Phthalates: What Are They and Why Should We Reduce Our Exposure to Them?

Recently, Environmental Health News published the results of a study on phthalates with some eye-opening news, especially for pregnant women, which may have a bearing on the development of babies in the womb. (The actual study was published in the scientific journal, Toxicological Sciences.)

The subject of concern is phthalates.  Phthalates are found throughout our world’s environment today. If you have a plastic bottle in your refrigerator or a doll in your child’s toy box, more than likely the plastic used in their manufacture contains some phthalates.  Phthalates are the chemicals used in plastics, especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC), to make them more flexible and easier to handle.  Phthalates can be found also in food packaging and personal care items, such as fragrances, nail polish, and shampoo. Other items which may contain phthalates are vinyl products, plastic shower curtains, medical tubing, flooring, and toys. Some phthalates leach out of products, however, and exposure can occur when they are absorbed by skin, breathed, or eaten.[1]

Animal and human studies have linked phthalates to a variety of health issues, including obesity and ADHD, and, according to Environmental Health News, the U.S. population has shown measurable levels of phthalates in their bodies.[2] This should be no surprise when we consider that just about everything we touch is a plastic in some form or other.

One particular phthalate, di-pentyl phthalate (DPeP), is presently under the microscope.  The results of the aforementioned study point to the fact that exposure to DPeP may cause retarded testicular development in male offspring.  And while the study was performed in rats, measurable levels of phthalates in blood, urine, breast milk, and amniotic fluid of humans has been linked to hindering the production of testosterone in developing babies.[3]

Scientifically speaking, “The results provide strong evidence that DPeP – a little known and understudied phthalate – may actually pose a greater risk to the developing male reproductive system than the better-known DEHP. DPeP was eight times more potent in reducing testosterone production, 3 – 6 times more potent in blocking gene activity, and 2 – 3 times more potent in causing male genital abnormalities.”[4]

As the article referenced suggests, this study provides support to the theory that exposure to phthalates adversely affects pre-birth development in babies, and the use of phthalates may require additional scrutiny as well as more stringent government regulation.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Phthalates Action Plan (June 25, 2010), the EPA is moving in several different ways (proposed rulemaking, data collection and the study on Environment and Green Chemistry Alternatives for 2012) to add additional phthalates to their stringent regulations of use and to encourage the development of safer chemicals for humanity. thinks keeping babies and children safe is about the most important thing we can do, and whatever it takes to put forth and implement more stringent regulations on the use of DPeP we heartily encourage!

[1] Environmental Health News, “A Little Known ‘Super Phthalate’ Packs A Big Punch To Males, A Rat Study Finds”, February 17, 2011, website

[2] Op. Cit.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

I Need A Child Care Provider in My Home… What Do I Do?

Parents of children these days live fast-paced lives, full of work, educational, religious, social, and family commitments. At the same time, well-informed parents of young children are concerned about the safety of their kids when childcare is required, so what do parents do to ensure their kids are getting the best–and the safest–childcare in their absence, whether it is a temporary childcare solution or a regular part of a child’s daily routine?

Every parent knows there will be occasions when they may need to provide childcare for their child. During the day when they are at work, on weekends when they have adult social commitments, when parents must travel away from home for business or family, have doctor’s or dentist appointments, or being ill or incapacitated are only a few instances when childcare in your home or at another location may be necessary and desirable.

Certain decisions must be made to determine whether a childcare provider is right for you and your child.  And, yes, childcare providers should provide several references. But parents need to do their homework too.  Talking to other parents about childcare providers and consulting the Better Business Bureau if the childcare provider is a business entity are good ideas.   Very good resources on whether a childcare provider could be a fit for your child can be your neighbors, friends and family members, and other parents in your church or social groups who have used a childcare provider’s services over a period of time.

