Cleft Lip and Palate and Things Parents Can Do to Help Reduce the Risks!

Cleft lip and palate are birth defects of the upper lip, the roof of the mouth and the soft tissue in the back of the mouth (the soft palate). A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures do not properly fuse during a baby’s development. About 1 in 2,500 people have a cleft palate. Surgery to close the cleft lip is frequently performed when a child is between 6 weeks and 9 months old and additional surgery may be needed later in life if the problem severely affects the nose area.

According to, “Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts.” Some of those children cannot eat or speak properly and because of their deformity, they frequently aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. In the U.S., it’s hard for us to imagine that kind of heartache, but it’s real. The clefts of those children usually go untreated because their families are often too poor to pay for a simple surgery that has been developed for decades.

There are many causes of cleft lip and palate.  Research shows certain genes are passed down from parents to children (a family history of cleft lip or palate and other birth defect) as well as risk factors such as drugs, viruses, and other toxins. Each of these contributing factors, or one or more of them occurring together, can cause these kinds of birth defects in children.

There are things parents can do, however, that may help prevent the occurrence of cleft lip and palate. Experts agree that a few basic actions by pregnant mothers especially can help to lower the risk of having a child with these kinds of birth defects.  One major risk factor for cleft lip and palate is smoking.  A woman smoking tobacco during pregnancy has been associated with adverse outcomes, such as low birth weight, pre-term birth, certain diseases in newborns, and with oral cleft defects.

The increased risk for cleft lip and palate has been estimated at 200 percent when there is maternal smoking during pregnancy.  According to OperationSmile, a worldwide initative dedicated to reducing cleft lip and palate in children, the more cigarettes a mother smokes during pregnancy, the greater the risk. Because tobacco contains nicotine and other substances–such as aromatic hydrocarbons, N nitrosamines, and carbon monoxide–it interferes with normal embryonic and fetal development as the substances are absorbed into the mother’s bloodstream and can reach the developing baby.

Consumption of alcohol by pregnant women also has been shown to be another risk factor to normal fetal development. The cells that develop to form the structures of the face may be damaged by a pregnant mother’s consumption of alcohol during embryonic development.  Women who drink five or more alcoholic drinks even one day a week–have an increased risk of having a child with isolated oral cleft.

Certain medications when taken during pregnancy are risk factors for giving birth to a child with cleft lip and palate.  Pregnant women should consult their physicians to learn which medications to avoid.  It is well-documented that retinoids, such as Isotretinoin–better known as Accutane used to treat acne–taken even in the first few months of pregnancy can cause severe congenital malformations.  Also anticonvulsants and steroids have been shown to add to the risk of having a child with cleft lip and palate.

Some multivitamin supplements have been shown to help decrease the risk of birth defects, including cleft lip and palate in children. Folic acid taken during pregnancy also can play an important role in a baby’s development, especially during the first four months, and has been shown to protect against some cardiovascular and neural defects and may lower the risk of clefting as well.

The good news for parents who have children with cleft lip and palate–in countries like the U.S. and Canada, where it is available–is that surgery can repair the defect.  A child’s pediatrician and plastic surgeon can work with parents to help choose the optimum time in a child’s development to perform such a repair. It is generally accepted that a cleft lip should be repaired by the time a baby is 3 months old and repairing the partition of mouth and nose as early as possible, between the ages of 12 and 18 months.

For additional information on cleft lip and palate in children or to find out what you can do to help reduce the risk or provide a smile to a needy child, please visit and


1 Generous thanks to, PubMed (NIH) and OperationSmile for their good information on Cleft Lip and Palate.

CPSC Approves New Mandatory Standard for Toddler Beds

New standards for toddler beds are a major achievement for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which voted unanimously (5-0) this week to adopt the new standards which add more safety precautions to the previous ASTM voluntary standard for toddler beds (F1821-09) and additional protections to prevent injuries to children.

From 1995 through December 2010, the CPSC became aware of 122 incidents involving toddler beds, including four deaths and 43 injuries.  Cribs which convert into toddler beds also need to be in compliance with the new requirements which, according to the CPSC, are:

  • The upper edge of the guardrail must be at least five inches above the toddler bed’s mattress.
  • Spindle/slat strength testing for toddler beds must be consistent with the testing required for crib spindles/slats.
  • Separate warning labels to address entrapment and strangulation hazards must appear on toddler beds.

