Posted On: May 28, 2009

Text Messaging: A Health Hazard for Teens

With unlimited text messaging cell phone plans comes a surge in the number of texts sent from teenagers’ cells. Every day, an American teenager sends and receives, on average, almost 80 text messages. That’s 2,272 messages a month, sent from behind the wheel, in classrooms, or while crossing busy streets. This texting behavior worries doctors and psychologists for a host of reasons: Texting is blamed for increased risks of car accidents when teens keep their thumbs on the phones while driving, and now texting is believed responsible for direct issues with physical and mental health, reports Katie Hafner of the New York Times.

Although scientists have not had a chance to develop conclusive findings on the health effects of texting because the phenomenon emerged so recently, they already see that the behavior causes “anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation.”

Dr. Martin Joffe, a pediatrician in Greenbrae, California, surveyed two local high schools and found many of the students regularly send hundreds of texts every day. When a text message comes in or goes out every few minutes, it’s almost impossible for a student to stay focused on his or her work. That results in, among other things, poorer school performance and disrupted sleep at night.

Teenagers often rely on text messaging to get immediate updates on their buddies’ lives because they are genuinely interested in what’s going on with their friends. Many of them also are driven by a fear of being “out of the loop,” says Michael Hausauer, psychotherapist in Oakland, California. The nonstop line of communication created by so much texting can, Mr. Hausauer worries, make teenagers feel “frightened and overly exposed.”

The 80-text per day “thumb exercise” may also result in musculoskeletal diseases often found in computer users, said Peter W. Johnson, associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington. “Intensive repetitive use of the upper extremities,” be it on the computer keyboard or on a cell phone, can lead to temporary or permanent musculoskeletal disorders.

Teachers and parents are often unaware of the extent to which texting has affected the children’s physical and mental health. But once they learn of the problem and impose some restrictions – such as a no-texting window overnight or a limited number of texts allowed each month – they can see visible improvements in the students’ grades and probably energy level too, from regained quality sleep.

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Posted On: May 20, 2009

Water-Based Face Paints Recalled

The FDA announced a voluntary recall of face paints by the distributor of the products, Oriental Trading Co., Omaha, Nebraska, reports Miranda Hitti of WebMD Health News. The recall decision was made after reports of adverse skin reactions from exposures that all occurred on the same day at an organized event. Children exposed to various colors of the face paints experienced adverse skin reactions, including rashes, itchiness, burning sensation and swelling on the area where the product was applied. Results of tests by an FDA laboratory indicated significant microbial contamination in most of the face paints.

The FDA is advising consumers to stop using these face paints, which were manufactured by a Shanghai, China company. The agency has also published a complete list of face paint products in this recall.

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Posted On: May 15, 2009

Chicago Bans Baby Bottles Made with Dangerous Chemical

Bisphenol-A, a chemical used to harden plastics, is found in many plastic containers even though it’s known to be linked to diseases. Bisphenol-A, or BPA, have been found in animal studies to accelerate puberty and increases risks of cancer. Babies can be exposed to traces of the chemical when it gradually leaks into the fluids from the plastic containers. BPA exposure can also result in health problems in adults, such as elevated risk of heart diseases and diabetes.

On May 13, 2009, Chicago’s City Council joined a handful of other jurisdictions in a unanimous decision to ban the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups that are made with BPA and intended for children under the age of 3, reports Karen Ann Cullotta of the New York Times.

One of the reasons why not more jurisdictions are banning BPA use in plastic containers is the lack of direct evidence that human exposure to this chemical is harmful to our health. So far, all the evidence for the adverse effects of exposure to BPA comes from animal research studies. FDA said last year that BPA levels found in products appeared to be safe – a conclusion condemned by a panel of scientific advisers to the agency, saying the FDA “ignored crucial studies and used flawed methods.”

To protect their children from exposure to BPA and its potential dangers, parents can turn to the BPA-free products that are already available at retailers.

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Posted On: May 13, 2009

Third Jardine Crib Recall in a Year

On May 1, 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced another recall of cribs made by Jardine Enterprises, the third safety recall since June 2008, reports Patricia Callahan of the Chicago Tribune. All three recalls involved cribs made in China and Vietnam.

The Jardine cribs in the recalls, mostly sold at Toys R Us and Babies R Us, are responsible for more than 30 reports of broken slats, one of the deadliest hazards of baby cribs. When a slat breaks, babies’ bodies slip through the gaps but their heads get stuck, resulting in strangulation and even death.

Parents can access a full list of recalled models at www.cpsc.gov. For those who bought one of the recalled cribs, a credit is available toward the purchase of a replacement.

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Posted On: May 4, 2009

Infant Car Seats Failed Safety Standard Tests

The Chicago Tribune uncovered federal safety test results of infant car seats that were never publicized or even made known to some of the infant-seat manufacturers, reported Chicago Tribune’s Patricia Callahan. In the frontal crash tests, a video showed the car seats flying off their bases, throwing baby dummies face-first into the back of the driver’s seat. The test reports also documented that almost half of the 66 seats that were tested in front crashes “either separated from their bases or exceeded injury limits.”

As a result of the Chicago Tribune’s investigations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered a thorough review of safety regulations for car seats and taken steps to make the safety test results more available to consumers. Before, parents could compare safety ratings for cars, but would have no way of comparing which car seats do better at protecting their babies. They would not have known that more expensive car seats are not necessarily safer, or that some smaller cars performed better than the larger ones in these collision tests.

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