religious reasons,” I said, trying to interpret for the student who had since acquired a puzzled look.


“But you eat fish, right?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said. “I eat salmon once a week for the omega 3’s.”

“I don’t eat fish,” I replied. I haven’t since I was old enough to protest. “I don’t like the taste or smell of it in addition to the fact that the oceans are over fished and then there’s the mercury to worry about.” (I’ve become defensive from my years of being anti-fish).

“Well, chicken has arsenic in it,” she exclaimed, as I swallowed the last of my drumstick from lunch.

Mercury versus Arsenic. What a competition.

So after my coworker told me to look it up and I said I would, we both backed away into our separate corners. And I did look it up.

It turns out that there is a trace amount of arsenic in chicken. In a recent study of chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken they found 2 parts per billion of arsenic. (New York Times article). I suppose she was right.

But so was I. A simple google search of mercury and fish will turn up a staggering 14,300,000 results. And the kind of fish she consumes weekly, farmed salmon, is especially toxic. The recommended allowance is a mere one time per month versus four to eight times per month of wild salmon. (Washington Post article)

So, I suppose we both lost the fight of mercury versus arsenic. But I have to say, in addition to gloating a little I can’t help but feel a little more safe.


Happy Spring!

My husband took this gorgeous photo in the park across the street from our apartment today. Spring seems to have sprung in Minnesota. Finally.


This is for all you medicine moguls out there

This is what I would really like to know: Why do they make cold medicine packages so incredibly hard to open? And why is it that the medicine you need to take when you can’t think to save your life always comes in the hardest of the hard packages to open? Why, oh why, can’t they just put the stupid things in a bottle with a screw-on cap? I’m beginning to think that this is someone’s idea of a sick joke and all I can say is, I hope you’re amused.


"So, your ex-boyfriend's in jail for killing somebody, huh?"

It’s often only after I’ve come home from a full day of work that I am able to truly understand how bizarre my day has been. As a special education teacher for adults with emotional behavioral disorders, many times it takes telling my husband out loud about my workday to realize that anything has even been out of the ordinary.

It occurred to me one day when I was telling my husband about a school picnic we had had at a park that afternoon. “Two of the students almost got into a fight over how the hotdogs were cooked,” I said nonchalantly. “You mean a yelling fight?” my husband asked, thinking that this was the most likely thing to have happened. “No,” I continued, “a knock down drag out fight. The staff had to jump in the middle and separate them,” I said. “That sounds exciting,” replied my husband, a look of incredulity on his face. “No, not really,” I said. Only then did I realize that to me, this wasn’t particularly exciting; it wasn’t even unusual.

Every day when I go to work I have to be prepared for the unexpected. No matter how meticulous my planning or how calm things may seem when I get there, I know it won’t last. A student will show up high or will tell me how they witnessed someone getting shot five times over the weekend. Someone will leave school in a screaming rage or blow up because another student accidentally stepped on their shoe. Once I attempted a field trip to the art museum, only to have it be derailed at the coat check; the students didn’t think they could trust the museum’s security not to steal their stuff.

I’ve had to learn how to redirect my student’s attention and how to not let the horror of each situation show on my face. “So, your ex-boyfriend's in jail for killing somebody, huh,” I said the other day, nodding my head up and down as if to say we all have one of these. Yesterday, when my student told me that he woke up feeling like fighting somebody, I merely responded with, “Well, we all feel that way sometimes. You’re doing a good job at being calm.”

Although I am thankful that every workday is different and that it keeps me on my toes, I suppose that I am even more grateful to come home each night to my predictable, stable, ordinary life.