The mandatory standard becomes effective six (6) months following publication of the new standard in The Federal Register. It will affect toddler beds manufactured or imported after that date.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.  By its passage and enactment of the Consumer Product Safety and Improvement Act of 2008, Congress required that the CPSC issue a mandatory standard for toddler beds.

Recalled Infants’ and Children’s Products Manufactured in China:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in conjunction with the firm Arm’s Reach of Oxnard, California, has recalled 76,000 Infant Bed-Side Sleepers due to the threat of entrapment, falls and suffocation.

Ten (10) reports have been received by Arm’s Reach and the CPSC of infants falling into the loose fabric at the bottom of the sleeper from the raised mattress or becoming trapped between the mattress edge and the side of the bed-side sleeper, also known as a “co-sleeper.” No injuries have been reported thus far.

The so-called Bed-Side Sleepers were manufactured in China between 1997 and 2001 and were sold at Burlington Coat Factory outlets, Babies R Us, and other retail stores throughout the U.S. from September 1997 until December 2001 for approximately $160.  The Original and Universal models are involved in the recall and their model numbers can be found on the products “legs”:

Original Models:           8108, 8133, 8111, 8112 & 8119

Universal Model:          8311

As with most CPSC recalls, consumers should stop using the Bed-Side Sleeper immediately and contact the company, Arm’s Reach, by calling (800) 954-9353 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at   The CPSC cautions all consumers that it is illegal to sell recalled items.  A photograph of the bed-side sleeper can be viewed by going to

Infantino Recalls Toy Trucks Due to Choking Hazard!

Infantino (you may remember Infantino as the importers of some other recalled baby products), in conjunction with the CPSC, has recalled more than 41,000 “Troy, The Activity Truck” toys sold in the U.S. and Canada, manufactured in and imported from China.  Infantino received 28 reports of plastic beads detaching from the activity trucks, including two reports of young children gagging on the plastic beads.  The toy truck is

blue, red, and yellow with plastic star, circle, and heart beads attached to the bead runs on the back of the truck and has a face on the front.  The name, Infantino, is printed on the front of the truck.

The toys were sold from September 2009 through February 2011 for $15, at Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Meier, T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, and other retail stores throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Consumers are advised to “take the toy away from children and contact Infantino to receive a free replacement toy”! (Childsafetyblog wonders if you want one!) But if you do, call: (888) 808-3111 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at

Food Safety For Kids’ and Our Sake!

On April 1, 2011, another loud alarm sounded about possible Salmonella contamination in the U.S. This time, the bug was Salmonella Hadar  possibly in poultry, and, in this instance, may have been present in Jennie-O® Turkey burgers. Jennie-O® of  Wilmar, Minnesota, recalled approximately 55,000 lbs. of frozen and raw ground turkey meat product and the FDA investigation of how the contamination may have occurred continues. However, while calls people’s attention the problem–we know that there may still be product on grocery shelves and in home freezers.

To be specific, the Food and Drug Administration’s recall notice identified: “The 4-pound boxes of Jennie-O Turkey Store® “All Natural Turkey Burgers with seasonings Lean White Meat,.” Each box contains 12 1/3-pound individually wrapped burgers. A use-by date of “DEC 23 2011” and an identifying lot code of “32710” through “32780” are inkjetted on the side panel of each box, just above the opening tear strip. Establishment number “P-7760″ is located within the USDA mark of inspection on the front of each box. The products were packaged on Nov. 23, 2010, and were distributed to retail establishments nationwide.”

