April 11, 2014

The Cost of a Car Seat Defect Was a Child’s Life

More than two years after a horrendous accident in which an infant lost her life because of a defective car seat, federal authorities are still diddling around in their investigation and the car seat manufacturer, Graco, continues to blame its customers.

The story was reported in sad detail on The Safety Record.

In August 2011, Samika Ramirez was driving with her 2-year-old, Leiana Marie Ramirez. When the car started to swerve, Ramirez pulled to the left side of the parkway and turned on her flashers. The divided road had only a narrow shoulder. She was about to call the auto club when another driver rear-ended her car.

It caught fire, and Ramirez tried frantically to unbuckle her daughter, but couldn’t release the harness of the Graco Nautilus child safety seat. With flames engulfing her car, passersby Ramirez pulled out of the car, and Leianna was burned alive.

More than a year later the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation. The results are still pending, but the the Graco Nautilus and 17 other models with buckles difficult to unlatch were recalled. Some consumers told NHTSA that they had to cut the belt webbing to release their children from the seat.

From the beginning, according to The Safety Record, Graco conceded that it was “keenly aware of the issue.” It had received more than 6,100 complaints about it, but said that the difficult of getting a kid out of a seat was merely “a consumer frustration and a consumer experience that Graco has been working to improve.”

So far, Graco hasn’t acknowledged that the defect caused a horrific death, not to NHTSA, not in a defect and noncompliance report, not in NHTSA’s Early Warning Reports.

In 2005, Graco paid a $4 million fine after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) cited its long history of failing to report injuries and deaths. “Even now,” The Safety Record reports, “with the initial recall expanded and under a Special Order to answer all questions truthfully, Graco comforts its customers on its website:

Graco can assure you there have been no reported injuries as a result of the harness buckles used on Graco car seats. We want to stress that our car seats are safe and effective in restraining children. And, the safest way to transport a child is always in a car seat."

NHTSA wouldn’t comment to The Safety Record, but did confirm that the investigation remains open. Christine Spagnoli, an attorney representing the Ramirez family, says that Graco’s failure to acknowledge Leiana’s death undermines the recall, and calls it a consumer safety issue.

“[B]y saying something false to the public,” she said, “they’re trying to save money, at the expense of kids getting hurt.”

After NHTSA began investigating, Graco started blaming consumers, saying they allowed food, drink and bodily fluids to muck up the buckle apparatus, making it difficult for the button to release the metal tongues. Graco said they were just frustrated with the “perception” of difficulty, that they unlatched the harness incorrectly and that the complaint rate was approximately 1 in 1,000.

The feds weren’t buying it, and expressed concern that the malfunction of the quick-release mechanism created “an unreasonable safety condition in that the unlatching of the buckle and/or the extracting of the child would take an excessive amount of time, or may not be possible at all in a post-crash or other emergency situation where time is a critical factor.

"Additionally, First Responders or Good Samaritans, who are unfamiliar with the buckles operation or its sticking characteristics, also may not be able to unlatch the buckle.”

They called Graco’s claim that a child could be removed even when he or she was still buckled “unsustainable” in a post-crash situation.

The to-and-fro between the company and the investigators is as wearying as it is painfully slow. Consumers shopping for child car seats might want to keep in mind, as The Safety Record recounts, that Graco has a history of denial, foot-dragging and responsibility-shifting when it comes to the requirements of NHTSA’s early warning reporting, which compels manufacturers to supply access to recall information.

Graco is obligated to report “any claim against and received by the manufacturer. Claims are merely requests or demands for relief related to a crash, the failure of a component or system, or a fire originating in or from a vehicle. These claims are unverified allegations. They may help NHTSA identify a possible defect, but in and of themselves the claims are not evidence of a defect.”

To see the Graco car seat models that have been recalled, link here.

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February 21, 2011

Almost 10,000 crib and playpen injuries a year, study says, but will Congress roll back safeguards?

Nearly 10,000 infants and toddlers are hurt in crib and playpen accidents each year, according to a recent study.

The release of the study coincides with a U.S. House subcommittee hearing on February 24 on consumer product safety issues during which the subject of cribs is expected to come up. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes loosening crib regulations and is concerned that the industry may seek to roll back parts of a 2008 law which called for mandatory crib standards, including more rigorous safety testing, noting that this peer-reviewed study indicates why such a rollback would be a step backward.

The study, which was released in the journal Pediatrics, examined 19 years of Emergency Department data and is the first nationwide analysis of ER treatment for crib and playpen injuries. Researchers found a gradual decrease in the injury rate between 1990 and 2008; they also found that recent safety measures including a ban on drop-side cribs appear to be having a positive impact.

