How Safe are Laser Toys?

laserMost of us think lasers are cool. What we may not know is this: When operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly-concentrated light from lasers—even those in toys—can be dangerous, causing serious eye injuries and even blindness. And not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is particularly concerned about this potential danger to children and those around them, and has issued a draft guidance document on the safety of toy laser products.

According to Dan Hewett, health promotion officer at FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, “A beam shone directly into a person’s eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one.”

However, laser injuries usually don’t hurt, and vision can deteriorate slowly over time. Eye injuries caused by laser light may go unnoticed, for days and even weeks, and could be permanent, he says.

Some examples of laser toys are:

  • lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for “aiming;”
  • spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;
  • hand-held lasers used during play as “lightsabers;” and
  • lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.

FDA Regulates Lasers

A laser creates a powerful, targeted beam of electromagnetic radiation that is used in many products, from music players and printers to eye-surgery tools. FDA regulates radiation-emitting electronic products, including lasers, and sets radiation-safety standards that manufacturers must meet. Hewett explains that this includes all laser products that are marketed as toys.

Toys with lasers are of particular interest to the FDA because it’s often children who are injured by these products, says Hewett. He notes that because advertisers promote them as playthings, parents and kids alike may believe they’re safe to use.

“For toys to be considered minimal risk, we recommend that the levels of radiation and light not exceed the limits of Class 1, which is the lowest level in regulated products,” Hewett says. Lasers used for industrial and other purposes often require higher radiation levels, he explains. But in toys, those levels are unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

In recent years, Hewett says, lasers have increased markedly in power and have gone way down in price. And while adults may buy a laser pointer for use in work, kids often buy them for amusement.

“Low-cost, compact laser pointers used to be quite low in power,” Hewett says; but, in the last 10 years, many laser pointers have increased in power 10-fold and more. The fact that lasers can be dangerous may not be evident, particularly to the children who use them as toys, or to the adults who supervise them.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Never aim or shine a laser directly at anyone, including animals. The light energy from a laser aimed into the eye can be hazardous, perhaps even more than staring directly into the sun.
  • Do not aim a laser at any reflective surface.
  • Remember that the startling effect of a bright beam of light can cause serious accidents when aimed at a driver in a car or otherwise negatively affect someone who is engaged in other activity (such as playing sports).
  • Look for a statement that it complies with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J on the label.

“If you buy a laser toy or pointer and you don’t see this information in the labeling, it’s best not to make any assumptions about its safety,” Hewett says.

Source: FDA Consumer Updates

How Safe is….

How Safe is the Playground Sandbox?

It is that time of year…time to visit the playground with all of its climbing opportunities. Young children always gravitate to   the sandbox, but how safe is a box full of sand? What is in the box besides the sand?

safe public sandboxRecently, microbiologists from NSF International (NSF) swabbed 26 different public places testing for the highest level of general bacteria to determine how safe these areas are for public use.

NSF’s team of microbiologists found that the location that harbored the highest level of bacteria and is the least safe place is a playground sandbox.

Sandboxes are actually an ideal setting for bacteria. Not only are they exposed to wildlife, such as cats and raccoons, but they can also hold on to the bacteria that is left from human contact, such as saliva, food items, and other bacteria from human hands.

Before you consider allowing your child to play in a public sandbox, you need to know that the sandbox is to be raked and sifter daily to remove debris. The sandbox also needs to be covered at night to prevent animals using it as a littler box.

NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit organization. Since 1944, NSF’s  main commitment continues to be making the world a safe place for consumers. To explore the NSF consumer website to learn more about NSF, its programs and services, go to www.nsf.org

How Safe Are Amusement Park Rides?

safe amusement rideGovernment statistics demonstrated that fixed-site amusement rides constitute a safe, if not one of the safest forms of recreation available to the public. These statistics do not apply to portable rides that are set up in a community for a limited period of time.

On its website, The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) reports that their association worked together with the National Safety Council (NSC)  to establish a nationwide amusement ride injury reporting system for all facilities operating fixed-site amusement rides in the United States.  This system analyzes data from a statistically-valid sample to produce an annual amusement ride injury estimate for the overall fixed-site amusement ride sector in the U.S. Participation in this survey is mandatory for all IAAPA members operating fixed-site amusement rides in the U.S.

According to IAAPA, in 2009, approximately 280 million guests visited U.S. amusement facilities and safely enjoyed 1.7 billion rides. The most recent survey highlights that an estimated 1,086 ride related injuries occurred in 2009. Only 65 of the injuries in 2009 were reported as “serious,” meaning they required some form of overnight treatment at a hospital; this comprised roughly 6 percent of all ride injuries.

