Category Archives: safety

Nightmares

by Stacey

Last night I had one of those horrible mother dreams where my child is in peril and there’s nothing I can do to save him. Whenever I have this kind of dream, it haunts me for the rest of the day. I keep seeing the images and recalling the feelings and it makes me think about what life would be like if I did lose one of my children.

So as I sipped my morning coffee, I was drawn to read this article in Newsweek about how parents cope after losing a child. Every year, about 25,000 kids under age 10 die, most from congenital anomalies, unintentional injury (mainly car accidents), premature birth and cancer, the article says. The issue the article looks at, is the decision parents face over whether or not to have another child.

The loss of a child can put tremendous stress on even the best marriages and the closest families. “Losing a kid makes you lose faith in life,” says child psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld. “To reclaim that faith in living, that it’s worth doing this again, is an act of enormous courage.”

Anecdotally, many experts say parents seem to do better when they try again, the article says. “The most profound attachment in human life is mother and child,” says John Golenski, executive director of the George Mark Children’s House, a residential facility in San Leandro, Calif., for kids with terminal illnesses and their families. “The best adaptation to [the loss of a child] is another attachment.”

But understandably, some fear the pain of loss again. And others who do have another child sometimes feel guilty. “What I do hear a lot is the feeling of, ‘Am I betraying my child who died?’ ” says Barbara Sourkes, director of the pediatric palliative-care program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. ” ‘How can I throw myself wholeheartedly into a new child and leave the child who died behind?’ ”

As I write this post I keep thinking, why am I upsetting all of my dear readers with this topic? And the answer is, I don’t really know. This evening my husband and I are meeting with an estate lawyer to begin writing our will and establish custody for our children if we were to die unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago I dreamed that I had left my older son Sage alone at home while I went on a driving trip. My husband was away too and suddenly I realized that Sage was far too young to be in the house all by himself. I began to panic because I was so far away. When I woke up, I realized that dream was about my husband and I dying and leaving our children to fend for themselves in the world.

I didn’t know that when I had kids life would suddenly seem so fragile and precious. It’s not a feeling I walk around with everyday, thank god. But for today, I really don’t care if Sage decides not to listen to me or if Sascha cries every time I leave the room. They’re alive and safe with me. That’s all I care about. Tomorrow is another story.

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Aqua Dots RECALL

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by Stacey

Sorry to be late on this story. On Wednesday the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 4.2 million Aqua Dots, distrubuted by Spin Master of Toronto, Canada. According to this article in the NY Times, if ingested the beads release a chemical related to GBH, otherwise known as the banned date rape drug.

The toy is made in Australia where it is called Bindeez. The problem was discovered when a 2-year-old boy was taken to a suburban Sydney hospital on Oct. 5 in a shallow coma and suffering from seizurelike spasms, the article says. It took doctors four weeks to figure out what caused his condition. When it was learned that the boy had vomited the beads before he fell into a coma, the beads were sent to a lab for testing.

What they found was “an obscure industrial chemical used to prevent water-soluble glues from becoming sticky before they are needed. But when ingested, the chemical quickly breaks down to become GHB. The United States tightly restricts the chemical’s sale and places GHB in the same category as heroin.”

Soon after another girl who was ten years old, was found in the same condition as the boy. She too, had vomited the beads before falling into a coma.

On Wednesday, Dr. Carpenter [the doctor who found the chemical in the beads] said safety regulators should look beyond Bindeez to conduct laboratory tests on all similar craft toys. These toys, sold under brand names including Aqua Dots and Aqua Beads, contain packets of brightly colored beads that children arrange into mosaics, then sprinkle with water; the beads then stick together in as little as 10 minutes to form durable artworks.

Okay, so obviously our kids are not supposed to be eating the beads. It would be nice if the beads they did manage to eat were not toxic. Sure do miss the good old days when a kid swallowed a marble and all a parent had to do was wait for it to come out the other side.