Still, better prevention efforts are needed since, even in the most recent years examined, an “unacceptable” average of 26 infants daily were injured in crib-related accidents, says study lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Most injuries were from falls in toddlers between ages 1 and 2. According to the study, 181,654 infants were injured between 1990 and 2008, though most children were not hospitalized. The data also reveal 2,140 deaths, not including crib-related deaths in children who didn't receive treatment in the ER.

The 2008 law called for mandatory crib standards, including more rigorous safety testing. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission mandate, which takes effect in June 2011, bans the manufacture and sale of traditional drop-side cribs with side rails that move up and down to make it easier to place and remove infants. The movable rails can become partially detached, creating a gap between the mattress and rail where babies can get stuck. Dozens of injuries and deaths including suffocations have been linked with drop-side cribs, and millions of such cribs have already been recalled.

Source: Washington Post

You can view a copy of the study abstract here.

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December 4, 2010

Feds probe lead-tainted drinking glasses for kids

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC) has launched an investigation into lead levels in themed drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters. CPSC ruled that the glasses were children’s products, and therefore subject to stricter standards than those intended for adults.

The CPSC said it was collecting samples of all glasses cited in a continuing Associated Press probe into dangerous metals – cadmium,in particular – in children's merchandise.

After CPSC announced that it considers the glasses children's products, Warner Bros. said it would stop selling them, and the importer, Utah-based Vandor LLC, said it would pull them from the broader market, despite its insistence that the products were marketed to adults, not children. The Chinese-made glasses depict the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and characters from "The Wizard of Oz" such as Dorothy and the Tin Man.

About 160,000 glasses have been recalled since AP disclosed that laboratory tests it commissioned showed that colored designs in a range of glasses contain high levels of lead or were made in such a way that lead or cadmium could escape and contaminate the hands of someone handling them.

The CPSC said its own inquiry would extend beyond the superhero and Oz glasses to include others cited by AP "that have decorations that children would be attracted to."

Child safety advocates worry that that toxic metals rubbing onto children's hands can get into their mouths and cause cumulative damage over time. Testing performed so far revealed that the enamel used to color the glasses contained 1,000 times the the amount of lead (i.e. the enamel was 30% lead, whereas the federal limit is 0.03%).

Had the regulators decided the glasses weren’t children’s products, they wouldn’t be subject to the strict federal limits.

Both Vandor and Warner Brothers, which sold the glasses, insisted that the principal cutomers were adult collectors and that they made the decision to pull the glasses in "an abundance of caution." But on Warner Brothers own website, the glasses were sold alongside a lunch box and children’s T-shirts with superhero images.

Source: Boston Globe

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November 23, 2010

186,000 visits to ER due to defective toys, CPSC says

Kids under 15 made 186,000 visits to the ER due to defective toys, according to figures released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But there’s also good news in the latest CPSC report: deaths resulting from use of toys are down, as are toy recalls. But toy related injuries, particularly lacerations and contusions, are up.

CPSC says the number of toy recalls dropped to 44 in fiscal year 2010, down from 50 in 2009 and 172 in 2008. It credits its new toy safeguards -- establishing the lowest lead content and lead paint limits in the world; converting the voluntary toy standard into a mandatory standard; and working with Customs and Border Protection data systems to better track shipments of dangerous products from other countries -- as helping to restore confidence in the safety of toys sold in the U.S.

Toy-related fatalities also decreased; in 2009. CPSC received reports of 12 deaths to children under the age of 15, down from 24 toy-related fatalities both in 2007 and 2008. Riding toys were associated with almost 60 percent of the reported deaths in 2009: three with tricycles, two with powered riding toys and two with nonmotorized riding toys or unspecified riding toys.

On the negative side, 2009 saw a massive recall of Mattel Inc.’s Fisher-Price toys, with more than 10 million products targeted, including infant toys, high chairs and toy cars. These products were recalled for many different reasons, including choking hazards and protruding parts.

Source: Bloomberg Business Week

You can read the complete CPSC report here.

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November 18, 2010

Big recall of Roman shades, roll-up blinds and roller blinds because of strangling hazard in small kids

In conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Hanover Direct Inc. (also known as Domestications, The Company Store and Company Kids) has recalled nearly 500,000 Roman shades, roll-up blinds and roller blinds because of strangulation hazards to small children.

In October 2009, about 90,000 Roman shades were recalled due to strangulation fears. Strangulations can occur when a child places his/her neck between the exposed inner cord and the fabric on the backside of the blind or when a child pulls the cord out and wraps it around his/her neck.

The latest recall of about 495,000 items came after a 22-month old boy was found hanging from his neck from the outer cords of a Roman shade in May. The outer pull cords were knotted at the bottom. The child was rescued by his father but later died in a hospital.

