June 26, 2012

Poll Sends Clear Message to Presidential Candidates about Child Health Issues

It’s election season, and there is no shortage of either polls or opinions. A recent national survey by the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Children’s Health found that a majority of adults agree on four major issues they want the presidential candidates to address.

More than 2,100 adults were surveyed, and were asked to select the single most important child health issue from 24 common health concerns. These priorities represented more than half of all responses, and crossed party and ethnic lines:

Because many adult health problems often are seeded in childhood—obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression—the need for early intervention is acute, and is a matter of public policy.
To see the full report, link here.

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June 16, 2011

Swimming pool safety advocates say law isn’t working

A federal law designed to prevent children – and sometimes, even adults – from being sucked in and trapped by a pool or spa drain isn’t working, pool safety advocates say.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, named for the 7-year-old granddaughter of former secretary of State James Baker, who died in a hot tub in Northern Virginia in 2002 after getting trapped by the drain, was passed by Congress in 2007. But a recent recall of more than 1 million pool drain covers designed to fix the problem – just the latest of many setbacks - highlights how difficult the implementation of the law has become, the law's backers say.

Nancy Baker, the mother whose lobbying efforts helped get the law passed, says the implementation of the law has been “botched.” The law was supposed to award more than $4 million in grants for states to bring their pool safety codes up to federal standards. Not one state has done so.

Members of Congress who supported the law complain that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) undermined it by eliminating the requirement for automatic drain shut-off switches as an added layer of protection in some pools. Industry groups argued that the switches were unnecessary.

That decision "runs counter to both the spirit and letter" of the law, say five senators led by Mark Pryor (D-Ark), who sponsored the 2007 law in the Senate. "In single drain pools, no drain cover — no matter how large or unblockable — can protect a child from entrapment if the drain cover is improperly installed or inadvertently removed," the senators wrote in a 2010 letter to the CPSC.

CPSC enforcement of the law has also been problematic. The commission could not provide precise statistics on how many inspections have been done, but estimated that since 2009, it has contracted out with 16 state and local health departments to do more than 2,800 inspections. Those contracts cover fewer than 1% of the 300,000 commercial pools in the U.S., not including residential pools and spas, which number more than 16 million, according to industry data.

In addition, a CPSC investigation found that the testing laboratories that certified drain covers as meeting safety standards applied those standards inconsistently and incorrectly, meaning many of the covers may be unsafe for the pools they're installed in.

Source: USA Today

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October 12, 2010

Florida child safety advocates ponder vehicle alarm law after death of infant in daycare van

Some child safety advocates in Florida are calling for special vehicle alarms following the death of a 2-year-old strapped and forgotten in her car seat for nearly 6 hours in the back of a Delray Beach daycare center van.

A few other states already have laws mandating that all vehicles from childcare providers that transport six or seven (depending on the state) or more passengers have a child safety alarm system that prompts the driver to inspect all seats before leaving. Mary Sachs, a state representative, said she will sponsor a bill next spring requiring the alarms in Florida.

The alarms work as follows: After the driver turns off the vehicle, an alarm goes off and continues to sound for one to four minutes, which forces the driver to walk to the back of the van to turn it off. If the driver ignores the alarm, an external car alarm sounds, thereby alerting others that the vehicle hasn’t been checked.

While no one keeps specific data on how many children die from being left in childcare center vehicles, dozens of children die after being left in cars every year. According to Jan Null, an adjunct professor of meterology at the University of San Francisco and author of “Hypothermia death of children in vehicles,” 49 children have died forgotten in cars so far this year.

The driver of the van was charged with negligent manslaughter and the owners of the day care lost their license after losing more than $200,000 in state funds following the incident.

Source: The Palm Beach Post

You'll find more information about deaths of children in vehicles from hypothermia here.

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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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May 2, 2010

Lead Poisoning Still a Reality for Children Today

Since lead paint was banned in 1978, the number of children with elevated lead levels has decreased so much that at one point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was confident that this environmental hazard would be eliminated by 2010. However, health officials no longer think they can meet that goal this year because lead hazards are still present in houses built before the lead paint ban, many of which are in “poor urban pockets,” says Mireya Navarro of the New York Times.

