Posted On: September 29, 2010

Researcher jailed over faked child safety tests for lighters

You might think that “childproof” means just that; unfortunately, in the case of cigarette lighters, it may not mean much at all. A Florida researcher who conducted child safety tests on thousands of brands of cigarette lighters has been sentenced to eight months in prison plus eight months of home detention after admitting that she falsified test data and results for more than 11 years.

Karen Forcade, president of Youth Research Inc. (now-defunct), altered birth dates, sex and schools of study participants between March 1994 and August 2005 to meet Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines.

She made these changes to her own data and to information collected by other companies she had hired to perform the tests. In one 1998 test she falsified data for 96 of 100 children tested. In another, she took the data for children who tested one set of lighters, changed their birthdates by as much as 5 years, and submitted the same data for a test of a different lighter.

Forcade’s long-running scheme began to unravel after CPSC scientist spotted anomalies in test results, including similar handwriting on all parents’ consent form signatures, misspellings of testers’ names, and similar handwriting from purportedly different testers on data collection forms.

Forcade pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in January. In addition to the jail time and home detention, her sentence includes a $10,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Source: St. Petersburg Times

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Posted On: September 21, 2010

Child safety seat inspections: Get one free this Saturday

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for children ages 3 and older, and one contributing factor is that nearly 75% of child car seats aren’t installed or used properly.

As part of its continuing mission to correct this situation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Assocation (NHTSA) established Child Passenger Safety Week, an annual campaign to bring public attention to the importance of properly securing children in appropriate child safety seats, booster seats or seat belts at all times.

This year, Child Passenger Safety Week runs from September 19 to 25, culminating on September 25 with “National Seat Check Saturday," when certified child passenger safety technicians will provide free advice and hands-on child safety seat inspections across the U.S.

Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws requiring that children be restrained in motor vehicles. According to the NHTSA, child restraints have saved a total of 8,959 lives over the past 30 years. And a recent NHTSA study indicated that in rollover crashes (which had the highest incidence rates of incapacitating injuries for children), the estimated incidence rate of incapacitating injuries among unrestrained children was almost three times that for restrained children. In near-side impacts, unrestrained children were eight times more likely to sustain incapacitating injuries than children restrained in child safety seats.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

Find out where to get your child’s safety seat or booster seat inspected here.

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Posted On: September 16, 2010

Study supports mandatory booster seats in cars for children age 4-6

Many parents who want to ensure their young child’s safety in a car put them in booster seats. A recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics now confirms what these parents already suspected – namely, that using child safety seats can reduce injuries and deaths in an automobile crash. It also supports the introduction of upgraded child restraint laws for children older than 3.

The study is the first to look at injury rates before and after a state law on booster seats went into effect. In March 2005, the state of New York upgraded its child restraint law to apply to children age 4 to 6. Since the state already had a law mandating child restraints in cars for children age 3 and under, the study compared the percentage of new restraint users in the 4 to 6 group with those in the 3 and under group.

The study found that after the child restraint law was upgraded, the use of boosters increased from 29% to 50%, resulting in an 18% decrease in injuries to children age 4 to 6. Meanwhile, the rates of booster use and injuries in the group age 3 and under remained unchanged.

Child seat laws vary from state to state, though all states mandate restraints for children until they are 3. Child safety experts recommend that, regardless of state law, children under 57 inches (4’9”) should ride in an appropriate restraint until the car’s own seat belts fit safely and comfortably. They also recommend that children under 13 should always ride in the rear of the vehicle.

Source: Consumer Reports Safety Blog
You can view the original study here.

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Posted On: September 7, 2010

Indoor Tanning Beds: Addictive and Dangerous for Teens and Young Adults

Having seen one client die a hideous death from skin cancer that spread to his brain, I'm not a fan of anything that increases the odds of people getting skin cancer. Now a report in the New England Journal of Medicine lays out the compelling case that using indoor tanning beds causes skin cancer and death, and most vulnerable are the teenagers and young adults who get addicted to regular use of tanning beds.