For more information on what to do if you have this toy go the company’s Web site or call Spin Master at (800) 622-8339 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

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Filed under children's health, drugs, family, kids, parenting, safety, toxic toys, toy recall

MotherRunners (w/ UPDATE)

by Stacey

Thanks to MotherTalkers for the tip and title of this post.

Most women who exercise vigorously cut back somewhat during pregnancy, both to be cautious and because energy reserves go toward the growing fetus. But what if it’s your job to exercise? This was the case for Paula Radcliffe, a British distance runner who holds the world record in the women’s marathon. According to this article in the NY Times, Radcliffe ran all throughout her pregnancy last year, including the day before she gave birth to a healthy baby girl in January. Less than two weeks later, she was back out running.

Her experience is a rare one, says James Pivarnik, director of the Human Energy Research Laboratory at Michigan State University and one of the few scientists who have studied athletes during and after pregnancy. “As far as I know, no one has ever done what she’s done,” Pivarnik said.

Here is an internationally competitive athlete, at the pinnacle of her career, who continued training during pregnancy at a level most runners who are not pregnant would find daunting. For the first five months, she ran twice a day, 75 minutes in the morning and 30 to 45 minutes in the evening. Then she cut back, running an hour in the morning and riding a stationary bike at night.

Her doctor closely monitored her throughout her pregnancy, the article says. Radcliffe was instructed not to let her heart rate go above 160 beats per minute and starting at the fifth month, she had monthly ultrasounds to ensure the fetus was growing.

But doctors don’t really know how to track whether a lot of exercise might be too much for a pregnant woman. According to the article, heart-rate precautions do not have scientific backing, said Dr. Mona Shangold, director of the Center for Women’s Health and Sports Gynecology in Philadelphia, and an expert recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Gynecologists no longer recommend even monitoring a pregnant woman’s heart rate if she exercises because heart rates vary so much from pre-pregnancy levels, as do the heart rate’s responses to exercise. Instead, Dr. Shangold recommends using perceived effort as a guide and making sure that the effort remains moderate. But, she said, there are no rigorous studies to back that up, leaving doctors to go more on hunches than science, the article says.

Other experts say ultrasound scans, in contrast, could be useful. The scans reveal whether a fetus is growing normally and whether the amniotic fluid levels are appropriate. Radcliffe plans to compete on Sunday in the New York City marathon.

Like the other elite women marathoners who will be competing tomorrow, Radcliffe, 33, has talent, drive and ambition. She set the world record at the 2003 London Marathon with a time of 2 hours 15 minutes 25 seconds, a pace of 5:10 a mile over the 26.2-mile course. Her full-time job is running — she says she was running 140 miles a week at her peak in preparation for the New York race.

One question remains: Will Radcliffe be the same, better or worse in competition after pregnancy and childbirth? The answer, medical researchers say, is impossible to know, the article says. No rigorous studies have explored whether pregnancy improves or hinders the performances of elite athletes. Nor have studies asked whether exercising during pregnancy affects athletic performance later, and, if so, how much exercise.

Some may say that Radcliffe took a chance exercising so intensely during her pregnancy and they may be right. But I think it’s inspiring that she found a way to continue doing what she loves and what she’s good at. I’ll be rooting for her to win the marathon on Sunday.

UPDATE: Radcliffe won the marathon! Note the headline of this ABC news article: “Moms Rule the NYC Marathon.” Radcliffe, who is mother to baby Isla, came in first. Second place went to Gete Wami of Ethiopia who has a four-year old daughter as well. Woohoo!

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Why Didn’t They Tell Us?

by Stacey

Although it was news to parents, pediatricians have known for years that cough and cold medicines for kids were a waste of time and money. According to this article in the Washington Post, some doctors even learned about it in medical school.

“When I was trained as a pediatrician, it was just accepted that these products had no role. This was known in the profession,” [Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua] Sharfstein said. “It’s a fair question why there wasn’t a strong regulatory challenge by the profession. They could have justified one.”