To date, no injuries or incidents attributable to rollup or roller blinds have been reported. However, strangulations can occur with roll-up blinds if the lifting loops slide off the side of the blind and a child's neck becomes entangled on the free-standing loop or if a child places his/her neck between the lifting loop and the roll-up blind material. With roller blinds, strangulations can occur if the blind's continuous loop bead chain or continuous loop pull cord is not attached to the wall or the floor with the tension device provided and a child's neck becomes entangled in the free-standing loop.

The new recall involves all styles of Roman shades with inner cords, all styles of roll-up blinds, and roller blinds that do not have a tension device. A tension device is intended to be attached to the continuous loop bead chain or continuous loop pull cord and installed into the wall or floor.

The blinds were sold at Hanover Direct/Domestications, the Company Store/Company Kids; online at www.domestications.com and www.thecompanystore.com; and through catalog sales nationwide from January 1996 through October 2009 for between $20 and $579. They were manufactured in China, the United States, and other countries.

Consumers should immediately stop using all Roman shades with inner cords, all roll-up blinds, and all roller blinds that do not have a tension device, and contact the Window Covering Safety Council at (800) 506-4636 anytime for free repair kits or visit www.windowcoverings.org.

Consumers who have roller blinds with a tension device should make sure the tension device is attached to the continuous loop bead chain or continuous loop pull cord and is installed into the wall or floor.

Source: Babyzone.com

You can view the original CPSC recall report here.

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November 3, 2010

Three drop-side cribs are recalled as CPSC joins child safety groups in crib education campaign video for new parents

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently joined three child safety organizations to release "Safe Sleep for Babies," a new crib safety video aimed at helping all new parents avoid suffocation, strangulation and entrapment risks. CPSC also announced three new recalls of dangerous drop-side cribs.

Collaborating with CPSC on the video, which is moderated by TV journalist Joan Lunden, were the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Keeping Babies Safe (KBS) and New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

Meanwhile, CPSC recently recalled nearly 40,000 drop-side cribs due to concerns about “entrapment, suffocation and fall hazards.” More than 34,000 of these were for Heritage Collection 3-in-1 drop-side cribs, which were manufactured in Vietnam and retailed at K-Mart nationwide from February 2007 through October 2008 for about $130.

The remaining recalls were for drop side cribs (a) manufactured in China and sold online at Ababy.com, Babyage and other Web Retailers from December 2004 through January 2009 under the “Longwood Forest” or “Angel Line” label for about $140; and (b) manufactured in the United States and China and sold at Ethan Allen stores from January 2002 through December 2008 for between $550 and $900.

The "Safe Sleep for Babies" video, which aims to educate new and expectant parents and caregivers on crib safety while they are at the hospital or visiting their pediatrician's office, is part of CPSC's Safe Sleep Initiative, a multi-pronged effort aimed at reducing crib deaths and injuries. In addition to this education effort, CPSC's Safe Sleep Initiative includes the development of new crib standards, warnings about drop-side cribs, sleep positioners, and infant slings, and the recall of millions of cribs in the past five years.

CPSC will distribute the video online and through its network of about 100 hospitals nationwide. NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital plans to make the video available to all families as part of their parent education programs, and provide copies to hospitals in the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Healthcare System. The American Academy of Pediatrics will promote the video to its 60,000 members and will feature it on AAP's parents-focused website, www.healthychildren.org, where it will be available for download.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission
For more information on the crib recalls, go here.
You can view the video here.

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October 25, 2010

Stroller recall due to strangulation risk: What parents need to know

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled two million older model Graco strollers after four children were strangulated and five others became entrapped in the strollers and sustained cuts and bruising.

According to the CPSC:

Entrapment and strangulation can occur, especially to infants younger than 12 months of age, when a child is not harnessed. An infant can pass through the opening between the stroller tray and seat bottom, but his/her head and neck can become entrapped by the tray. Infants who become entrapped at the neck are at risk of strangulation.

Various product numbers from the following four Graco models were recalled: Quattro Stroller, Quattro Stroller Travel System, MetroLite Stroller and MetroLite Stroller Travel System. The strollers were sold at Babies R Us, Walmart, K-Mart, Target, Sears and several other large retailers between November 2000 and December 2007.

Parents who discover they own one of the recalled strollers should stop using them at once and contact Graco toll-free at 877-828-4046 for a free repair kit.

Newer models aren’t included in the recall because updated voluntary manufacturing standards went into effect in January 2008 that increased the space between the stroller tray and seat bottom, lessening the risk of harm. For example, the Graco MetroLite stroller now on the market carries a best buy rating from Consumer Reports because it passed the tougher safety standard, says Don Mays, senior director of product safety for Consumer Reports in Yonkers, N.Y.

“People who have these old strollers in their homes and pass them down from one child to the next, they’re the ones at risk,” Mays says, adding that the danger only exists if children aren’t buckled in every time they ride in the affected strollers.

