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[Report] Trouble in Toyland 2014: Avoiding Dangerous Toys

Trouble in Toyland 2014: Avoiding Dangerous Toys

Report: Avoiding dangerous toys

Trouble in Toyland 2014

The 29th Annual Survey of Toy Safety
Released by: U.S. PIRG Education Fund

For almost 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to an estimated 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Among the toys surveyed this year, we found numerous choking hazards and five toys with concentrations of toxics exceeding federal standards. In addition to reporting on potentially hazardous products found in stores in 2014, this installment of the report describes the potential hazards in toys and children’s products.

The continued presence of these hazards in toys highlights the need for constant vigilance on the part of government agencies and the public to ensure that children do not end up playing with unsafe toys.

Standards for toy safety are enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Safety standards include limits on toxics in children’s products, size requirements for toys for small children, warning labels about choking hazards, measures to keep magnets and batteries inaccessible, and noise limits.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff examined hundreds of toys to confirm that they are safe. We discovered that unsafe toys remain widely available. The problems we found include:

    • Lead. Childhood exposure to even low levels of lead can undermine development, damaging academic achievement and attentiveness. We found unsafe levels of lead in one set of play sheriff and police badges. (More details and photos of all unsafe toys can be found in Appendix A.)
    • Chromium. Skin contact with chromium can cause severe allergic reactions including skin redness, swelling and ulcers. Chromium compounds are also known to cause cancer. This year, lab tests revealed that a tambourine marketed to children ages two and older contained chromium at nearly 10 times the legal limit.
    • Phthalates. Exposure to phthalates at crucial stages of development may harm development of the male reproductive system and is linked to early puberty. Lab tests confirmed that several items purchased by our shoppers contained high levels of banned phthalates. Those items include a rubber duck, plastic-covered hairclips, and a Dora the Explorer backpack.
    • Small parts are pieces that might block a child’s airway. Children, especially those under age three, can choke on small parts. Our shoppers purchased a set of foam blocks marketed to children two and up that contained multiple small parts that fit into a choke test cylinder. We also identified multiple toys containing near-small parts, which are pieces that almost fit into the choke tube and can be a choking hazard.
    • Small balls less than 1.75 inches in diameter represent a choke hazard for children three years old and younger. We found small balls that were not labeled with the appropriate choke hazard warning. We also remain concerned about other small, rounded toys, such as toy food, that present the same choke hazard as small balls but are not labeled as a hazard.
    • Balloons are easily inhaled in attempts to inflate them and can become stuck in children’s throats. Balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product. As in past years, we continue to find balloons on store shelves marketed to children under eight.
    • Magnets. When two or more powerful magnets are swallowed, they can have fatal health consequences as their attractive forces draw them together inside the body, perforating intestinal walls. Our shoppers purchased small, high-powered magnets, despite their being recalled by the CPSC.
    • Batteries. When batteries are ingested, chemical reactions can burn through the esophagus and blood vessels, causing fatal internal bleeding. Our shoppers purchased a toy whale that contains batteries that are accessible to small children and are nearly small enough to constitute a choke hazard. The toy has been recalled in Australia because small children can easily remove the batteries.
    • Excessive noise. Excessive noise exposure can lead to hearing loss. This is especially problematic for young children: Hearing loss at an early age has ramifications for speech development. This year, our shoppers found toys that are loud, though not necessarily in violation of federal limits.

Despite recent progress in making toys safer, the findings of our 2014 investigation, as well as recent recalls and legal actions against importers, highlight the need for continued attention to shortcomings in existing standards and vigilance on the part of the shopping public. To keep children safe from potentially hazardous toys, there is still more to do.

Policymakers should continue building upon recent progress in the strengthening of toy safety standards. The CPSC should:

    • Continue to vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s mandatory standards for toys, including strict limits on lead and lead paint in any toys, jewelry or other articles for children under 12 years;
    • Vigorously enforce the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s permanent ban on the use of three specific phthalates in all toys and children’s products;
    • Upgrade the interim ban on three additional phthalates into a permanent prohibition and expand it to include additional phthalates;
    • Enlarge the small parts test tube to be more protective of children under three;
    • Consider extending the standard for toys with spherical ends to apply to toys intended for children under six years old instead of under four years;
    • Change the small-ball rule to include small round or semi-round objects, and not just “balls” in the strictest definition, since these toys pose the same hazards as small balls (this is especially true of rounded toy food, since it is “intended” to be eaten);
    • Enforce the use of the United States’ statutory choke hazard warning label;
    • Continue to enforce CPSC rules requiring online warning labels; and
    • Fully enforce sound and battery standards.

