Fast-paced Action Cartoons Harmful to Young Kids?

Recently, articles in the medical media have raised concerns about the effect on children’s brains and their cognition in general due to fast-paced cartoons. An article by Michael Smith featured in MedPage Today (9/12/11) noted a University of Virginia study performed by Angeline Lillard, PhD, and Jennifer Peterson, that points to kids’ cognition possibly being impaired by the rapid switching of scenes in cartoons such as “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

In the U.Va. controlled study, “The immediate impact of different types of television on young childrens’ executive function,” children who watched a rapid-pace, 9-minute cartoon that featured marine animals did less well afterward on tests of attention and cognition than children who spent the same amount of time using their creativity drawing.  The children also performed less well in testing than children who watched a slower-paced, educational cartoon. This particular study was reported in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal (Pediatrics 2011; DOI: 10:1542/peds.2010-1919.)

In a follow-up commentary on the study, Dmitri Christakis, MD, University of Washington-Seattle, suggested that while the U.Va. study had some weaknesses, including a small sample size (60 children), it raised an interesting point that “more children are now ‘digital natives'” who are highly exposed to media and are more accustomed to the various forms. (Christakis, DA, “The effects of fast-paced cartoons,” Pediatrics 2011: DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-2071.)

On another front, concerns were raised about childrens’ exposure to technology in an article called “Generation Wired” in the October 9, 2011, issue of Parade Magazine. The article offers a quiz parents can take, entitled, “What Kind of Internet Parent Are You?” (found at ), and helps parents decide whether they need to get involved in their childrens’ digital lives as actively as they do in academic or sports activities.

Television and the digital landscape can be positive places for kids to go to. The various media to which children are exposed can promote healthy habits, but children need guidance. Well-informed guidance is important for parents, family members and caregivers to provide. For today’s children, TV and computer technology have become an integral part of their lives, and parents need to make smart choices about what their children hear and see, whether it’s on TV or the Internet.

Build-A-Bear® Recalls 19,200 Swimwear Sets with Inflatable Innertube

First, these Build-A-Bear® swimwear “sets,” consisting of a bathing suit and innertube, are for teddy bears toys (not for children) to wear. The swimwear/innertube sets were sold from April 2011 through August 2011. Only now, in November 2011, are 19,200 of them being recalled due to a strangulation hazard.

The swimwear and innertube sets were made in China and imported to the U.S. by Build-A-Bear® Workshops. The matching pink innertube accessory that comes with the teddy bear swimwear set can be pulled over a small child’s head posing a strangulation hazard. According to the CPSC, Build-A-Bear received one report in which a 3-year old child had pulled the innertube over her own head and had difficulty removing it.

CPSC noted that “the inner tube is part of the three-piece Fruit Tutu Bikini swimwear set for teddy bears, which includes a two-piece, fruit-print bikini. The inner tube is 9 inches in diameter and pink with white and yellow flowers printed on it. The model number of the swimwear set is 017220 and is located on the price sticker on the “Build-A-Bear” cardboard tag.”

If your child has this teddy bear swimwear set with innertube, please remove it from your child’s access, play area or toy box, and return it to any Build-A-Bear® Workshop store for a $5 store coupon. If it’s not possible to return the set to a Build-A-Bear Workshop store, consumers may contact the company by calling Build-A-Bear Service Representative (toll free) 1-877-789-BEAR (2327) or by visiting the Build-A-Bear website at

To view a photo of this Build-A-Bear Teddy Bear Swimwear Set and Innertube, go to the CPSC website:

Another Toy to Avoid This Holiday Season

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Battat Inc. has voluntarily recalled 95,000 Toulouse Lap-Trec Magnetic Magic Sketchboards as the magnetic pen tip poses a choking hazard to young children.

Battat Inc. of Plattsburgh, New York, imported the Magnetic Magic Sketchboards which were manufactured in China and sold them at Target Stores nationwide for approximately $16 from March 2010 through March 2011.