Source: Marketwatch

For more recall details, including a complete list of affected model numbers, visit the CPSC page here.

To contact Graco online, go here.

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October 8, 2010

Regulators, science kit makers clash over possible ‘toxic’ paper clips

Science kits – and some of the items they contain, including paper clips used to show children how magnets work -- could require more stringent safety testing if the Consumer Product Safety Commission determines that the kits are “children’s products.” Science kit makers, meanwhile, argue that the items in the kits aren’t harmful to children and are everyday items found in homes and schools that don’t need to be tested when they are purchased separately.

The manufacturers asked for a testing exemption, but the CPSC would not grant a blanket waiver. In a 3-2 vote, CPSC approved a “guidance” that is supposed to help determine which products require testing under legislation passed by Congress two years ago that requires safety checks for items such as lead, chemicals and flammable materials.

After the vote, CPSC chairman Inez Tenenbaum said that “there is nothing in this rule that bans science kits.” The manufacturers, however, have threatened to cease supplying kits to elementary school children because of the testing requirement.

The approved document does not explicitly demand testing of the kits or their components. It does, however, indicate that how the kits are packaged and marketed (for example, whether they are intended for children 12 or under) could determine whether testing is required.

The science kit manufacturers say that a CPSC guidance subjects their products to a double standard – i.e. paper clips bought at an office supply store would not need to be tested, while those in the science kit would be. "They miraculously become a children's product when our clients pick those products up and put them in a science kit," a manufacturers’ representative said.

Two CPSC commissioners criticized the guidance. Anne Northup said the guidance should have carved out products that pose little or no risk. “We are not making reasonable decisions,” she said. Another commissioner, Nancy Nord, wrote on her blog that “it is crazy that the Hands-On Science Partnership needs to be concerned about doing lead tests on products purchased at an office supply store and then packaged into a science teaching kit for use with children. Even crazier is the fact that if a teacher buys the same paper clip at the same store and uses it for the same science teaching project, it's okay."

Consumer advocates, however, maintain the tests must be performed “to ensure that products for children are safe.”

Source: Associated Press

You can view the CPSC decision here on page 35.

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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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July 24, 2010

Getting the Word Out on Dangerous Kids' Products

Many kids' products -- cribs, high chairs, strollers and more -- last for years and years, which can be a tragic problem if the product turns out to have a hidden danger that only becomes obvious long after purchase. Now there's a law intended to deal with the issue.

As of this summer, manufacturers of children's products have to comply with new safety requirements per the “Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act,” named after a child who was strangled to death in a defective crib. The act requires manufacturers of children products to “establish and maintain a registration card program,” reports Lisa Parker of NBC Chicago. The registration cards will be included with the product and the program will keep records for at least 6 years of consumers who do register. This will facilitate notification of any recalls or safety concerns regarding the product.

The act, which took effect on June 28, 2010, affects the following product categories, according to Parker: Full-size and other cribs, Toddler beds, High chairs, Booster chairs, Hook-on chairs, Bath seats, Gates, Play yards, Stationary activity centers, Infant carriers, Strollers, Walkers, Swings, Bassinets, Cradles, Children’s folding chairs, Changing tables, Infant bouncers, Infant bathtubs, Portable toddler bed rails, and Infant slings.

An announcement of the act going into effect can be found on the Kids In Danger website.

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June 23, 2010

Infant Onesies and Rompers Recalled

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall of infant onesies and rompers that are manufactured by Holtrop & McIndoo, dba Kiwi Industries. The recall followed two incident reports the manufacturer received. Although no injuries have been reported, the CPSC cautions that the snaps on the apparel can detach and pose choking hazards to infants. See the CPSC’s recall on its website here.

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June 3, 2010

Watch Out for Button Batteries and Kids

Tiny lithium batteries the size and shape of buttons can kill or cause severe injury in a child who swallows one, doctors are reporting.

The batteries, which are found in remote controls, watches, and other home electronics and toys, cause a chemical reaction when swallowed that can burn through the delicate tissues in the neck. Kids sometimes swallow them when they take apart a toy, find the battery, and think it's candy.

While rare, a death was reported in one child where the battery burned through the esophagus and attacked the aorta. Another child was left with a lifelong whisper from vocal cord damage. Another had to have feeding tubes and multiple surgeries for the damage to the gastric tract.

The journal Pediatrics reports the dangers of ingestion of lithium batteries by infants, which can and has caused deaths, writes Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times.

The lead author of the medical journal article on this subject, Dr. Litovitz, says there is a “tight timeline” in which to rescue children from the injuries caused by lithium ingestion: while the batteries start causing severe damages as quickly as within 2 hours of ingestion, the problem is difficult to be diagnosed because small children cannot verbally communicate, and their symptoms (which can be loss of appetite, vomiting, coughing up blood) are nonspecific.

