Opening Week’s True Lead-Off Man

New Year’s Day (observed) was yesterday, and America’s past time is back.  Normally, Major League Baseball awards are announced at the end of the season, way off in October/November.  But the Center for Environmental Health will grant its first annual “Best Lead-Off Man” award during Opening Series, due to the meritorious question posed by Ross Detwiler, relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals (the first pitcher to ever be considered a “lead-off” man).

Detwiler made headlines near the start of spring training, when he noticed a warning label stamped to his uniform’s baseball belt.  It read:

“WARNING: This product may contain a chemical known in the state of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

When he asked clubhouse manager Mike Wallace (not to be confused with the star wide receiver of the Miami Dolphins or the former 60 Minutes reporter) if he could get a new belt, he was simply told, “We are not in the state of California.”  Apparently Wallace believes that the geographic presence of California is a chemical reactant needed to fuse a baseball belt’s lead pigments and form a carcinogenic chemical.

Little did Detwiler know that the warning was placed upon his (likely) lead-containing belt as a result of successful litigation that CEH initiated in 2011.  We found that some baseball belts were in violation of California consumer protection law because they can expose children and adults to high levels of lead and did not carry a warning label.

We usually work to get companies to eliminate such chemical health threats, rather than simply place warning labels on their products. As Mike Wallace’s statement shows, not everyone understands that lead is a stunningly toxic metal that’s been linked to serious health problems.

In crowning Ross Detwiler as the Lead (Pb)-Off Man of the Year, I will personally venture to O.Co Coliseum in May or AT&T Park in June when the Nats visit the Bay Area teams.  I plan to get seats near the visitors’ bullpen, so that I may have easy proximity to present Mr. Detwiler with his award: a lead-free baseball belt.

In other news, Happy Opening Week to all the baseball fans out there.

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