Although the 1978 law banned the use of lead paint, local laws and enforcement have yet to catch up with their own laws requiring inspections and cleanup of houses built before 1978. Dr. Mary Jean Brown, chief of the lead poisoning prevention branch at the CDC, said that there are still jurisdictions that do not have laws requiring landlords to check for lead-based paint. Even in places that do have such laws, landlords are not always compliant – in a survey done from 2007 to 2009 in Brooklyn, New York, “59 percent of tenants reported that their landlords had not followed any of the law’s provisions,” Navarro reported in the NY Times article.

In addition to experts’ recommendation of strengthening local laws and enforcement, the EPA implemented a regulation in April, 2010, that “requires renovation and remodeling contractors to be certified in techniques for containing lead dust stirred up during work” in buildings constructed before 1978.

Elevated lead levels in young children, especially those under 6, can “cause irreversible impairment intelligence quotient, motor skills and behavior,” says Dr. John Rosen, who founded a lead prevention program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

In Washington, D.C., lead safety laws impose strict liability on landlords who know they are renting to families with children under eight years old. However, many landlords still are lax about cleaning up apartments unless families complain loud and often. In our law firm's work in representing such families, we find that landlords don't take their obligations seriously until they are taken to court.

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May 1, 2010

"Tic Tacs" Packed with Nicotine Appeal to Teens

In response to the increase of smoke-free air laws, one of the nation’s biggest cigarette makers started test marketing flavored tobacco pellets in parts of the country. Although the new product by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, called Camel Orbs, is marketed for adults and packaged in child-resistant containers, critics think it “closely resembles Tic Tac breath mints,” and creates appeal for teenagers, reports Duff Wilson of the New York Times.

According to Wilson, in a study published in the April issue of the Pediatrics journal, researchers say that Camel Orbs and other dissolvable tobacco products are “packed with nicotine and can poison children and lure young people to start using tobacco.” These smokeless products are appealing to teenagers because of their “candy-like appearance, added flavors, and easily concealable size,” says Dr. Laurence Deyton of the FDA in a commentary in the same issue of the Journal. In fact, a group of teenagers were seen sharing Camel Orbs.

Not only do these pellets increase the likelihood of more teenagers becoming addicted to tobacco, their dissolvability and high level of absorbable nicotine also pose health hazards to younger children: children who ingest tobacco products suffer nausea and vomiting.

To combat the emergence of these new products, Congress passed legislation last year to require Reynolds to produce research results and other materials about the dissolvable tobacco products. The FDA is also required under the legislation to study the products within two years; and “depending on the outcome of that review, the agency could ban them or require product changes,” writes Duff Wilson.

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August 4, 2007

Virginia Tightens Car Seat and Cell Phone Laws

Virginia has passed stricter regulatory measures regarding children in cars. Starting on July 1st 2007, all children eight and younger must be secured by a child restraint device. Previously the law had only applied to children five and younger.

Furthermore, Virginia has banned drivers under 18 from using telecommunications devices, including cell phones, while driving.

More about this legislation can be found at eMaxHealth.

The ban on minors using cell phones is in keeping with laws in other states restricting cell phone use in cars and is much more lenient than many of them--for instance, an Oklahoma legislator wants mandatory jail sentencing for all crashes related to cellphone talk, as reported in the Ada Evening News.

The requirement that eight-year-olds be in special child restraints while in cars seems draconian at first glance. The silver lining is that it indicates an increased attention to car safety for children.

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August 1, 2007

$10.4 million verdict in Montana against Evenflo

A jury in Montana returned with a $10.4 million verdict against a car-seat manufacturing company named Evenflo Co. Inc., holding that Evenflo was liable in the death of a four-and-a-half-month-old infant in 2000. The baby was in one of Evenflo's car-seats at the time of its death in a car accident.

Details of the case can be found in the Kansas City Business Journal or the Chicago Tribune.

The important facts to take away from this case are the following: firstly, that energy-absorbent foam padding can be vital to car-seat safety, especially around the child's head. Secondly, the hooks that hold the car-seat in place must be sturdy and not prone to breaking off, as the Evenflo hooks were.

Evenflo continues to deny liability and will appeal the ruling, but whatever the outcome, these general concepts about car-seats may be helpful to keep in mind.

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