Protecting your Child Against Sources of Lead in the Environment

According to the US Centers for Disease Control,(CDC) a child’s environment is full of lead.

Children are exposed to lead from different sources including paint, gasoline, solder, and some consumer products. They come in contact through different pathways including air, food, water, dust, and soil.

lead paint on brushAlthough there are several exposure sources, the one we all know the most about is lead-based paint. It is the most widespread and dangerous high-dose source of lead exposure for young children and pregnant women and their unborn children.

Other sources the CDC warns about include:

Candy

The potential for children to be exposed to lead from candy imported from Mexico has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue warnings on the availability of lead-contaminated candy and to develop tighter guidelines for manufacturers, importers, and distributors of imported candy. Lead has been found in some consumer candies imported from Mexico. You cannot tell by looking at or tasting a candy whether it contains lead. Consuming even small amounts of lead can be harmful. There is no safe blood lead level. Lead poisoning from candies can cause illness.

Folk Medicine

Lead has been found in some traditional (folk) medicines used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures. Traditional medicines can contain herbs, minerals, metals, or animal products. Lead and other heavy metals are put into certain folk medicines on purpose because these metals are thought to be useful in treating some ailments. People selling a remedy may not know whether it contains lead. You cannot tell by looking at or tasting a medicine whether it contains lead. Lead poisoning from folk remedies can cause illness, even death.

Toy Jewelry

If swallowed or put in the mouth, lead jewelry is hazardous to children. The potential for children to be exposed to lead from this source caused the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue on July 8, 2004, a recall of 150 million pieces of metal toy jewelry sold widely in vending machines.

Toys

Lead may be used in two aspects of toy manufacturing on toys.

Paint: Lead may be found in the paint on toys.  It was banned in house paint, on products marketed to children, and in dishes or cookware in the United States in 1978; however, it is still widely used in other countries and therefore can still be found on imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban.
Plastic: The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. It softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms a dust.

Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to it from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity, which is part of their normal development. They often place toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, exposing themselves to lead paint or dust.

Tap Water

tap water faucet is a source of leadMeasures taken during the last two decades have greatly reduced exposures to lead in tap water. These measures include actions taken under the requirements of the 1986 and 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (http://www.epa.gov/safewater/sdwa/index.htmlExternal Web Site Icon) and the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule (http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lcrmr/index.htmlExternal Web Site Icon).

Even so, lead still can be found in some metal water taps, interior water pipes, or pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street. Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water supply.

The only way to know whether your tap water contains lead is to have it tested. You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water. Therefore, you must ask your water provider whether your water has lead in it. For homes served by public water systems, data on lead in tap water may be available on the Internet from your local water authority. If your water provider does not post this information, you need to call and find out.

The CDC  recommends that children under six and pregnant women living in older homes that may, at one time been painted with lead-based paint, not be present when renovations and repairs are done to their homes. CDC also expresses concern about young children and pregnant women being exposed to dust from peeling paint, cracks and chips in paint in older homes.

CDC literature on lead exposure is extensive and well-worth the read at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/

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Watch Those Button Batteries Around Young Children

image of button batteriesCoin-sized batteries, often referred to as button batteries, are the reason for seeing double the children’s emergency room visits during the past twenty years.

In an online study in Pediatrics, researchers document serious complications, including deaths, occurring when children swallow “button batteries,” found in items ranging from remote-control devices to children’s toys.

The researchers looked at U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System data concerning all battery-related visits to the ER among children up to age 18.

Four different types of accidental contact with button batteries were found: swallowing and insertion of a battery into the mouth, ear, or nose.

Researchers found that over the 20-year period such contacts translated into nearly 66,000 ER visits, with a dramatic increase over the final eight years. Toddlers and others 5 years and younger faced the highest risk for accidental button-battery contact, with the average age of incoming ER patients just below 4 years.

Boys accounted for more of the ER visits (about 60 percent). Most cases (nearly 77 percent) were the result of swallowing button batteries. Nose contact accounted for roughly 10 percent of cases, followed by mouth exposure (7.5 percent) and ear insertion (almost 6 percent).

The study report carries a message for parents stating that if they suspect that their child has swallowed a battery they need to get to the ER right away. To prevent such accidents, parents need to store and dispose of batteries, especially button batteries, while keeping them out of reach of their children. They need to tape all battery compartments shut.

The study report also carries a message for manufacturers stating that we need to have the industry make battery compartments inaccessible and child-resistant for all products, not just toys.

The study report concludes by advising parents to heed the general advice regarding choking, especially for those 5 years and younger. Children should never be within reach of any object that can fit through a choke tube, which is about the size of a cardboard tube of a toilet-paper roll. This is particularly the case with objects not normally considered dangerous, such as children’s toys that have batteries, and other small parts, and various objects found in the kitchen or the bathroom. Button batteries are small enough to fit in the mouth, the ear and up the nose of a small child.

 

 

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Keeping Your Eggs Safe to Eat

eggs

Eggs are inexpensive, tasty and nutritious, which makes them so popular. However, they need to be handled, prepared and stored properly to prevent food poisoning. According to the US Food and Drug Administration even eggs with clean, uncracked shells may occasionally contain bacteria called Salmonella that can cause an intestinal infection.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that about 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with Salmonella. FDA has put regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage. But consumers play a key role in preventing illness associated with eggs. In fact, the most effective way to prevent egg-related illness is by knowing how to buy, store, handle and cook eggs — or foods that contain them — safely.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting 12 to 72 hours after infection. Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days and most people get better without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated quickly with antibiotics. Certain people are at greater risk for severe illness and include pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

FDA requires all cartons of shell eggs that have not been treated to carry the following safe handling statement: 

Safe Handling Eggs

To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella — by in-shell pasteurization, for example — are not required to carry safe handling instructions.

