Canary in a Coal Mine
Coal miners used to take canaries with them into the mines. If their digging released a pocket of toxic but odorless gas from the earth, the super-sensitive canary became sick or passed out, alerting the miners to evacuate.
I'm a canary in a coal mine, allergic to pollutants, cleaners, solvents, lubricants, and generally just man-made chemicals. A good whiff of diesel exhaust leaves my windpipe passage swollen to the size of a cocktail straw. It's an involuntary physical reaction, unfortunately not a delusion as in the song lyrics. A day in a warehouse full of boxes made of cardboard, which is treated with formaldehyde, leaves me sick to my stomach and itchy. Driving through a major city with the windows down makes the back of my throat scratchy. Filling up my car's tank at the station next to a puddle of spilled gasoline makes me nauseous. And my sinuses are nearly always screwed.
Here's the thing, though: Just about everything I'm allergic to is carcinogenic. And toxic. Just basically bad for you.
And I rarely make it through a day without taking something to open up my bronchial tubes. You know, so I can breathe. Even if I haven't been exposed to any concentrated noxiousness, even if I've just been breathing the air.
All this garbage is in the environment, unless you live somewhere naturally pristine.
So you may not swoon like I do, but you're breathing all the same junk, even so.
I'm just the canary, but we all work here in the coal mine.
People, take note.
[Great old song, though, isn't it?]