Pediatricians and parents are working to raise awareness of the dangers of small lithium batteries and to urge manufacturers of electronics to secure the battery in all electronic devices, not just toys. A woman whose 18-month-old daughter died after ingesting a lithium battery said that “there should be warnings on every item the batteries are in. They are in greeting cards and children’s books that talk. They’re everywhere.”

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June 1, 2010

Warning Labels Urged on Foods that Can Choke Children

Popcorn and hot dogs can pose a deadly choking hazard for children under four, and the risk isn't lowered by parents monitoring their kids' eating of these foods, says the official group representing American pediatricians. So experts are saying the best thing is to avoid risky foods before age four. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on the prevention of choking among children, choking is a leading cause of death in children and is most frequently caused by food, coins and toys. However, unlike with toys, there are not yet requirements for warning labels on foods that present choking hazards. The Academy’s new policy statement urges the Food and Drug Administration to impose safety requirements on foods that are known to be choking hazards, Laurie Tarkan reports in a New York Times article. In addition to putting warning labels on food packaging, the Academy also suggests that manufacturers redesign the foods to reduce dangers of children choking on them. Toddlers, especially those under 4 whose throat at its narrowest has the diameter of a straw, easily choke on small pieces of foods, among which popcorn and hot dogs are considered high-risk foods. The risk is not reduced by parents being present and watching when children ingest these foods. “The only way” to prevent kids choking on small objects and food is to keep the items out of their mouth, according to Chrissy Cianflone, director of programs for Safe Kids USA, an advocacy group. Currently, only two-thirds of hot dogs have warning labels on the packages, says the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. And even on the packages that do carry warning messages, the labels are not always obvious to consumers. The FDA in a statement indicates that “it was reviewing the pediatrics academy’s new policy and was considering steps to prevent further deaths,” according to the NY Times story. Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, suggests that parents wait till children turn 4 or 5 years of age to allow them to eat high-risk foods such as popcorn, hot dogs, and grapes.

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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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March 30, 2010

New Taxes on Tanning Beds

Included in the healthcare reform bill that President Obama signed into law recently is a new 10% tax on sunbeds that is hoped to deter young people from using the indoor tanning machines, reports USA Today’s Liz Szabo.

Used by about one in three 17-year-old girls in the country, these ultraviolet radiation-emitting beds actually pose grave dangers to human health, resulting in skin and eye cancer. According to Szabo, the tanning beds increase the risk of skin cancer by 75% for users under the age of 30.

In a USA Today article from July 2009, it was reported that “international cancer experts have moved tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category, deeming them as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas.”

In addition to the new tax, the FDA is considering putting restrictions such as requiring teens to get parental consent before using the sunbeds. The FDA may eventually ban the use of tanning beds among teenagers.

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January 14, 2010

Toxic Dangers from Kids' Metal Jewelry from China

Testing of children's cheap jewelry trinkets has found toxic levels of heavy metals including cadmium and lead, according to an Associated Press report.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends parents don't buy these bracelet charms and pendants, and throw away any that they already have. Don't try to sell them!

Some Chinese manufacturers have started using cadmium in these trinkets to replace lead, which they were required to remove by safety regulators. Cadmium is just as bad.

The health danger comes when children chew, suck on or even swallow these shiny metal trinkets.

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December 18, 2009

"Simplicity" cribs: Now responsible for eleven baby deaths

The death toll from Simplicity cribs, which were recalled four years ago but are still in widespread use, has jumped from four to eleven, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Associated Press reports:

The recall of Simplicity-manufactured cribs began in December 2005. More than 2 million Simplicity drop-side cribs have been recalled so far because of problems with their plastic hardware. Some of the recalled cribs have the Graco logo and Winnie the Pooh motif.

The crib's hardware can break or deform, causing the drop side to detach. This detachment creates a space between the drop side and crib mattress that babies can roll into and become entrapped, leading to suffocation risk.

The CPSC says caregivers should check their cribs to see whether they have a recalled Simplicity crib. If they do, consumers should stop using them immediately and should not attempt to fix the cribs.

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December 10, 2009

Infant Deaths Prompt Baby Hammock Recalls

This week the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary recall of 24,000 motion beds for babies, writes Jennifer Kerr of the Associated Press. Manufactured by Amby Baby of USA and sold online through its website since 2003, Amby Baby Motion Beds consist of a steel frame and a fabric hammock that has mesh sides and hangs from a spring. The bed gently swings as the baby moves, a feature designed to resemble babies’ motion in the maternal womb.

Although many babies have found comfort in these hammock beds, there is a hidden risk of suffocation: as the bed moves back and forth, babies could roll and become trapped or wedged against the fabric or the mattress pad. In fact, as Jennifer Kerr reports, two infant deaths in the United States have been associated with Amby Baby Motion Beds, which prompted the CPSC’s recall of the product.