The first rule of thumb in selecting a childcare provider is determining they are mature and responsible. In most cases, gone are the days when you could ask your neighbor’s 13 year old to come over and watch little Joey–and feel totally okay about it. Also, your child should feel comfortable and safe with your selection of a childcare provider–and the childcare provider needs to understand your requirements–and respond well to your child’s needs.  Parents need to feel comfortable that if a minor crisis should arise in their absence, the childcare provider could at least take care of things temporarily until parents are able to be with their child.

In addition, parents need to know that their child is safe with a childcare provider.  In some locales, lists of licensed childcare providers may be available from a county department of social services, local schools, or community-resource centers, but parents still need to check the providers’ employment backgrounds and get references and identification information (i.e., driver’s license number, address and phone numbers).  Interviewing prospective childcare providers is important too, and parents need to take the time to interview, get resumés, talk with past employers, teachers, relatives, friends, or neighbors and ask them about your prospective childcare provider’s childcare qualifications. Parents may even want to consult their state’s law enforcement departments to learn how they may access the sex-offender registries and criminal history checks on file.  To learn how to do this, parents may go to:, the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Registry.

Once you have selected a childcare provider, it’s important to make sure the one you do select understands what you want them to do in your absence. Writing a job description and setting down basic rules, especially when the care is to be provided in your home, noting what your child can or cannot do in your absence, such as what your child can eat or drink, when they can watch TV or use the computer, what they can or cannot access on TV or the computer, when they should be in bed are some examples. What a childcare provider is expected and permitted to do in your home in your absence should be a part of those rules as well.

It’s a good idea to discuss fees and any other administrative arrangements with your childcare provider in advance, clearly noting the amount of time you expect to be away from home and where you or a trusted family member or family friend can be contacted in case of emergency. thinks these tips will help you take some of the worry out of selecting dependable, safe childcare for your child in your home.

More Cribs and Bassinets Recalled; and 26 Crib Injuries/Day!

Last week,, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (  in conjunction with IKEA Home Furnishings of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, recalled approximately 20,000 Sniglar™ Cribs sold in the U.S. and almost 6,000 sold in Canada.  The recall was specifically directed to the Sniglar non-drop side, full-size crib, Model No. 60091931.

For consumer identification, the names “Sniglar” and “IKEA” and the model number are printed on a label attached to the mattress support.  The crib frame and mattress support are made of light colored or natural finish wood.  The reason for the recall is the four (4) bolts provided with the crib to secure the mattress support are not long enough to properly extend through the nuts and can come loose, causing the mattress support to detach and collapse, and at the same time pose a risk to a child in the crib of strangulation and suffocation.

The cribs were sold exclusively by IKEA from October 2005 to June 2010 for approximately $80 and imported from and manufactured in Romania.

Consumers who have the Sniglar cribs Model 60091931 should stop using the crib immediately and check the crib and mattress support bolts to see if the bolts properly extend through the nuts; and if they do not, immediately contact IKEA for a repair kit or refund information.  If the bolts do extend properly through the nuts, the crib is not included in this recall.

IKEA can be reached toll free by phone at (888) 966-4532 anytime, or visit the firm’s website at   The Consumer Product Safety Commission is still interested in receiving reports of any adverse events related to these cribs.  Health Canada’s press release may also be found at and photos of the cribs being recalled can also be found at

Also, recommends obtaining additional information on crib safety by visiting the CPSC Crib Safety Website:

Bassinets Recalled by Burlington Basket

Burlington Basket Company of Burlington, Iowa, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have recalled approximately 500,000 baby bassinets due to faulty cross-bracing rails.

The reason for the recall of the bassinet with folding legs is if its cross-bracing rails are not fully locked into position, the bassinets can collapse causing an infant to fall in the bassinet or fall onto the floor causing injury to the child.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Burlington Basket received ten (10) reports of incidents of collapse when the folding legs of the bassinet failed and two reports of injuries to children.

