Dear Annie: My mother is in her late 90s. She insists on covering her kitchen counters with newspaper, including the areas right next to the electric cooktop and the microwave. My mother does not see this as a fire risk. She thinks it is keeping a clean house.
The last time I cleaned her kitchen, I was disgusted by the small insects and bits of food that were trapped between the newspaper sections. Her housekeeper simply goes along with her wishes and leaves the newspapers where they are. But, Annie, if this paper catches fire, Mom would never make it out of the house alive.
I am not sure why she insists on putting her food on top of newsprint. She says newspapers are sterile. But the paper is handled by many people and sits in delivery trucks that are hardly spotless. Those who deliver it aren’t wearing rubber gloves. All of this escapes my mother’s attention, and she just piles the papers on her counters, which are, by the way, in great shape because she never actually uses them.
Mom reads your column every day and follows your advice. I am out of options. – A Caring Daughter Who Is Making Herself Sick Over This
Dear Daughter: Has Mom always lined her countertops with newsprint? If she’s been eating ink and bugs for more than 90 years, we assume she has a strong immune system. Also, her eyesight might not be as good as it once was, and she might not see the smeared ink and small insects. Your focus should be on the fire hazard. Any paper that rests near an electric cooktop (or any cooktop) is a risk. Mom – if you’re reading this, please wash your countertops instead of covering them with old newspapers. Your daughter wants you to be healthy and safe. So do we.
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