This Week’s Words

One Person to Thank

Today I had to do battle with the protective plastic wrap around the cap of a bottle of mouthwash.  I started tearing off the plastic, ended up getting only part of it, and had to use a knife to cut away the rest to free the cap.

Once again, I thought of the person to thank (that is, blame) for similar battles that play out a billion times a day all over the planet with shrink-wrapped caps, foil-sealed openings, and protective closures of all kinds—the person to thank for all the “Do not use if such and such has been tampered with” warnings.

I am talking about the Tylenol Killings.  Before these sensational 1982 Chicago deaths appeared in the news, nothing had protective seals, absolutely nothing.  Almost overnight, everything did.  Six people who had unknowingly taken Tylenol Extra-Strength tablets laced with cyanide died.  Three of the deaths occurred in one household when, after one member of the family died, the other two took Tylenol from the same bottle to relieve their grief and pain.

This set off a nation-wide panic, and Tylenol products had to be removed from store shelves everywhere.  This video news account from that time shows the extent of the panic:

Oct. 1, 1982: Tylenol Poisoning Video – ABC News

Eventually, we all learned that only a couple of bottles of Tylenol in just one pharmacy had been tampered with, but at first, no one knew whether it was an isolated incident or if the tablets had been tampered with at the factory.

So, it’s because of this one evil act over 25 years ago that all products had to be made tamper-proof.  The victims were totally random; the crime has never been solved.  The perpetrator could be alive or dead.  He or she might be/might have been the only person on earth who is/was pleased to find all the protective barriers that had to be put in place soon after the act. I really hope that he/she is/was as annoyed with them as the rest of us.  I REALLY hope that one day the person is identified, so his/her name can live in infamy.

Just as the 1982 crime has never been resolved, I don’t know how to wrap up this post.  Recently we mentioned to our grown children that we remembered the time when nothing had protective seals.  They had trouble believing that this was ever the case, so we told them about the Tylenol Killings.  If you are young enough not to have known about this crime and its worldwide impact, now you know.

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5 thoughts on “This Week’s Words

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  1. Yes John, I remember the Tylenol killings. It’s been so long ago that I forgot why we have all these safety measures on many of the products we buy today. I will be reminded when I’m struggling to take a pill out of
    a plastic sealed safety package that I have to find tweezers to pull up the 1/16 inch edge. Sometimes I might
    even be cured by the time I can get the pill out. The only real advantage of this type of pill packaging is that
    there is no way a little kid could open enough pills to harm themselves. I do like larger bottles with larger
    knurled lids for arthritic hands. Not child safe, but they are struggle free.

    Like

  2. It is true that some safety features in packaging as well as in other areas are not without their costs. The intention to protect comes with difficulties in opening packages, bottles or other containers. Gasoline now has containers that reduce spillage but are troublesome to use. There are many other examples but I think you nailed it, that it began with the Tylenol deaths.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It truly is sad that someone with a sadistic thought could cause such panic. Although it is good we have some protection against tampering. My mother would say “Its like closing the barn door once the cow got out” the precaution did not come in time to prevent the deaths. Some days I am also frustrated by special packaging but glad that hopefully it has prevented someone from doing something bad.

    Liked by 1 person

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