In her story, Jennifer Kerr quotes Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, “There is currently no safety standards that would cover hammocks.” Kerr says that safety advocates maintain that it’s safest for babies to be “in cribs or bassinets with a firm bottom support and no soft bedding, gaps or other points where they could become trapped.”

The CPSC urges parents to immediately stop using the hammock beds for the safety of their babies.

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December 4, 2009

Are Your Children's Toys Safe?

According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, in 2007, there were 22 toy-related deaths in the United States, and in 2008 there were 19. That translates to at least one death every month in from dangerous toys – toys that should provide enjoyment but instead have hidden death traps.

The causes of deaths include, among others, airway obstruction, strangulation, and blunt force. Dangerous toys also account for other serious injuries like laceration and burns, as well as more than 170,000 emergency room visits annually for injuries to children 15 years or younger, according to Don Keenan, Atlanta attorney and child advocate.

Don Keenan has put together a list of Top 10 Dangerous Toys for 2009, available on his website, Keenan’s Kids Foundation. He also has a link to CPSC’s list of recalled toys.

Notably, in Don Keenan’s introduction to the Top 10 Dangerous Toys list, he cautions consumers that many of these dangerous toys, although banned or recalled by the CPSC, still made their way onto the shelves in stores like Target or Walmart. The recalled toys are also easily available on the Internet at sites like eBay or in used toy stores. Other toys that were not recalled also may not be completely safe – in February 2009, the government enacted stringent standards, but Keenan’s Kids Foundation estimates that as many as 5% of toys currently on the market probably do not meet the new safety standards (such as requiring all children products to be tested by a third-party lab to ensure they meet safety standards, and banning the use of phthalates, a plastic softener, or products that contain trace amounts of lead).

Therefore, in this holiday gift-buying season, parents are urged to use extra caution in selecting safe toys, by carefully reading the safety warning label to see if the toy is age-appropriate for your children, and comparing against the CPSC’s recall list.

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July 29, 2009

Heavy Backpacks Cause Lower Back Pains for Children

Consumer Reports recently conducted a survey in rating the most durable backpacks, and found in the survey that an average 6th grader carries a backpack weighing 18.4 pounds, but some are as heavy as 30 pounds, according to Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times.

A medical adviser to Consumer Reports and also a board-certified neurologist, Dr. Orly Avitzur says that carrying a heavy backpack can cause low-back pain in children, and carrying the backpack on one shoulder instead of two exacerbates the problem.

Parents can consult some suggestions provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics about how to choose the best-fitting backpack and how to prevent injuries. Consumer Reports has also published its full report and buying guide.

Some of the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines include the following:

- Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.

- Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.

- Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student's total body weight.

- Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.

- Stop often at school lockers, if possible. Do not carry all of the books needed for the day.

- Bend using both knees, when you bend down. Do not bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.

- Learn back-strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.

- Ask your pediatrician for advice.

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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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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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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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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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December 9, 2008

Toy Makers Prosecuted for Lead Content

The state of California and the city of Los Angeles brought a lawsuit against 17 toymakers a year ago over toxic lead content, and on Dec. 4, settled with nine of the defendants, as reported by Los Angeles Times’ Marc Lifsher. The settlement terms include a $1.8 million payment from the nine toy companies, as well as speedy actions to reduce level of lead in their products, including “toys, lunchboxes and novelty items imported from China and other developing nations.”

Lead has long been known to be toxic to human bodies, threatening the cognitive and nervous system and causing blood and brain disorders. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, lead poisoning is especially dangerous for children under 6 “because they are undergoing rapid neurological and physical development.” And even the slightest trace of lead could prove toxic; the Times article quoted Los Angeles City Attorney Delgadillo’s comment that “scientists have determined that there is no safe level of lead.”

The agreement reached between the prosecutors and the toymakers requires compliance with new federal lead standards beginning on Dec. 1, which “will safeguard California’s children from lead-contaminated toys this Christmas,” said California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who filed the lawsuit.

The $1.8 million payout from the nine companies includes an amount of $550,000 that will go into a "fund to test toys and improve outreach during future recalls."

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November 20, 2008

Recent Surge in Crib Accidents Prompts Safety Reform

Next time you think it’s safe to leave your baby unattended in a crib, think again.

Design flaws and confusing instruction manual – among other factors – contribute to the rising number of crib accidents in the past two years, resulting in the federal government’s recall of 3.6 million cribs. That’s more than the number of recalled cribs in the last 30 years combined.

Some of the problems recurrently reported by parents include:

(1) Mattress platforms that drop and form a gap that can entrap and strangle babies;
(2) Bars too far apart, allowing babies’ small and flexible bodies to slide through;
(3) Confusing installation manuals that allow parents to misassemble;
(4) Flawed designs that allow cribs to operate even when misassembled, albeit dangerously.