The hazard is the magnetic tip of the drawing pen, which can become detached from the pen, posing a choking hazard to children. Battat has received 19 reports of the magnetic tip detaching from the pen, but no reports of injuries.

According to CPSC’s recall announcement, the Toulouse-LapTrec magnetic sketchboard has a white plastic writing surface bordered by either a red or brown plastic frame. The sketchboard has a bean bag-type back. Four animal shapes of a rabbit, dog, cat and duck are at the top of the sketchboard. The multicolored magnetic pen is attached to the front of the sketchpad. Consumers can locate the model number BX1026 (red frame) or BX1027 (brown frame) on the paper wrapper that comes with the product at the time it was purchased.

Consumers and parents who have received this toy as a gift for their children should immediately remove it from the child’s access, play area or toy box, and contact the company to receive a free replacement sketchboard. Consumers can call Battat’s toll-free number (866) 665-5524 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit Battat’s website at

For photos of the recalled Toulouse Lap-Trec Magnetic SketchBoard, please visit the CPSC website at: is reviewing toys for sale this holiday season, and those who follow our postings may anticipate seeing more recall notices as well as alerts about toys, childhood furniture, children’s clothing and jewelry.

Infants in Unsafe Sleep Settings Raises Questions About Current Sleep Habits

The National Back-to-Sleep Campaign has concluded an almost 20-year effort to learn how kids sleep and to make sure parents get the message of how to provide safe sleep for infants. According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Each year in the United States, more than 4,500 infants die suddenly of no immediately obvious cause.”

The sad fact is that the rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) due to unsafe sleep habits and causes, such as suffocation, have continued to climb. SUIDs currently account for 12 infant deaths per day in the United States. Half of the SUIDs are due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, and ill-defined or unspecified causes of death have increased in incidence.

The University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott National Children’s Hospital recently issued a report from their study. One of the most common causes, the report notes, for SUIDs is placing babies in sleep areas with soft bedding, such as pillows, soft blankets and stuffed toys. In addition, the C.S. Mott National Children’s Hospital study also included a May 2011 poll of parents that found 89 percent of parents polled believe placing an infant to sleep on his back in a crib is a safe sleep position. 40 Percent of parents polled believed it was still safe for an infant to sleep in the same bed as parents or another person. A similar proportion of parents reported that they “often” or “sometimes” have fallen asleep with their infants, most unintentionally. These findings are somewhat surprising in light of prevailing safe-sleep recommendations.

Even though the Back-to-Sleep Campaign has definitely called the public’s attention to SUIDs, questions now arise about the current sleep habits of families with young children which seem to be common throughout the country. The C.S. Mott poll found 9 out of 10 parents who had heard the safe-sleep message, placed their infants on their backs to sleep. Yet, the poll indicated that one fifth of parents polled still believed it was safe to place an infant on their stomachs to sleep even if the child could not roll over!

The results of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital poll indicate that efforts to ensure children have safe sleep should continue in earnest and that organizations, such as C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the CDC, and the AAP, as well as physicians and those involved with child wellness, continue to carry the message to parents and the general public that there are certain conditions which contribute to a better and safer sleep for infants and children. The AAP recommends the following things parents can do to reduce the risk of SUIDs and SIDS:

  • Place your baby on his back for every sleep.
  • Place your baby to sleep on a firm sleep surface.
  • Keep soft toys, loose bedding or any object that would increase the risk of entrapment or suffocation of your child, out of the crib!
  • Keep the room where your baby sleeps cool; don’t let your baby get too hot.
  • Schedule and go to all well-child visits and pediatrician appointments.
  • Keep baby away from smoke and smokers to prevent respiratory problems.
  • There is scientific support for the fact that breast feeding as long as a mother can is good for the child and may help to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Watch Out for Choking Hazards in Toys and Clothing

The CPSC and Family Dollar Services Inc., of Matthews, N.C., have issued a recall announcement for Kidgets® Animal Sock Top Slippers. The slippers, made in China, have eyes that can become detached and pose a strangulation hazard to young children.