Information on the IAAPA site, from both government and independent data supports the fact that the number of patrons who experienced an incident while on a ride was miniscule – essentially one one-thousandth of one percent, or 0.00001.

Outside analysis of the NSC reporting data also found that the injury risk of fixed-site amusement rides (estimated at eight per million visitors) compares very favorably with those of other common recreational and sporting activities.  Using participation figures from the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) and injury estimates from the CPSC database, fixed amusement ride injury risk was determined to be 10 to 100 times lower than for most common recreational and sporting activities including roller skating, basketball, football, soccer, fishing, and golf.

Examination of public documents and other relevant data consistently shows that only a small percentage of those mishaps that do occur are caused by factors subject to either ride operations, staff or mechanical error.

For more information, visit:

www.nsc.org

www.iaapa.org

Turtles as Pets

turtles

Here comes summer complete with walks in the woods, camping, and other outdoor activities that can bring children in contact with turtles and other reptiles. The Centers for Disease Control, CDC want you to be aware of the germs that turtles and reptiles may carry that can make people sick.

According to the CDC turtles and other reptiles are risky pets.

Turtles are colorful and cute and are often kept as pets. However, many people don’t know that turtles and other reptiles like snakes and lizards can carry harmful germs that can make people very sick. For this reason, turtles and other reptiles might not be the best pets for your family, particularly if there are young children, 5 years-old and younger, or people with weakened immune systems in your home.

Turtles, and other reptiles, often carry a germ called Salmonella, but appear perfectly healthy and clean. People think these infections are caused only by contaminated food, but these germs can also be caught by touching animals, including reptiles or amphibians, such as frogs. Salmonella infections can also result from having contact with an animal’s habitat, including the water from containers or tanks where they live.

Salmonella germs can make people sick with diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and sometimes abdominal cramps. This illness is called “salmonellosis.” Some people can become so sick that they need to go to the hospital. In severe illnesses, the Salmonella bacteria may spread to the bloodstream and can lead to death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Young children are at increased risk for Salmonella illness because their immune systems are still developing. They also are more likely to put their fingers or other items that have come into contact with germs into their mouths. So, families with young children should avoid keeping turtles as pets, and turtles should not be allowed in schools or child care facilities with young children.

Since 1975, it has been illegal in the United States to sell or distribute small turtles with shells that measure less than 4 inches in length. This size was chosen because young children are more likely to treat smaller turtles as toys and put them in their mouths. This ban, enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, likely remains the most effective public health action to prevent Salmonella infections associated with turtles.

Since 2006, CDC has received reports of 11 multistate outbreaks, including 6 ongoing outbreaks, and more than 535 cases of laboratory-confirmed Salmonella infections linked to contact with small turtles and their habitats. These illnesses resulted in about 85 hospitalizations and one death. Because many people with salmonellosis do not seek medical care or are not tested, it is estimated that 16 times as many illnesses occurred than were reported.

Tips to reduce the risk of illness from turtles and other reptiles:

1. Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores, or other sources.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

3. Don’t let young children handle or touch reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam, including water from containers or tanks.

4. Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.

5. Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.

6. Don’t touch your mouth after handling reptiles and do not eat or drink around these animals.

7. Don’t let reptiles roam freely throughout the house or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, pantries, or outdoor patios.

For more information on protecting yourself and your family from illness and to learn more about safely cleaning reptile habitats, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SalmonellaFrogTurtle/

Campfire Safety

campfire

Most camping brochures feature a picture of adults and kids sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows and telling stories. But a campfire requires following safety guidelines if campers are to be safe and the campground protected against fire.

The following campfire safety tips are from Idaho Firewise.

Most campgrounds already have preexisting fire rings to use. Unless the fire ring is in a dangerous spot, you should build your fire there. The campground owners have likely already deemed this as a safe location to build a campfire. The fire ring will help contain sparks and prevent your fire from spreading.

If your campsite does not have a fire ring, you will need to create one. First find a spot that meets these criteria:

  • Downwind at least 15 feet away from your tent and firewood
  • Away from trees, bushes, logs, stumps and overhanging branches
  • Away from dry grass and forest debris
  • Away from any other flammable items

If your campsite does have a fire ring already, check if it meets the above criteria too. The landscape around your campsite could have changed since the fire ring was initially built. There might now be a branch that overhangs the current fire ring. For example, now there might be branches overhanging the old fire ring.

Once you have chosen where to build your campfire, you need to ensure the area is completely clear of any combustible material that could possibly ignite. It is best to clear the ground right down to the soil, and out five (5) feet from the fire pit. Fires can spread underground through root systems or decaying material. Surrounding twigs and dry leaves can easily catch fire from a wayward spark.