Parents can also take steps to protect children from potential hazards. We recommend that parents:

    • Shop with U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toy Safety Tips, available at toysafetytips.org.
    • Examine toys carefully for hazards before purchase – and don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf.
    • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at www.saferproducts.gov.
    • Subscribe to government announcements of recalled products at www.recalls.gov.
    • Remember, toys on our list are presented as examples only. Other hazards may exist.

For toys you already own:

    • Remove small batteries if there is any question over their security or inaccessibility and keep them out of reach of children;
    • Remove batteries from or tape over the speakers of toys you already own that are too loud; and
    • Put small parts, or toys broken into small parts, out of reach. Regularly check that toys appropriate for your older children are not left within reach of children who still put things in their mouths.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[CDC Press release] Only 3 in 10 Americans with HIV have virus in check | Full Text Reports…

Only 3 in 10 Americans with HIV have virus in check |

National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis,
STD, and TB Prevention
404-639-8895, NCHHSTPMediaTeam@cdc.gov

HIV STAGES OF CARE
There is an urgent need to reach more people with testing and make sure those with the virus receive prompt, ongoing care and treatment.
Entire Infographic

Just 30 percent of Americans with HIV had the virus under control in 2011, and approximately two-thirds of those whose virus was out of control had been diagnosed but were no longer in care, according to a new Vital Signs report published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The new study underscores the importance of making sure people with HIV receive ongoing care, treatment, and other information and tools that help prevent transmission to others, as well as the need to reach more people with HIV testing.  Among those whose infection was not under control, more than three times the proportion (66 percent) were no longer in care as had never been diagnosed (20 percent).

The HIV epidemic continues to threaten the health and well-being of many Americans – with more than one million people living with the disease in the U.S. and 50,000 new infections each year.

When used consistently, antiretroviral medication can keep HIV controlled at very low levels in the body (known as viral suppression), allowing people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives and reducing the likelihood they will transmit HIV to others. Treatment has been shown to reduce sexual transmission of HIV by 96 percent, and U.S. clinical guidelines now recommend that everyone diagnosed with HIV receive treatment, regardless of their CD4 cell count or viral load.

“For people living with HIV, it’s not just about knowing you’re infected – it’s also about going to the doctor for medical care,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “And for health care facilities, it’s not just about the patients in your care – it’s every person diagnosed, and every person whose diagnosis has not yet been made.  Key to controlling the nation’s HIV epidemic is helping people with HIV get connected to – and stay in – care and treatment, to suppress the virus, live longer and help protect others.”

The new study estimates that of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV in 2011, 70 percent did not have their virus under control. Among the nearly 840,000 people who had not achieved viral suppression:

  • 66 percent had been diagnosed but were not engaged in regular HIV care,
  • 20 percent did not yet know they were infected,
  • 4 percent were engaged in care but not prescribed antiretroviral treatment, and
  • 10 percent were prescribed antiretroviral treatment but did not achieve viral suppression.

The percentage of Americans with HIV who achieved viral suppression remained roughly stable (26 percent in 2009 vs. 30 percent in 2011).

CDC focus on stopping HIV transmission through treatment

CDC has increased the focus on diagnosing people with HIV, supporting linkage to ongoing care and treatment, provision of risk reduction information, and increasing medication adherence.  By making the most of these strategies for those who are HIV-positive, as well as other high impact strategies to protect those who remain uninfected but are at highest risk for HIV, CDC believes substantial progress can be made in reducing new infections.

“There is untapped potential to drive down the epidemic through improved testing and treatment, but we’re missing too many opportunities,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention. “Treatment is crucial.  It is one of our most important strategies for stopping new HIV infections.”

Current initiatives to promote HIV testing and treatment include innovative partnerships to make HIV testing simple, accessible and routine; programs to help health departments identify and reach out to infected individuals who have fallen out of care; and public awareness campaigns to urge testing and encourage people with HIV to seek ongoing care.

These efforts are an essential component of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, launched in 2010.  Key goals of the strategy include reducing HIV incidence, increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.

Younger adults with HIV least likely to have virus under control

Today’s study also found that viral suppression increased with age, with young people significantly less likely than older age groups to have their virus under control – only 13 percent of people aged 18-24 were virally suppressed, compared to 23 percent among those aged 25-34, 27 percent among those aged 35-44, 34 percent among those aged 45-54, 36 percent among those aged 55-64, and 37 percent among those aged 65 and older. The researchers attribute the disparity in large part to the fact that fewer than half (49 percent) of 18- to 24-year olds with HIV have been diagnosed, underscoring the need for more HIV testing in this population.

