The Baby Powder Predicament

September 10, 2016

As Waukee and Valley battled it out on the football field September 2nd, a Waukee community member suffered an asthma attack and was taken to the emergency room. She spent the duration of her weekend under the special care of the hospital. It was determined that this was in fact caused by the inhalation of talcum powder that had been thrown into the air during the game.

Traditionally, Waukee students have thrown talcum powder, commonly known as baby powder, during football games to celebrate the kickoff of a new season. Although the name ‘baby powder’ may seem benign, the chemicals within the mixture can be toxic when inhaled or ingested in copious amounts.

“It was still causing her problems three or four days later,” explained Cary Justmann, the principal at Waukee High School. Justmann had gotten a call about the situation the weekend of the incident. “She wanted us to know the health side-effects she had, and wanted to know if we could do something different.”

According to the Asthma Health Center, airways can become swollen and inflamed during an attack. This causes breathing tubes to narrow and restrict air flow.

That following Wednesday, September 9th, Justmann issued a request that no more baby powder be thrown at football games. Justmann hopes that by establishing some new rules, that community events can still be fun, but a whole lot safer. “We just have to be alert if there is a negative consequence, whether it be health or someone having to work four extra hours. If we think [about] those things ahead of time, and not be so impulsive, I think it could be a win-win for everyone.”

The Waukee School District has also recently put a restriction on the tradition of setting off confetti cannons due to the inconvenient mess. After Waukee dominated the field at Urbandale, on August 26th, Urbandale staff members and volunteers spent a whole four hours after the game picking up the individual colorful strips of paper that littered the stands where Waukee students had been sitting. “It was avoidable, if we just had not done that,” continued Justmann, “Although [the school board] is not opposed to it in general, it’s the mess that it leaves around afterwards that someone has to clean up.”

For the students who attend every football game and celebrate, the prohibition of these items may be disappointing but less important than the safety of fellow Warrior fans.  

Student section fans have proposed a solution to Justmann to utilize the confetti cannons so long as they clean up after themselves following each game. The same cannot be said for the baby powder, however, since it could pose a health threat to fans.

Justmann explained that baby powder is not the only way that Waukee can celebrate. “I think we want to celebrate and have fun, but in a prideful manner as well. As long as we can be proud of it, let’s be as loud as we can,” said Justmann. Things like creative (but school appropriate) dress-up days, parades, carnivals, etc. are ideas that the principal would be open to discuss. “What I’ve liked so far is the communication,” explained Justmann, “I’ve had kids come up and say ‘What about this?’ or ‘How about this?’ I love the problem solving.” So while regulations have been put on the powder, the party that is the 2016-17 Waukee School Year has only just begun.

“My whole deal is I want people to have experiences, and I want them to have fun while they’re in high school. It’s pretty rare that you’re going to remember that one specific Chemistry assignment, or that one Geometry activity, but you will remember some of the fun things we do. So, I don’t want to take away the fun. However, we need to think about what consequences come from the fun.”

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