The bassinets were sold throughout the United States by Walmart and other department stores from January 2003 through August 2010 for about $50.  Consumers should stop using Burlington Basket bassinets with folding legs immediately and contact the company for information on how to receive a repair kit or a refund.  Burlington Basket can be reached at Burlington Basket Company at (800)553-2300 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Central Time or consumers can visit the company’s website: thinks all of this is way too hard on baby! Apparently others agree. On February 17, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD, aired a several-minute spot devoted to crib injuries, and according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which Dr. Gupta highlighted in CNN’s blog, “an average of 26 children suffer a crib-related injury every day.”

Also, according to Dr. Gary A. Smith, the lead author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital ( “9,500 children a year [are] treated in emergency departments for crib-related injuries.”

So as parents, family members, caregivers, and babysitters, we need to check our children’s cribs and bassinets to make sure we don’t have the faulty ones. And if we do, contact the companies immediately. Always remember:  safer is better.

Does My Child Have the Flu… or A Cold?

Mid-February is the peak of this year’s flu season, medical professionals tell us. And there’s still time to get a flu shot if parents and caregivers haven’t gotten theirs–but how do you tell in kids if it’s the flu or a cold?

According to Pediatrics, Vincent Iannelli, MD, children will experience a quick onset of the flu with a high fever, severe headache, muscle aches and chills, nasal congestion or runny nose, sore throat, nausea and vomiting.

Cold symptoms, however, are usually milder and manifest themselves between 2 and 5 days after exposure to someone who is or has been sick. The symptoms of a cold are typically fever, runny nose, congestion, headache, muscle aches and coughing.  Symptoms may get worse between days 3 and 5 and go away between days 10 and 14.  So while a cold may last longer than the flu, it may not cause the fatigue, nausea and vomiting of the flu.  Some children may have all of these symptoms and some children may only have one or two.

Antibiotics generally do not help a cold or the flu–since they are caused by viruses–and they won’t help a child get over a cold sooner or prevent a secondary infection of the sinuses or ears.  To soothe colds in kids, caregivers should try using a cool mist humidifier in their room, lots of fluids and bed rest.  (And make sure that humidifier is clean, clean, clean!)

Parents should pay special attention, however, to the presence of fevers in children and to the child’s temperatures and to how long a fever lasts.  If your infant has a fever, call your primary care physician and keep your child hydrated. Recognizing the symptoms of cold and flu in toddlers is very important as active children may become dehydrated quickly, so being observant of their habits, recognizing when they feel good or not is key to healing.

Babies up to six months old are at the greatest risk from complications due to flu as they do not have mature immune systems and they are at risk from respiratory distress due to their small airways.  As a general rule, it is not good to give your infant cold medicine.

Traditionally, doctors have said, that there’s really no different way to treat the flu than the way you would treat a serious cold, making your child comfortable and treating the symptoms–but recent improvements to children’s medicines are on the horizon with some anti-viral medicines being developed, such as Tamiflu, but antivirals should be evaluated and prescribed for use only by your primary care physician on a case-by-case basis. likes what and have to say about treatment of colds in kids!

60,000 Infants Die Each Year from MNT–What Is It?

Until I read about The Eliminate Project, I didn’t know the meaning of MNT. MNT stands for Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus, a disease that robs parents of 60,000 children each year. The disease occurs mostly in developing nations.

Since 1989, UNICEF and the World Health Organization have been garnering support worldwide to eliminate MNT through education and vaccination.  Recently, Kiwanis International, in association with UNICEF, joined the fight against this disease that heavily impacts countries such as India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Chad, Angola, Laos, and many sub-Saharan countries.  Sadly, according to Dr. Francoise Gasse, MD, an authority on MNT, the number of 60,000 deaths in children per year is probably significantly under-reported.

What is MNT and why should MNT matter to us in the West?  First, Tetanus is caused “when inert spores of the Clostridium tetani bacteria found in soil, animal feces, decaying material and human intestines, enter the body through an open sore or puncture wound. The spores grow and release a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin. This attacks the Central Nervous System (CNS) and results in spasms which begin in the jaw muscles and progress to more violent muscle spasms throughout the body.”[1]  Dr. Gasse points out that “educational efforts need to reach larger audiences to ensure that MNT receives the concern it warrants”[2]  or other high visibility child killers, like malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea will command the resources required to eradicate MNT.