Injuries from crib mishaps can become terrible tragedies, with children dying or even suffering brain injury.

Before the government puts in place new and stricter safety regulations, what can parents do to minimize the chance of their babies getting injured in the cribs? They should always make sure the cribs are assembled properly and securely, and never assume that nothing will happen to the babies simply because they’re in the cribs -- check up on them frequently!

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August 31, 2008

D.C.-based Commission Warns Against Simplicity Inc. Bassinets

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision has issued a warning against the popular "close-sleeper/bedside-sleeper" bassinets made by Simplicity Inc., after two babies were trapped and strangled to death by the bassinet's metal bars.

According to the article, these are the most popular bassinets in the country. The Commission says that the spacing of the metal bars is what makes the bassinets dangerous:

It said the two bassinets contain metal bars spaced farther apart than 2 3/8 inches, the maximum distance allowed under federal crib safety standards. Federal regulations make such standards voluntary for bassinets.

The article notes that those who bought the bassinets from Target can return them for a refund, and that anyone with questions about them can call the Commission's hotline at 800-638-2772. It would be advisable to avoid not only these bassinets but also others with similarly spaced metal bars.

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August 31, 2008

FDA Revisits Cold Medicine Standards for Infants

We have discussed concerns over the efficacy and safety of cough and cold medicines for very young children many times in the past.

Now, in reaction to these concerns, the FDA plans to take another look at the reasons why these cough and cold medications were approved for toddlers and infants in the first place. From the article:

In response to rising concerns that the products are ineffective and could be unsafe, the agency said it will revamp the criteria that have allowed the products to remain on drugstore shelves for the first time in decades.

"Modern science has advanced since, and this is an opportunity to apply modern science to evaluate these products,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

As the first step in that process, the agency will hold a special hearing Oct. 2 to begin to consider a series of questions, including: What types of studies should be done to evaluate the products? Should the products remain available without a prescription? How should the doses be determined? Should products that combine different ingredients remain available?

One problem that has led to preventable tragedies is that parents sometimes inadvertently overdose their children. A particular problem has been with concentrated Tylenol infant drops. Due to confusing instructions from pediatricians and to labeling that wasn't always clear, some parents have not realized that the infant drops contain much more of the active ingredient, acetaminophen, then regular children's Tylenol. An overdose of Tylenol or acetaminophen can cause liver poisoning which requires liver transplant. After years of complaints, the Tylenol manufacturer took the concentrated infant drops off the market in October 2007.

The FDA's new look promises to go beyond the infant drops issue and look at the appropriate place of cough and cold medicines in treatment of infants and toddlers.

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July 16, 2008

Menthol: A Hook for Young Smokers

New research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that tobacco companies have been deliberately varying levels of menthol in their cigarettes, marketing cigarettes with lower levels of menthol to younger smokers and then increasing the level of menthol with the age of the target demographic. From the article:

One document from R.J. Reynolds noted that all three major menthol brands "built their franchise with YAS (younger adult smokers) ... using a low-menthol product strategy. However, as smokers acclimate to menthol, their demand for menthol increases over time."

In 1987, R.J. Reynolds marketed low-level menthol varieties to persuade consumers to switch from regular brands and to recruit new, young smokers, noting: "First-time smoker reaction is generally negative. ... Initial negatives can be alleviated with a low level of menthol."

This new research serves as a reminder that, despite famous regulations about where and how Joe Camel can be displayed, tobacco companies continue to market deadly products to very young people.

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June 26, 2008

Parents File Suit Over BPA Bottles

This blog has previously discussed the dangers of bisphenol A (called BPA), a common ingredient in the plastics used to make baby bottles, for fetuses, babies and small children. The intended effect of BPA is to make the bottle shatterproof, which it does, but now evidence of its side-effects are coming to light.

Now four Ohio parents are filing a class-action suit against five baby-bottle manufacturers, alleging that the manufacturers knew about the dangers of BPA but continued to use it in their bottles anyway.

From the article:

The parents, all from Franklin County, sued Avent America of Bensenville, Ill.; Handi-Craft Co. of St. Louis, also known as Dr. Brown's; Evenflo Co. of Vandalia; Gerber Products Co. of Parsippany, N.J.; and Playtex Products of Westport, Conn., on behalf of themselves and others who bought the products.

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April 25, 2008

Schools Concerned About Lead in Artificial Turf: Brain Risk?

The artificial turf used in high school football fields may contain dangerous levels of lead:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission opened an investigation this month after the New Jersey health department found elevated lead levels in two fields, which then were closed.

But until more information comes out, local school districts are not assuming that their fields contain unsafe levels of lead, several officials said.

"I'm not going to alarm parents. There's just not enough data to raise a red flag," said Paula Smith, an assistant superintendent at the Alief Independent School District. "We're in a holding pattern."