“It’s alarming that fewer than half of HIV-positive young adults know they are infected,” said Eugene McCray, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.  “Closing that gap could have a huge impact on controlling HIV – knowing your status is the first critical step toward taking care of your own health and avoiding transmission to others.”

The study did not find statistically significant differences in viral suppression by race or ethnicity, sex, or risk group.
For additional resources on today’s analysis, visit
www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Why Scientists Are Blaming Cilia for Human Disease – Scientific American

Why Scientists Are Blaming Cilia for Human Disease – Scientific American.

Hairlike structures on cells may play a role in a host of genetic disorders, including kidney degeneration, vision impairment and even some cancers

Hairlike cilia may be at the roots of of several genetic disorders.
Image Courtesy of StudyBlue.com

Scientists now believe that a number of genetic disorders, from polycystic kidney disease to some forms of retinal degeneration, can ultimately be traced back to cilia—bristly, hairlike structures that dot cell surfaces.

In a review article published in the December 1 BioScience, George B. Witman, a cellular biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, highlighted the growing body of evidence that abnormal or absent cilia can cause a wide range of human disorders, dubbed “ciliopathies.”

“Kidney disease and blindness, multiple digits, shortened bones or extremities, obesity—all of these things, it turns out, are due to defects in cilia,” he says. Experts add that the discovery of a common thread between these disparate disorders may eventually help researchers develop gene-based therapies to combat those conditions.

At first blush, cilia seem relatively innocuous. As they beat back and forth outside the cell, coordinated brushes of so-called motile cilia regulate fluid flow nearby. But almost all human cells also have one primary, or nonmotile, cilium that functions more like a molecular antenna. The primary cilium is an internally dynamic structure, packed with proteins that detect and convey important messages to its cell about the local environment. “The signaling machinery is concentrated in the cilia,” Witman says. “All in this very tightly controlled, constrained space.”

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] How long can Ebola live? No one really knows — ScienceDaily

How long can Ebola live? No one really knows

December 10, 2014

How Long Can Ebola Live?

Pitt researcher publishes article showing that the literature is lacking, receives NSF grant to conduct further study
Contact:

Cara Masset

412-624-4361

Cell: 412-316-7508

PITTSBURGH—The Ebola virus travels from person to person through direct contact with infected body fluids. But how long can the virus survive on glass surfaces or countertops? How long can it live in wastewater when liquid wastes from a patient end up in the sewage system? In an article published Dec. 9 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, Kyle Bibby of the University of Pittsburgh reviews the latest research to find answers to these questions.

HeKyle BibbyKyle Bibby and his co-investigators didn’t find many answers.

“The World Health Organization has been saying you can put (human waste) in pit latrines or ordinary sanitary sewers and that the virus then dies,” says Bibby, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “But the literature lacks evidence that it does. They may be right, but the evidence isn’t there.”

Bibby and colleagues from Pitt and Drexel University explain that knowing how long the deadly pathogen survives on surfaces, in water, or in liquid droplets is critical to developing effective disinfection practices to prevent the spread of the disease. Currently, the World Health Organization guidelines recommend to hospitals and health clinics that liquid wastes from patients be flushed down the toilet or disposed of in a latrine. However, Ebola research labs that use patients’ liquid waste are supposed to disinfect the waste before it enters the sewage system. Bibby’s team set out to determine what research can and can’t tell us about these practices.

The researchers scoured scientific papers for data on how long the virus can live in the environment. They found a dearth of published studies on the matter. That means no one knows for sure whether the virus can survive on a surface and cause infection or how long it remains active in water, wastewater, or sludge. The team concluded that Ebola’s persistence outside the body needs more careful investigation.

To that end, Bibby recently won a $110,000 National Science Foundation grant to explore the issue. His team will identify surrogate viruses that are physiologically similar to Ebola and study their survival rates in water and wastewater. The findings of this study will inform water treatment and waste-handling procedures in a timely manner while research on the Ebola virus is still being conducted.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] More holistic approach needed when studying the diets of our ancestors

More holistic approach needed when studying the diets of our ancestors.

[Journals]: More holistic approach needed when studying the diets of our ancestors

Contact: Emily Murphy / 773-702-7521 / emurphy@press.uchicago.edu

According to an article in the December 2014 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, current studies modeling the diets of early hominids are too narrow.