160,000 Kidgets® Animal Sock-Top Slippers have been sold by Family Dollar stores throughout the country, from September through October 2011 (160,000 in 2 months). The slippers cost just $5 and have brown or tan dog faces, yellow duck faces and tan lion faces on them. The name “Kidgets” and size of the slippers appear inside and on the soles. The number “FD9619108020690611” is printed inside the slippers on the side.

If you have purchased or been given these slippers for your child, remove them from the child’s access and return them to a Family Dollar store for a full refund. Consumers can also contact the company for more information at (800) 547-0359 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at To view a photo of the slippers being recalled, please visit:

Boy Scouts of America Recalls 5,400 Cub Scout Wind Tech Jackets due to strangulation hazards. The light-weight blue jackets in youth sizes for young boys are nylon with a polyester lining, have long-sleeves, a full zipper front and a Cub Scout wolf head emblem embroidered on the upper left front. SKU numbers 73291, 73292, and 73293 are printed on the hangtag that is attached to the jacket at retail.

The jackets were made in China, cost approximately $32 and were sold online at and at Boy Scouts of America retail outlets throughout the U.S. from November 2009 through July 2011. The hazard is the jackets have retractable cords with toggles at the hood/neck area and at the waist, which can pose a strangulation or entrapment hazard to children.

In February 1996, CPSC issued Guidelines to help prevent children from strangling or getting entangled on the neck and waist drawstrings in upper garments, such as jackets and sweatshirts. The Guidelines were incorporated into an industry standard in 1997, but clothing, frequently made in places other than the U.S., does not comply with the industry standard, so the burden falls to parents to watch out for jackets, “hoodies” and other clothing items which may have drawstrings or retractable cords at the waste or neck (or both).

To view a photo of the jackets, please visit the CPSC website for this recall: For additional information, contact the Boy Scouts of America toll-free at (855) 873-2408 anytime or visit the firm’s website at

Somehow it seems ironic that Boy Scouts of America is buying clothing from China to sell to parents of kids in America. It is a sign of the times, and parents need to be vigilant when it comes to toys and clothing for their kids this season!

12,000 Disney Fairies Plastic Racing Trikes Recalled

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Kiddieland Toys of Scituate, Massachusetts, have announced a recall of 12,000 Disney Fairies Plastic Racing Trikes due to a laceration hazard. 9,000 Disney Princess Trikes were also recalled in April 2011.

Several plastic fairy figures stand on the top of the handle bar which poses a laceration hazard should a child fall on them. The company and the CPSC have received one report of injury to a 3-year-old child who suffered a facial laceration near her right eye.

The Disney Fairies Plastic Racing Trikes are green and purple with a white seat and yellow wheels. There is a Tinkerbell figure on top of the handlebar and three other rotating fairy figures. “Disney Fairies” is printed on the label in front of the trike just below the handlebar.

This toy was manufactured in China. Disney had licensed the use of its name to Kiddieland. This recall does not include the new model Princess Trikes. The Disney Fairies Plastic Racing Trikes were sold at Target stores throughout the U.S. from July through December 2009 for about $50.

Parents should immediately remove the trikes from childrens’ access and contact Kiddieland for a free replacement handlebar with an enclosed rotating display. Consumers may contact Kiddieland at (800) 430-5307 or visit the firm’s website at

Photos of the Disney Fairies Plastic Trikes may be viewed by going to the CPSC website:

Cases of Pertussis on the Rise

It was recently reported in Virginia that cases of Pertussis (also known as “Whooping Cough”) are on the increase, with 28 cases reported in the Central Shenandoah Valley Health District alone for the month of September and 246 cases reported statewide for the first 9 months of 2011.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease common in the United States which can be fatal for infants or young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “periodic epidemics of pertussis occur every 3 to 5 years and frequent outbreaks. In 2010, 27,550 cases of pertussis were reported–and many more cases go unreported.”