Salmonella is nothing to take lightly.  Symptoms of salmonella infection are diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, which may be experienced 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness can last from 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.  The most vulnerable to Salmonella are young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems due to disease or other infirmity. A severe Salmonella infection left untreated can cause death.Whether or not we are exposed to this or other strains of Salmonella, it’s important to review these food safe handling cautions, especially as warmer weather prevails and the frequency of family camping, picnicking and barbequing picks up speed!  Here are a few food safe handling tips to keep in mind when preparing food for our families:

  • Wash your hands, kitchen work surfaces (such as cutting boards and counter tops) and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have had contact with raw meat, poultry or fish; make sure all cooking pots, pans and lids are squeaky clean; disinfect food contact surfaces with a sanitizing agent and rinse away the sanitizing agent completely;
  • Cross-contamination of foods can happen easily–do not use the same utensils for different uncooked and cooked foods; make sure to wash utensils that have been used with cooked or uncooked foods, thoroughly;
  • Cook meat and poultry thoroughly. When roasting poultry or meat in an oven, the oven temperature should be no lower than 325˚F.
  • Invest in a food or “meat” thermometer and cook beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops to a safe minimum internal temperature of at least 145°F, pork to 160°F, and ground beef, veal, and lamb to at least 160°F. Poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of at least 165°F throughout the product.
  • When reheating foods, they should be reheated thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming.
  • If you are served uncooked meat or poultry in a restaurant, send it back to the kitchen for additional cooking.
  • Very important: Especially if raw meat or poultry have been left unrefrigerated or uncooked for too long, bacteria may grow and produce toxins which can cause foodborne illness. Some toxins are heat resistant and are not destroyed by cooking. Therefore, even though cooked, meat and poultry mishandled in the raw state may not be safe to eat even after proper preparation. Definitely read the food safe handling cautions on packaged meat and poultry.

Be Aware of “Button” Batteries If You Have Young Children!

Late last month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a warning about button batteries, so decided to learn more about the cause for heightened concern. First, the use of button batteries, manufactured since 1978, has increased exponentially. Button batteries, so-called due to their nearly flat-round, button-like appearance, now can be found in many children’s toys and games, as well as singing greeting cards, thermometers, DVD players, calculators, and appliances in the home from hearing aids to radios, flashlights, watches, remotes, and many other products to which children have access.

Sadly, due to the fact that button batteries are prevalent and appliances can be found where young children can reach out and touch them, children are getting hold of and swallowing the batteries, even mistaking them for candy.  Frequently, the worst incidents have involved children under four years of age.  Dr. Toby Litovitz of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C.,  noted that battery-swallowing incidents “have increased seven-fold since 1985.”[1]  The majority of reported incidents have been caused by ingesting 20 mm diameter, or larger, 3 volt batteries.

While an ingested button battery may sometimes pass through a child’s intestines, more often a battery can become lodged in a child’s throat or intestine and can release hydroxide which can cause chemical burns or even death.  Frequently, a parent is not aware that a child has swallowed a battery.  In addition, many of these incidents have been misdiagnosed by physicians as there are few recognizable symptoms other than a possible fever and upset stomach which are similar to the onset of other childhood illnesses.  Dr. Litovitz also noted, “From the late 1970’s until now there have been 14 fatalities in the U.S. that we’re aware of, and of those 10 were just in the last six years. So that should send a signal of warning.”[2]

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has begun to engage battery manufacturers and the electronics industry in an effort to get safety warnings placed on packaging and items that use button batteries. The CPSC recommends the following regarding the use and disposal of button batteries:

  • Discard button batteries carefully.
  • Do not allow children to play with button batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child’s reach.
  • Caution hearing aid users to keep hearing aids and batteries out of the reach of children.
  • Never put button batteries in your mouth for any reason as they are easily swallowed accidentally.
  • Always check medications before ingesting them. Adults have swallowed button batteries mistaken for pills or tablets.
  • Keep remotes and other electronics out of your child’s reach if the battery compartments do not have a screw to secure them. Use tape to help secure the battery compartment.
  • If a button battery is ingested, immediately seek medical attention. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available anytime at (202) 625-3333 (call collect if necessary), or call your poison center at (800) 222-1222.

[1] News from CPSC, “CPSC Warns: As Button Battery Use Increases, So Do Battery-Related Injuries and Deaths”, March 23, 2011.

[2] “Button Batteries, Killing, Disabling Children”,  Alan Mozes, HealthDay, May 24, 2010.