The key facts from this prestigious medical journal's report:

* Tanning bed use nearly doubles the risk of deadly melanoma -- cancer of the pigment-producing cells in the skin -- in frequent users.

* The risk of other types of skin cancer, like squamous cell, more than doubles with ANY history of tanning bed use. And although squamous skin cancer is more curable than melanoma, a small fraction of cases spread beyond the skin and cause death.

* Tanning beds are very likely addictive. They make people feel good -- physically and mentally -- because they stimulate production of beta-endorphin, an opium-like substance in the brain.

* The ultraviolet rays from tanning beds cause DNA damage in the skin cells, which triggers production of melanin, the pigment that turns the skin a nice toasty brown. The problem of course is that when those melanin-producing cells go haywire, you have melanoma, and that can easily become incurable before you notice it.

People use tanning beds an estimated one million times every day in the U.S; many of them start in their teens and continue into young adulthood.

The tanning bed industry says one in ten Americans use its products -- 30 million people. That means that many skin cancers every year can be laid at the feet of this industry, with just as strong a scientific case as the one against the tobacco industry.

The defenders of tanning beds say it's a good way to get your skin to make Vitamin D. But that depends on a lot of variables, and a better option, without the risk of cancer, might be to just swallow a Vitamin D supplement pill.

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Posted On: September 2, 2010

Study examines benefits of school bus seat belts for kids

A soon-to-be-completed University of Alabama study of seat belts in school buses notes an increase in positive public perception concerning their installation and use, and growing acceptance among the students using them.

The study, which was commissioned by the state government after a school bus accident in Huntsville, Ala. killed four students and injured 30, assessed the impact of installing lap-shoulder seat belts on Alabama school buses. It includes a review of national experiences and trends, alterations needed in the buses if seat belt use is adopted, analysis of school bus crash data in the state, and a cost-benefit analysis. Detailed results will not be released until the study is completed later this year.

Federal law requires seat belts on small school buses (weighing less than 10,000 lbs.). However, larger buses, which make up about 80% of the nation’s school bus fleet, are governed by state, not federal, guidelines, and only a handful of states – California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas – require seat belts in school buses. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, an average of 19 school-age children die in crashes involving school buses each year.

The school buses used in the study were outfitted with four ceiling-mounted video cameras allowing the research team to gather data on the level of restraint use, review the percentage of students using the belts and the percentage of students using the belts properly, and investigate if using the belts keeps students from moving into the aisle and out of the protective compartment provided by the seats. The camera data will also reveal the benefit of having a bus aide to monitor students and will monitor time devoted to buckling at each stop.

The study is the first to assess the benefits of installing seat belts in school buses, and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Highway Safety Administration and other national agencies are awaiting final results to determine whether or not the adoption of seat belts in school buses should be instituted across the U.S.

Source: Some of the information in this post came from here.

You’ll find more information about the University of Alabama schoolbus seat-belt study here.

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Posted On: September 1, 2010

Are Too Many Pre-Schoolers Being Put on Anti-Psychotic Drugs?

Prescriptions of anti-psychotic drugs like Risperdal for pre-school kids have doubled in the last few years, according to a recent study from Columbia University. Now there are an estimated 500,000 children and adolescents receiving such drugs in the United States. Is it too much?

Only four in ten of the preschoolers who receive prescriptions for these powerful drugs have been given a proper mental health assessment, according to the Columbia study. That worries some experts. As one told the New York Times:

“There are too many children getting on too many of these drugs too soon.”

This quote was from Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia and lead researcher in the new study, which was financed by the government.

Olfson and other researchers worry that the drugs can interfere with physical and mental development in young children. What many kids need is talk therapy, but it's cheaper and more convenient to medicate them, they say.

Read more in the Times' article here.

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