Posted On: January 27, 2011

Cities safer for kids than suburbs, researcher says

The traditional family dream home -- a large house on a big lot in a quiet suburb -- may actually be more dangerous for children than many inner-city neighborhoods, according to a growing body of research.

Although many parents worry that city living could mean their children will be abducted or caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting, it is exceedingly rare for children to be harmed or murdered by strangers, says William Lucy, a University of Virginia urban planning professor who has led several studies on safe communities. The greatest risk to children, he notes, is car crashes, which are more likely to occur in the suburbs, where children spend more time in cars or playing next to busy roads. The ratio of traffic fatalities versus homicides by strangers is 13-1, he says.

All of Lucy's studies on this subject indicate that lower-density areas are the most dangerous, while the safest communities, for the most part, are high-density cities. Not only do low-density communities have more traffic fatalities, they also are the most dangerous places for stranger homicides.

Mass school shootings most often occur in the suburbs, where the student population is less diverse, making it harder for some to fit in. Unfortunately, he notes, car crashes and schoolyard bullies, both of which usually involve older children, are not things parents often think of when they are first looking for a safe place to raise their young families.

Source: National Post

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Posted On: January 26, 2011

Is Michelle Obama responsible for pedestrian injuries?

Two officials from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) blamed First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move anti-obesity program for a small increase in pedestrian fatalities, then quickly backtracked after almost universal negative reaction to their remarks.

GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha told the Washington Examiner that “there is an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle].” Another GHSA spokesman, Jonathan Adkins, told a local radio station that the First Lady is “trying to get us to walk to work and exercise a little bit more. While that's good, it also increases our exposure to risk.”

In 2010, 1,891 road deaths were recorded in the U.S., an increase of seven, or 0.2%, bucking a longterm downward trend. Harsha noted that “many factors” could be responsible for the small uptick, including increased use of iPhones, mp3 players and other devices that make pedestrians less aware of oncoming traffic.

The GHSA officials’ remarks were universally criticized, prompting quick retractions. Harsha later claimed she was misquoted and that the GHSA "in no way opposes Ms. Obama's program." Adkins now says he “did not blame Mrs. Obama for the small uptick in pedestrian deaths but simply noted that programs such as Mrs. Obama's may be increasing the number and frequency of pedestrians and thus exposing them to more risk.”

Sources: Washington Examiner and TheAtlanticWire


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Posted On: January 19, 2011

Dangerous chemicals found in virtually all pregnant women, study says

Virtually all pregnant women in the U.S. are exposed to multiple and varied chemicals – some long banned, others currently used – that may harm the fetus during sensitive periods of development, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco.

The study found that the bodies of virtually all pregnant women in the U.S. carry multiple chemicals, including some banned since the 1970s and others used in common products such as non-stick cookware, processed foods and personal care products.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine whether 163 chemicals were in the blood or urine of 268 U.S. pregnant women sampled between 2003 and 2004.

According to the study - the first to look at a broad range of chemicals specifically in pregnant women - 99% to 100% of pregnant women carried polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate.

The health risks for mother and child associated with exposure to this many chemicals at detectable levels is not known. Low-level exposures to some of these chemicals during the prenatal period can cause long-term health effects, including birth defects, reproductive problems and cancer.

Surprisingly, DDE – a breakdown product of the long-banned DDT pesticide – was found in every woman and at some of the highest levels measured for any of the chemicals. Other chemicals found at high levels include perfluoroctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), which is found in food packaging and non-stick cookware; triclosan, found in antibacterial soap and products; and mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP), found in cosmetics and fragrances. Animal or human studies show all of these chemicals can interfere with the endocrine system.

In addition, many of the pollutants measured in the study can pass through the placenta from the mother to the developing fetus and have been measured in cord blood, fetal blood and amniotic fluid.

Source: Environmental health News

You can view the original report here.

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Posted On: January 13, 2011

Discredited study linking MMR vaccine to autism used fraudulent data, report says

The conclusions of a 1998 study that appeared to link the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism were not only false but fraudulent, according to an article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The original study, written by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, reported on a dozen children, eight of whom were said to have developed gastrointestinal trouble and autism after receiving the MMR vaccine. The paper was published by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet and helped fuel an anti-vaccine movement that persuaded a significant number of parents in the U.S and Europe to shun childhood vaccinations, which in turn has led to an increasing number of outbreaks of mumps and measles.

Wakefield’s study was later renounced by 10 of its 13 authors. In February 2010, the Lancet retracted the 1998 article, and 3 months later, Wakefield and another physician author were stripped of their right to practice medicine in Britain. To date, no credible scientific evidence has clearly connected vaccines with autism or other developmental disorders

But vaccine critics remain skeptical, citing anecdotal evidence of a pattern of bad reactions in vaccinated children, including identical symptoms appearing in the same period. They contend that toxins used as additives and preservatives, and the number and timing of immunizations can cause developmental disabilities and other chronic health conditions in children with sensitive immune systems or genetic disorders.

The new examination of Wakefield's research alleges the British doctor and his colleagues falsified facts about the children. The allegations were made after comparing the reported diagnosis in the original paper with hospital records.

Among the more glaring new findings in the article, the first in a series on the Wakefield case by a British investigative reporter, is that hospital records show five of the 12 children studied had previously documented developmental problems, before they were vaccinated, though the original study reported all the children had developed normally until after they were vaccinated. In addition, behavioral problems that the original paper said appeared days after vaccination did not in fact appear for months in some of the children.

Source: CNN.com

You can view the article in the British Medical Journal here.

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Posted On: January 6, 2011

Senator seeks FTC probe of football helmet makers

A U.S. senator is leading the charge to have the Federal Trade Commission investigate "misleading safety claims and deceptive practices" in the selling of new and used reconditioned football helmets.

In a letter to the FTC, Tom Udall, the Democratic senator from New Mexico, charges that helmet companies "appear to be using misleading advertising claims" and that "some helmet reconditioning companies may be falsely selling used helmets as meeting an industry safety standard."

In the letter, Udall singles out “misleading" marketing claims by Riddell, the helmet maker that supplies the official helmet to the National Football League, as saying on its web site that research shows "a 31 percent reduction in the risk of concussion in players wearing a Riddell Revolution football helmet when compared to traditional helmets, yet there is actually very little scientific evidence to support the claim."

Riddell’s CEO called Udall’s allegations “unfounded and unfair” and said the company welcomes “any scrutiny and review.”

In November, Udall asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate whether safety standards for football helmets are adequate to protect players from concussions. Udall serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Consumer Protection Safety Commission.

Source: Kentucky Post

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