Teaching Young Children To Avoid Drugs Begins With Parents

This blog post is no April fool.  Teaching young children to avoid drugs is not a laughing matter in this day and age.  The example parents set for children plays an important role in children’s behavior now and as children grow.

Reinforcing positive role models in a child’s life helps build a child’s sense of self-esteem.  If a child is confident in who he/she is, then the child will be more likely to make better choices and less likely to bend to peer pressure, and even to bullying, when the question arises,”Hey, you want to try some of this?”

A parent setting a positive example is extremely important. If a parent or family member drinks to excess, smokes heavily or even takes “recreational” drugs in front of their children, they can expect their children eventually to try to imitate their behavior.  Parents should not tempt their young children by giving them “a little beer” or other alcoholic beverages.  Something that seems to taste good to a child or makes them feel good briefly may not be good for their growing body or their internal organs.

Teaching children about drugs and what they can put in their mouths and what they should not put in their mouths is important.  A parent can say, for example, “These peaches are good for you, they contain vitamins and help you have good skin.” Or “The calcium in milk helps build strong bones and strong bones help us move around!”  Conversely, a parent can say, “Pills are medicine for a purpose. We don’t take medicine we don’t need. A medicine can help one person, but may hurt another.” or “We must be very careful not to take anything we don’t know about or that our parent doesn’t give us when we are sick.  We don’t help ourselves to medicine.” Or “We don’t take medicine or pills that belong to other people.”

In addition to safely storing the family’s medicines in a lockable medicine chest, a parent can caution their child, “If you find a pill anywhere [at home] you bring it to me.” Or “If you find a pill anywhere at school, take it to your teacher right away!”  A young child in one Colorado elementary school found a pill at the bottom of his milk carton, and was extremely fortunate not to have swallowed the pill which another child put in the carton “as a joke”–without even knowing what the result might have been if the child had swallowed the pill. Both sets of parents of the children involved were startled when they were informed by the school’s principal of the incident. The result of this experience could have been so much worse.

As children grow and head into the pre-teens and teens, parents can reinforce their discussions about drugs by educating kids about the effects of drugs, what drugs look like and do to a person, especially what drugs to avoid at all cost.  In the past year, in the United States there has been an upsurge in popularity of certain “synthetic drugs”. wants to pat the now-thirteen states which have made buying and selling these synthetic drugs, such as “bath salts,” illegal as the results of kids taking these drugs have been devastating to the individuals, their families, and their communities.  And we urge those states that have not yet banned the purchase and sale of synthetic drugs to do so as soon as possible.

Crash Test Dummies Failed the Test!

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says it will hold off on some proposed car seat regulations until the dummies which are used in crash tests can better “mimic real children.”[1] Problems with the crash dummies have caused NHTSA to propose some regs for children over 65 lbs. which leaves a whole lot of children under 65 lbs. somewhat in the lurch. In essence, this means federal regulations for automobile booster/car seats do not accurately protect our children.

What made the dummies fail?  According to the NHTSA, the dummy’s neck is too stiff to really recreate accurately the kind of response a child’s neck would have to a crash–this would “skew the amount of crash force the child’s head would experience” ( ) in the crash tests. And the dummy’s body is too straight and apparently too stiff to react as a child’s would in crash circumstances. Also according to the NHTSA, there are differences in the friction that would occur on a live child, between the seatbelt and the child’s clothed chest, and the friction between the seatbelt and the clothed chest of the dummy and they do not accurately mimic those which would exist for those of a live child–and these differences could cause a variance in the response (body-to-seatbelt) that would render the tests inaccurate or considered not a good simulation.  In addition, the results of seatbelt fit measurements on a dummy as compared with a child could vary too much to be considered reliable.

In the opinion of Katherine Shaver of The Washington Post, “That’s because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to develop a lifelike child crash test dummy that can accurately ensure that seats for heavier children provide the protections promised. …Problems with developing child dummies are also a key reason why seats for all children have no federal requirements for effectiveness in side-impact, rear-end and rollover collisions, car seat experts said.”

This blogger would like to know where the current dummy was manufactured?  China?  Somebody, call Vince and Larry… they’d know what to do!

[1] The Washington Post, March 13, 2011, “Crash Dummy Doesn’t Make the Grade”,