Researchers have long debated how and what our ancestors ate. Charles Darwin hypothesized that the hunting of game animals was a defining feature of early hominids, one that was linked with both upright walking and advanced tool use and that isolated these species from their closest relatives (such as ancestors of chimpanzees); modified versions of this hypothesis exist to this day. Other scholars insist that while our ancestors’ diets did include meat, it was predominantly scavenged and not hunted. Still others argue that particular plant foods such as roots and tubers were of greater importance than meat in the diets of these species.

 

Research technology has come a long way since Darwin’s time, making possible the kind of analysis early scholars could only have imagined. Recent work has presented reconstructions of early hominid diets on the basis of chemical makeups of fossil tooth enamel, evidence of microscopic wear on teeth, and advanced studies of craniodental anatomy, to name a few.

 

However, according to Ken Sayers (Georgia State University) and C. Owen Lovejoy (Kent State University) in an article published in the December 2014 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, although modern-day technology provides valuable insight, such tools alone cannot provide a complete picture of the diet of early hominids. Instead, they should be included—alongside other methodologies—in holistic studies grounded in the fundamentals of modern evolutionary ecology.

 

Sayers and Lovejoy suggest that researchers should examine a species’ particular habitat and “whole-body” anatomy, including digestion, locomotion, and possible cognitive abilities. In particular, foraging theory—a branch of evolutionary ecology that investigates animal feeding decisions through the lens of efficiency principles—is especially important to consider, as it demonstrates that diet is regulated by the potential value and costs of exploiting individual food items (whether plant, animal, or other) and by the relative abundance of the most profitable foods. In the case of the earliest-known hominids, evidence about their morphology and likely cognitive abilities—in addition to data obtained from modern technologies—provide little support for a reliance on any one particular food type. Rather, these species likely had a broadly omnivorous diet that became increasingly generalized over time.

 

According to Sayers and Lovejoy, the early hominid diet can best be elucidated by considering the entire habitat-specific resource base and by quantifying the potential profitability and abundance of likely available foods. Furthermore, they warn that hypotheses focusing too narrowly on any one food type or foraging strategy—such as hunting or scavenging or any one particular plant category—are too restrictive and should be viewed with caution. Modeling these species’ diets instead “requires a holistic, interdisciplinary approach that goes beyond merely what we can observe chemically or through a microscope, and draws from ecology, anatomy and physiology, cognitive science, and behavior.”

 

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] People with opioid dependence in recovery show ‘re-regulation’ of reward systems — ScienceDaily

People with opioid dependence in recovery show ‘re-regulation’ of reward systems

Newswise — December 9, 2014 – Within a few months after drug withdrawal, patients in recovery from dependence on prescription pain medications may show signs that the body’s natural reward systems are normalizing, reports a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the official journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

English: Source: The National Institute on Dru...

English: Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Image taken from http://www.drugabuse.gov/pubs/teaching/Teaching2/Teaching4.html http://www.drugabuse.gov/pubs/teaching/Teaching2/largegifs/slide18.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The study by Scott C. Bunce, PhD, of Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey, and colleagues provides evidence of “physiological re-regulation” of disrupted brain and hormonal responses to pleasurable stimuli—both drug- and nondrug-related.

Signs of Reward System Disruption After Drug Withdrawal…
The pilot study included two groups of seven patients in residential treatment for dependence on opioid pain medications. One group had recently gone through medically assisted opioid withdrawal—within the past one to two weeks. The other group was in extended care, and had been drug-free for two to three months. A group of normal controls were studied for comparison.

The researchers performed several tests to assess changes in the “brain reward system” during early recovery. After drug withdrawal, many people with opioid dependence have “persistent changes in the reward and memory circuits”—they may experience heightened “rewards” or “pleasure” in response to drugs and related stimuli, but greatly reduced responses to naturally pleasurable stimuli (such as good food, or friendship).

Dr Bunce explains, “This is thought to occur because opiates are potent stimulators of the brain’s reward system; over time, the brain adapts to the high level of stimulation provided by opiates, and naturally rewarding stimuli can’t measure up.” Such dysregulation of the natural reward system may contribute to the high risk of relapse during recovery.

The test results showed several significant differences in the reward system between groups. A test of startle reflexes showed that patients with recent drug withdrawal had reduced pleasure responses to “natural reward” stimuli—for example, pictures of appetizing foods or people having fun.

In brain activity studies, patients with recent drug withdrawal showed heightened responses to drug-related cues, such as pictures of pills. In the extended-care patients, these increased responses to drug cues—in a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, involved in attention and self-control —were significantly reduced.