Sharfstein has led the campaign to end the use of over-the-counter cold medicines in children under the age of six. Last week an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration agreed. The meeting followed mounting reports of possible dangers of the drugs, the article says. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in January, for example, that more than 1,500 children, including three who died, had suffered adverse reactions to the medications in 2004 and 2005.

The case has also raised many questions: How could the products remain on the market for so long without proof they work? Why didn’t the FDA act sooner? Why didn’t the medical establishment warn parents? Are there other medications in a similar situation?

About two-thirds of drugs prescribed to children have not been tested in kids, the article says. Until recently, the FDA did not require drug makers to test drugs in children, and in fact, it was considered unethical to do so. Now doctors know that drugs work differently in children’s bodies and that data from studies involving kids is crucial to safety.

The article describes the history of pediatric drug regulation, which if you’re interested is worth reading. But what I want to focus on is, how come we didn’t know about all this business with the cold meds?

Research has been published on the ineffectiveness of cold medicines going back as far as 1993, the article says. That year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an analysis that concluded there was no good evidence that the medications worked. Then in 2004, The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent international project that regularly evaluates medical therapies, reached a similar conclusion.

Although many pediatricians were aware of the mounting doubts and began urging their patients not to use the products, some doctors continued to counsel their patients that they could, and the products remained a mainstay.

In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics has had a policy since 1997 stating that cough products are ineffective, and the American College of Chest Physicians produced a similar statement in 2006. The article says that other groups, such as the American College of Family Physicians, never issued any formal guidance to doctors, and no major medical groups ever officially questioned the class of products or campaigned against their use.

Peter Lurie, from the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen’s Health Research Group says, “there was a vacuum in leadership on this issue by the professional societies.” Others defend the medical groups, the article says, saying policy statements from doctors’ groups can do only so much, especially against the aggressive marketing by large pharmaceutical companies, which spend more than $50 million a year to sell the products. AAP’s Wayne R. Snodgrass, who chairs the group’s committee on drugs says the companies and the FDA share the blame.

So while everyone’s busy pointing their fingers, no one seems to be thinking about the parents who for all these years have been trudging out to the drug store in the middle of the night seeking relief for their coughing, sneezing, stuffy-headed children and finding a plethora of grape and cherry-flavored potions that promised to help and in the end, could only hurt. We’re the last stop for safety for our children and we needed to know the facts. Shame on all of you.

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Bumbo Safety RECALL

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by Stacey

About one million foam baby seats made by Bumbo International of South Africa are being recalled due to reports of young children falling out the sides. According to this AP story, the Consumer Product Safety Commission received 28 reports of young children falling out of the seats, including three who suffered skull fractures because the seats had been placed atop tables. Good God.

If the seat is placed on a table, countertop, chair, or other elevated surface, young children can arch their backs, flip out of the Bumbo seat, and fall onto the floor, posing a risk of serious head injuries, according to the CPSC.

The round Bumbo Baby Sitter Seats are 15 inches in diameter and made of molded polyurethane foam that wraps around a child, the article says. The seats were sold at many major U.S. retails outlets, including Sears, Target, Kmart, and Toys-R-Us.

Consumers should contact Bumbo to obtain new warning label stickers and instructions for the recalled baby seats and should never use the infant seat on a table, countertop, chair or other elevated surface, the agency said.

Bumbo has temporarily stopped selling the baby seat until it can update the safety packaging. The baby seat is designed for infants who are six weeks old or able to support their own heads, up to an age of about 12 to 14 months or about 22 pounds, Bumbo said.

We learned about the Bumbo seat when Sascha was about three months old. We got him one right away. It was great! He went from sitting in the bouncy seat and staring at the ceiling to sitting up straight and enjoying the commotion of our household. The best part was when we took it out of the box and sat him in it, our three-year old looked at him and said, “Now he doesn’t have to wear diapers!” We explained that it wasn’t actually a potty seat, although we agreed it does look like one.