Hopefully this is a false alarm. The effects of lead, even small amounts, can be extremely dramatic (though this is usually found in younger children). Children chronically exposed to lead in their homes can develop mental retardation and other brain-related harm.

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April 18, 2008

Common Baby Bottle Ingredient Linked to Problems; Company Ceases Use

Previously, we blogged about a link between bisphenol A and problems in human development. As the article says, the advisory panel to the National Toxicology Program (part of the NIH) had previously dismissed all concerns about this as "minimal." This new report concludes that there is reason for "some concern." Bisphenol A can cause problems for fetuses, babies, and young children, but apparently not for adult humans.

Plastic industry representatives argued that there are no "serious or high-level concerns", and the National Toxicology Program concedes that more research is needed.

Nevertheless, the bottle maker Nalgene Outdoor Products has decided to stop using plastic containing bisphenol A . This may have something to do with the new report, and may also be related to Canada's plans to declare bisphenol A toxic. In any case, hopefully more studies will be done to determine how much of a threat this is to young children.

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March 21, 2008

Six-Year-Old Girl Dies from Swimming Pool Injury

Abigail Taylor, a six-year-old girl whose intestinal tract was ripped out by a swimming pool drain, died yesterday.

From the article:

Her parents, Scott and Katey Taylor, lobbied for tougher regulations to help prevent similar injuries, and in December, Congress approved legislation in December to ban the manufacture, sale or distribution of drain covers that don't meet anti-entrapment safety standards.

The Taylors also brought suit against the golf club where the pool injury occurred and the pool equipment manufacturer, Sta-Rite Industries owned by Pentair.

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December 4, 2007

Amusement Parks and Safety

Poor safety conditions in amusement parks are becoming a federal issue, thanks to widely publicized accidents and severe resulting injuries. This week, a House committee will consider a bill that would allow for more federal oversight of amusement parks.

The most famous recent accident on a defective amusement park ride occurred when a thirteen-year-old girl's feet were severed by a broken cable on a Tower of Power ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. But this past summer also brought on four deaths from such rides: two four-year-olds drowned in wavepools in two different amusement parks, a woman thrown from a spinning ride and a teenager who fell fifty feet from the top of a ride.

The only federal oversight of such rides comes from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is toothless with respect to amusement parks due to lack of authority and lack of personnel. In addition, the amusement park industry has has highly effective lobbyists to fight investigations into these matters.

This situation leaves safety issues up to the informed consumer. Safer Parks is a good resource for information on how to protect both kids and adults in amusement parks. Two helpful pages on their site are Top Ten Tips for Parents and Teaching Kids to be Safe Riders.

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November 29, 2007

Study Shows that All-Terrain Vehicles are Highly Risky for Children

A new study from the University of Arkansas and Arkansas Children's Hospital shows that all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) pose a significant risk to children, according to the lead doctor involved in the research. An ATV is defined as any motorized vehicle with four low-pressure tires, handlebars for steering and control and a seat meant to be straddled by the operator.

The doctors studied 500 minors who came to the Children's Hospital over a period of eight years, all of whom were involved in ATV accidents. Of these five hundred, there were six fatalities (not counting those who died at the accident site, rather than at the hospital). More common were long-term disabilities and severe injuries.

The National Safety Council has a list of recommendations for ATV safety.
Among these are restrictions regarding age and engine size, as well as a stern warning against multiple riders in an ATV. Another good resource is the ATV Safety Institute.

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November 21, 2007

More on Lead Poisoning: Even Small Amounts of Lead Linked To Reduced IQ

A newly-released study, done over the course of six years by researchers at Cornell University, finds that even small amounts of lead in children's blood (below CDC guidelines for acceptable levels) make reduced IQ much more likely. This correlation holds true even when other factors that affect IQ--such as other environmental factors or genetics--are accounted for.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that the maximum allowable blood-lead level is 10 micrograms per deciliter. But the new Cornell study focused on kids with between 0 and 10 micrograms per deciliter, and found that those in the 0-5 range had average IQs of about five points higher than those in the 5-10 range. The unavoidable conclusion is that even when lead poisoning is less than what the CDC deems harmful, it can still have significant negative effects on children's developing brains.

Those who are poor are at greater risk for lead poisoning, as lead is often found in the paint of old or poorly-maintained buildings. Lead poisoning has been in the news lately, because of the Mattel recall and other toy safety issues. This very morning, New York State recalled children's jewelry from stores including Michael's and Big Lots because they contained hazardous levels of lead. It is important to remember that houses are the most common source of lead-related brain damage.

The researchers involved in this study had previously published another, similar study in 2003. They found then, as they did again now, that blood-lead levels are related "inversely and significantly" to IQ. Clearly, this is a serious problem that needs to be recognized and addressed.

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