You can help keep eggs safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store.

  • Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case.
  • Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
  • Refrigerate promptly.
  • Store eggs in their original carton and use them within 3 weeks for best quality.

Before preparing any food, remember that cleanliness is key!

  • Wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs and egg-containing foods.

Thorough cooking is perhaps the most important step in making sure eggs are safe.

  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
  • Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160°F (72°C). Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served — Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream are two examples — use either shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products. Treated shell eggs are available from a growing number of retailers and are clearly labeled, while pasteurized egg products are widely available.

Bacteria can multiply in temperatures from 40°F (5°C) to 140°F (60°C), so it’s very important to serve foods safely.

  • Serve cooked eggs and egg-containing foods immediately after cooking.
  • For buffet-style serving, hot egg dishes should be kept hot, and cold egg dishes kept cold.
  • Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165°F (74°C) before serving.
  • Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg-containing foods, should not sit out for more than 2 hours. Within 2 hours either reheat or refrigerate.

Storing Eggs

  • Use hard-cooked eggs (in the shell or peeled) within 1 week after cooking.
  • Use frozen eggs within 1 year. Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. To freeze whole eggs, beat yolks and whites together. Egg whites can also be frozen by themselves.
  • Refrigerate leftover cooked egg dishes and use within 3 to 4 days. When refrigerating a large amount of a hot egg containing leftover, divide it into several shallow containers so it will cool quickly.

Transporting Eggs

  • Cooked eggs for a picnic should be packed in an insulated cooler with enough ice or frozen gel packs to keep them cold.
  • Don’t put the cooler in the trunk — carry it in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of the car.
  • If taking cooked eggs to work or school, pack them with a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box.

Taking steps to handle, prepare and store eggs is critical to preventing food poisoning.

Source: USDA

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Eye Exams…When to Start and Why

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6.

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses should be examined annually or as recommended by their eye doctor.

The AOA stresses early eye exams for children because 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. Early eye exams also are important because children need the following basic skills related to good eyesight for learning:

  • Near vision           image of eye chart for young children
  • Distance vision
  • Binocular (two eyes) coordination
  • Eye movement skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Focusing skills
  • Peripheral awareness

For these reasons, some states require a mandatory eye exam for all children entering school for the first time.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says on its Web site that your family doctor or pediatrician likely will be the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes. If eye problems are suspected during routine physical examinations, a referral might be made to an eye doctor for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to assist them with spotting potential vision problems.

Babies should be able to see as well as adults in terms of focusing ability, color vision and depth perception by 6 months of age. To assess whether a baby’s eyes are developing normally, the doctor typically will use the following tests:

  • Tests of pupil responses evaluate whether the eye’s pupil opens and closes properly in the presence or absence of light.
  • “Fixate and follow” testing determines whether your baby’s eyes are able to fixate on and follow an object such as a light as it moves. Infants should be able to fixate on an object soon after birth and follow an object by the time they are 3 months old.
  • Preferential looking involves using cards that are blank on one side with stripes on the other side to attract the gaze of an infant to the stripes. In this way, vision capabilities can be assessed without the use of a typical eye chart.

 Preschool-age children do not need to know their letters in order to take certain eye tests. Some common eye tests used specifically for young children include:

  • LEA Symbols for young children are similar to regular eye tests using charts with letters, except that special symbols in these tests include an apple, house, square and circle.
  • Retinoscopy is a test that involves shining a light into the eye to observe the reflection from the back of the eye
  • Random Dot Stereopsis testing uses special patterns of dots and 3-D glasses to measure how well your child’s eyes work together as a team.

AAO offers the following reminders:

  • Appropriate vision testing at an early age is vital to insure your child has the visual skills he or she needs to perform well in school.
  • A child who is unable to see print or view a blackboard can become easily frustrated, leading to poor academic performance.
  • Some vision problems, such as lazy eye, are best treated if they are detected and corrected as early as possible while the child’s vision system is still developing.
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What You Can Do When Your Child Has Nightmares

According to an article on WebMD, many children have nightmares.

picture of a child who has nightmaresNightmares are most common in preschoolers (children aged 3-6 years) because this is the age at which normal fears develop and a child’s imagination is very active. Some studies estimate that as many as 50% of children in this age group have nightmares.

Nightmares involve frightening or unpleasant dreams that disrupt the child’s sleep on several occasions and cause distress or problems with everyday life. When children wake up because of a nightmare, they become aware of their surroundings and usually need comfort. As a result, parents often need to provide comfort.

The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital offers these suggestions for coping with a child’s nightmares:

  • Offer plenty of cuddles, comfort and reassurance to your child.
  • During the day, talk about your child’s bad dream, and make sure to avoid frightening TV programs and movies.
  • Leave the door to the child’s bedroom open, and offer a favorite toy or blanket for comfort.
  • Avoid spending a lot of time looking for the “monster” that scared your child. Let your child go back to sleep in his or her own bed.
  • Read a book about coping with nighttime fears.
  • Before bed, talk about funny and happy topics.

Sources:WebMD, womens health dot gov(U.S.Dept of HHS) articles on nightmares

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