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Lead in Lipstick

by Stacey

A report issued earlier this month by the Campaign for Safer Cosmetics found that some popular brands of women’s lipstick contain lead, a known neurotoxin. And no, this time the stuff’s made in the good ole U.S. of A. According to a press release that accompanied the report, the lead tests were conducted by an independent laboratory in September on red lipsticks bought in Boston, Hartford, Conn., San Francisco and Minneapolis.

The group tested 33 brand name lipsticks and found that 61 percent tested positive for detectable levels of lead. Levels ranged from 0.03 to 0.65 part per million (ppm) and yet, surprisingly, none of the lipsticks listed lead as an ingredient. Wonder why. One-third of the lipsticks exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 0.1 ppm limit for lead in candy – a standard established to protect children from directly ingesting lead. Lipstick products, like candy, are directly ingested into the body.

Among the top brands testing positive for lead were:
-L’Oreal Colour Riche “True Red” – 0.65 ppm
-L’Oreal Colour Riche “Classic Wine” – 0.58 ppm
-Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red” – 0.56 ppm
-Dior Addict “Positive Red” – 0.21 ppm

Lead is a proven neurotoxin. It can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression in children, according to CSC. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. It easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development. Lead has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage.

Lead builds up over time in the body, which is of particular concern when it comes to lipstick. “Lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels,” says Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, president, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.

One might ask, how the hell does lead end up in lipstick anyhow? CSC says there are two possible ways. Colorants used in lipstick may contain lead, or lead may be introduced as a by-product from ingredients mined or obtained from other raw materials, which can include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, or from materials such as ozokerite (mineral wax or paraffin) and petroleum-based ingredients (petrolatum, mineral oil).

Although the group found 39 percent of the lipsticks they tested had no detectable levels of lead, there is no way for consumers to know which ones are safe. Cost isn’t the issue: Revlon’s $7.50 lipstick tested lead-free while Dior Addict’s lipstick that cost $24.50 tested positive. “The bottom line is that we can’t shop our way out of this problem,” says the press release . “We need to change the laws so that consumers are protected from toxic ingredients in cosmetics.”

This is a drag. I think my friend Helen who tipped me off to this issue, said it best: “Lipstick was the last bastion of feel-good, easy luxury available to mothers and now that’s gone, too! Damn it all……….”

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Cold Meds for Kids Pulled Off Market

by Stacey

A number of cough and cold medicines for children were withdrawn from the market on Thursday, presumably in anticipation of an FDA advisory committee meeting scheduled next week to assess the drugs’ safety. According to this NY Times article, “Thursday’s withdrawal includes medicines aimed at children under age 2, after the Food and Drug Administration and other health groups reported deaths linked to the remedies in recent years, primarily from unintentional overdoses.”

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced Thursday that manufacturers were voluntarily ending sales of over-the-counter oral cough and cold products aimed at infants. The list includes infant drops sold under the leading brand names Dimetapp, Pediacare, Robitussin, Triaminic, Little Colds, and versions of Tylenol that contain cough and cold ingredients.

CVS Caremark Corp. added that it would also end sales of CVS-brand equivalents.

“Health groups say that while low doses of cold medicine don’t usually endanger an individual child, the bigger risk is unintentional overdose,” the article says. “For example, the same decongestants, cough suppressants and antihistamines are in multiple products, so using more than one to address different symptoms — or having multiple caregivers administer doses — can quickly add up. Also, children’s medicines are supposed to be measured with the dropper or measuring cap that comes with each product, not an inaccurate kitchen teaspoon.”

And, since ”the medicine isn’t doing what the family wants, instead of giving as directed every six hours they give every four hours or every two hours,” says Dr. Basil Zitelli of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, who sees such children in the emergency room. ”What they in effect are doing is poisoning their child.”

What to do instead:
–Plenty of fluids and rest.

–Suction bulbs to gently clear infants’ clogged noses. Saline nose drops loosen thick secretions so noses drain more easily.

–A cool-mist humidifier in the child’s bedroom.

–Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as recommended by your doctor, to alleviate pain or discomfort — but check that they don’t contain extra ingredients.

–Some chest creams can ease stuffiness with menthol or other fragrances, but check labels for age restrictions.

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