…May Lead to New Objective Measures of Recovery
Patients who had recently withdrawn from opiates also had high levels of the stress hormone cortisol (adrenaline). In the patients who had been drug-free for a few months, cortisol levels were somewhat reduced, although not quite as low as in healthy controls. The recently withdrawn group also had pronounced sleep disturbances, while sleep in the extended care group was similar to controls.

All of these changes—brain and hormonal responses to drug cues and natural rewards, as well as sleep disturbances—were correlated with abstinence time. The more days since the patient used drugs, the lower the abnormal responses.

The study supports past research showing dysregulation of the reward system during early recovery from opioid dependence. It also provides evidence that these responses may become re-regulated during several weeks in residential treatment—a period of “clinically documented” abstinence from opioids.

That’s a potentially important step forward in addiction medicine research, Dr Bunce believes. “It shows that if the patient remains in treatment and off drugs for several months, the body’s natural reward systems may have the capacity to return toward normal, making it easier for them to remain drug-free outside the treatment setting.” With further study, tests of the natural reward system might provide useful, objective markers of recovery—clinical tests that help to evaluate how the patient’s recovery is proceeding.

Such tests might help in managing the difficult problem of prescription opioid dependence—an ongoing epidemic associated with a high risk of relapse after drug withdrawal. Dr Bunce and colleagues are conducting a follow-up study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to determine whether measures of the brain’s reward system, sleep and the stress response system indicate the capacity for re-regulation and the patient’s risk of relapse during recovery.

Click here to read “Possible Evidence for Re-regulation of HPA Axis and Brain Reward Systems Over Time in Treatment in Prescription Opioid-Dependent Patients.”

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Combining insecticide spraying and bed nets no more protective against malaria than nets alone — ScienceDaily

Combining insecticide spraying and bed nets no more protective against malaria than nets alone — ScienceDaily.

Niger distribution malaria nets 20apr06 01

Niger distribution malaria nets 20apr06 01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 5 December 2014 Lancet press release

The combined use of spraying insecticide inside homes and insecticide-treated bed nets is no better at protecting children against malaria than using bed nets alone, a study in The Gambia suggests. The findings, published in The Lancet, should encourage donors to invest their limited resources in additional bed nets, the more cost-effective solution to tackling malaria*.

 

Related article
Malaria death rate halved, but many still lack nets – health – 09 December 2014 – New Scientist

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Controlling obesity with potato extract

Controlling obesity with potato extract.

From the 9 December 2014 McGill University press release

Extract of Irish potatoes, rich in polyphenols, reduces weight gain to a surprising extent
Published: 9Dec2014

Take a look in your pantry: the miracle ingredient for fighting obesity may already be there. A simple potato extract may limit weight gain from a diet that is high in fat and refined carbohydrates, according to scientists at McGill University.

The results of their recent study were so surprising that the investigators repeated the experiment just to be sure.

Investigators fed mice an obesity-inducing diet for 10 weeks. The results soon appeared on the scale: mice that started out weighing on average 25 grams put on about 16 grams. But mice that consumed the same diet but with a potato extract gained much less weight: only 7 more grams. The benefits of the extract are due to its high concentration of polyphenols, a beneficial chemical component from the fruits and vegetables we eat.

“We were astonished by the results,” said Prof. Luis Agellon, one of the study’s authors. “We thought this can’t be right – in fact, we ran the experiment again using a different batch of extract prepared from potatoes grown in another season, just to be certain.”

The rate of obesity due to over-eating continues to rise in Canada, affecting 1 in every 4 adults. Obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. According to this study, potato extracts could be a solution for preventing both obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Extract derived from 30 potatoes

“The daily dose of extract comes from 30 potatoes, but of course we don’t advise anyone to eat 30 potatoes a day,” says Stan Kubow, principal author of the study, “as that would be an enormous number of calories.” What the investigators envisage instead is making the extract available as a dietary supplement or simply as a cooking ingredient to be added in the kitchen.

Popularly known for its carbohydrate content, the potato is also a source of polyphenols. “In the famous French diet, considered to be very healthy, potatoes – not red wine – are the primary source of polyphenols,” says Kubow. “In North America, potatoes come third as a source of polyphenols – before the popular blueberries.”

A low-cost solution

“Potatoes have the advantage of being cheap to produce, and they’re already part of the basic diet in many countries,” Kubow explains. “We chose a cultivated variety that is consumed in Canada and especially rich in polyphenols.”

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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