The only good news about MNT is it is not contagious in the sense that a virus is contagious, but it affects marginalized families with children in remote, rural areas with poor sanitation and the need for health services. In the cases of newborn tetanus, infants contract the disease frequently due to unhygienic birth practices–unwashed hands of a midwife or unsterilized instruments or dressings used in the process.  Mothers are also at risk during an unhygienic birth process.

If, as it has been noted, “Tetanus can cause one of the most painful deaths known to man,”[3]  certainly, MNT can cause a death no adult would want to experience, nor to have an infant or child experience.  While it is difficult for us inAmerica to grasp the extent and magnitude of poverty in some developing countries, because we have so much and are so fortunate that primitive conditions, such as those which affect remote, rural areas where water may not be clean, are unthinkable. It is reassuring to know that there are ways we can help support projects like The Eliminate Project to continue vaccinations, immunizing women of child-bearing age, and providing health education and hygienic delivery and cord care practices to under-served populations.

[1] Kiwanis, February 2011, “The Eliminate Project”, pp. 14-17.

[2] Op. Cit., p..17.

[3] Op. Cit. p. 16.

Safer Playgrounds for Safer Kids!

There is renewed and concerted interest in getting our young children out of doors to play. Yet there are concerns about where kids play and what can happen if they go to the playground.  Parents need to know what they can do to help make their children’s playgrounds safer for everyone.  Kids’ Health from Nemours notes that each year more than 200,000 children in the U.S. are treated for injuries received on the playground!

Good adult supervision is certainly key to avoiding accidents, but there are other factors that are important as well in keeping our kids safe on the playground. Going with your child to the playground is good. Taking an inventory of the equipment there can be the start of a playground improvement project. Faulty or broken equipment, rough surfaces on which to play, physical obstacles that should be removed, inadequate playground design, lack of supervision and, of course, carelessness, rank in the top causes of accidents that take children from the playground to emergency rooms.

Advising school and civic officials of needed playground equipment maintenance can help to make your child’s playground safer. Reaching out to responsible officials, sometimes having to be persistent in making sure that faulty playground equipment is either fixed so that children can use it safely or removed so that it is not a hazard to those who use the playground, can be an important task. Networking with other parents, school administrators and civic officials can help initiate and move playground improvement projects forward.

Parents can do many things to help ensure children are safe on the playground–especially offering to help kids learn how to play the games they like to play. Parents who have skills as a soccer or tetherball coach or simply support their child’s Little League team can help get other parents involved and bring family to the games. Participating also offers rewarding mentoring opportunities while keeping mom and dad in the loop about where, how, and with whom our kids are playing. Nothing wrong with that!

The safest playgrounds have specific areas where children of different ages can play, with defined areas for infants and toddlers, pre-schoolers (2-5 year olds) and school-aged children.  Young children should not play on equipment designed for older children as this is frequently the cause of accidents.  Playgrounds should be checked for equipment that can pinch children’s hands or feet or that has moving parts which could trap a child’s head or body parts.  Wooden equipment should be solid and not splintered, metal equipment should not be rusted and playground equipment hardware should be secure with no broken parts.  If there is equipment kids can fall off while climbing, there should be appropriate soft materials–like woodchips or rubber mats–below.  If there is a sandbox on the playground, the sandbox should also be checked for debris or trash that might be unsanitary if handled by kids and for sharp objects that may have become lodged in the sand over the winter.

Parents and caregivers can do a lot to make their kids’ playgrounds safer, from supervising the games to alerting officials to needed improvements, to simply making sure that trash on the playground is regularly picked up and removed.  So, to all of our parents, caregivers, family members and babysitters encourages us to get out of doors and get involved!