After the ground has been cleared, dig a shallow pit about two (2) feet across and encircle this pit with a ring of medium-sized rocks. These rocks should be tightly placed together, without any gaps where sparks could fly through. Remove any small, loose stones from the pit that could potentially explode from the fire’s heat.

Before you begin building the campfire, make sure you have equipment on hand to extinguish a fire. A responsible camper will not light the first match until he or she is sure there is a bucket of water or sand nearby to douse unruly flames in the event of an emergency. You will need a large bucket of water and a shovel. Keep these things close enough to the fire pit that they are quickly accessible in an emergency.

Avoid using lighter fluid, or any other chemicals, to start your fire. These fuels are dangerous to use in the wilderness. They can unexpectedly flare-up and catch your clothing on fire. Always use a lighter or match to ignite the kindling. Do not discard any used matches until they are cool to the touch.

While your campfire is burning, never leave it unattended. Despite safety precautions, the campfire could spread from your fire pit. You need to remain in the area to ensure your campfire doesn’t spread.

Be careful what you burn in a campfire. Try to stick to manageable pieces of firewood that easily fit within your fire pit. It is not a good idea to burn large logs that stick out past the fire pit. Also, avoid burning fresh branches that give off excess sparks.

Before you go to sleep, or when you leave the campsite, you must fully extinguish your campfire. First, douse the flames by pouring water on the fire. However, you are not done yet. Just because you can’t see flames, does not mean the fire cannot re-ignite. Hot embers will continue smoldering for hours. To deal with the embers, stir the coals and add more water. Then cover the coals with dirt or sand. Feel the ashes with your hand to make sure there are no hot coals left.

It is far too easy for a campfire to spread and become a forest fire. When you are camping, it is your responsibility to protect the forest from your campfire. Follow these simple campfire safety rules and use common sense. Sometimes, it simply is not safe to have a campfire at all.

Is Your Home Poison Proof?

poison

March 16 through 22nd  was National Poison Prevention week.

Did you know that roughly 2.4 million Americans are poisoned every year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, with more than half under the age of six years? In fact, 9 out of 10 poison episodes occur at home.

Safe Kids Worldwide shares the following tips on keeping your home poison proof:

  • Keep Cleaners and other toxic products out of reach. Store all household products out of children’s sight and reach. Young kids are often eye-level with items under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. So any bleach, detergents, dishwasher liquid or cleaning solutions that are kept there should find a new storage location.
  • Install child safety locks on cabinets where you have stored poisonous items. It only takes a few minutes, and it gives you one less thing to worry about.
  • Read product labels to find out what can be hazardous to kids. Dangerous household items include makeup, personal care products, plants, pesticides, lead, art supplies, alcohol and carbon monoxide.
  • Don’t leave poisonous products unattended while in use. Many incidents happen when adults are distracted for a moment on the phone or at the door.
  • Keep cleaning products in their original containers. Never put a potentially poisonous product in something other than its original container (such as a plastic soda bottle) where it could be mistaken for something else
  •  Throw away old medicines and other potential poisons. Check your garage, basement and other storage areas for cleaning and work supplies you no longer need and can discard.
  • Check your purse for potential hazards. Be aware of any medications or makeup that may be in your handbag. Store handbags out of the reach of young children. Use original, child-resistant packaging
  • Buy child-resistant packages when available.
  • Keep medicines up and away. Make sure that all medications, including vitamins, are stored out of reach and out of sight or children. Even if you are tempted to keep the medicine handy because you have to give another dose in a few hours, don’t leave it on the counter between dosing. Always put medicines and vitamins away after every use.
  • Have Poison Control on Speed Dial!Program the toll-free number for the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222poison800-222-1222) into your home and cell phone and post it near your phone or on your refrigerator for the babysitter. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but it’s nice to have just in case. Poison control centers offer fast, free, confidential help in English and Spanish. Most poisonings are resolved over the phone. The number works from anywhere in the United States 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  •  If you suspect your child has been poisoned, call poison control. If your child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911.  Do not make the child vomit or give him anything unless directed by a professional.
  • Check for Lead. Check homes built before 1978 for lead-based paint. If lead hazards are identified, test your child for lead exposure and hire a professional to control and remove lead sources safely. Remove any peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
  •  Regularly wash your child’s toys and pacifiers to reduce the risk of your child coming into contact with lead or lead-contaminated dust.  Check www.recalls.gov for more info on product recalls involving lead-based products. Follow the recommendations to eliminate any products such as toys or cookware that contain lead.
  • Install a Carbon Monoxide Alarm and Identify Signs of Poisoning ! Install a carbon monoxide alarm on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas, and keep them at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances.

For more information go to www.safekids.org

Call
Send SMS
Add to Skype
You’ll need Skype CreditFree via Skype