A most pronounced symptom is severe coughing which causes children to make a distinctive whooping sound when attempting to breathe. The symptoms of pertussis are similar to those of a bad cold and may remain for several weeks, even sometimes up to 100 days. Because infants and young children are small, their airways are also small; if the airways become inflamed, the inflammation can literally cut off their air supply, according to Dr. Douglas Larsen director of the Central Shenandoah Valley Health District. (The Daily News Record, November 8, 2011, p. B1) Larsen and other pediatricians are encouraging parents to make sure children’s vaccinations are current.

According to the CDC, shortages of the Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (D-Tap) vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) were noted on CDC’s list of vaccine shortages. As of May 2011, there were shortages of both GSK’s syringe and vial presentations of the D-Tap vaccine which were expected to continue through July 2011, but it was noted that GSK expected to be able to meet the demand for routine usage of their vaccines. To date, CDC has not updated the information on the availability of the D-Tap vaccine on their website, so it falls to parents to check with their children’s pediatrician about the pertussis incidence in the area where they live and where their children attend school, and also about the availability of the D-Tap vaccine.

There have been reports that the pertussis vaccine can wear off after three years, according to a September 19, 2011, article in The Deseret News by Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press, was revealed after a serious outbreak of Pertussis occurred in California in 2010, where more than 9,100 people fell ill and 10 babies died. In a study performed by Dr. David Witt, chief of infectious disease at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, San Rafael, California, it was estimated that of the 15,000 children studied, 80 percent of the children studied who got Pertussis were fully vaccinated. “Versions of the vaccine are made by two companies — Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline. Both companies have acknowledged that the immunity conferred by the vaccine wanes over time,” Stobbe’s article points out.

Now “government health officials recommend that children get vaccinated against whooping cough in five doses, with the first shot at age 2 months and the final one between 4 and 6 years. Then children may get a booster shot at ages 11-12.” CDC is encouraging children entering the sixth grade to get the D-Tap vaccine to protect against whooping cough. CDC officials stress that the vaccination is still much better than nothing — and it reduces how sick a child becomes.

Of Hexbugs and Buttons

It used to be that the end of Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the holiday season, but, as I was reminded by Jingle Bells blaring while shopping this weekend, it has now jumped to the day after Halloween. Hard to get into the holiday mood with the leaves still changing, but I guess the retailers need all the help they can get.  We at will try to get into the spirit with our first holiday season post.

This morning, I was replacing the batteries in one of my son’s favorite toys – Hexbugs. As I unscrewed the cover, I was disappointed to find it used a button battery. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, because they are so small that nothing else could probably fit. Still, it worried me that these tiny, shiny batteries are making it into more and more toys, because they are quite dangerous for children.

Last year, Marianne wrote a short piece cautioning parents and caregivers about these coin-sized (and smaller) batteries that power everything from watches to led flashlights to hearing aids. A recent study by Dr. Toby Litovitz of the National Capital Poison Control Center found “button battery-related incidents resulting in severe injury and fatality have increased sevenfold since 1985.” Data show that most choking incidents with button batteries involve children under the age of four. While a button battery, if swallowed, usually may pass through the intestine, the problem is not only the possibility of choking. If the battery becomes lodged in the throat or intestine, it can produce and release hydroxide and cause dangerous chemical burns.

So, with the holiday season approaching and family and friends purchasing gift toys and technology items that use these batteries, we are again raising the red flag on “button” batteries for parents and caregivers.

Here are some tips offered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and that parents and caregivers can use to make sure children do not unintentionally ingest button batteries:

· If you use button batteries at all, please make sure to dispose of them carefully.

· Do not allow children to play with button batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child’s reach.

· Check the toys your children receives over the holidays for the kinds of batteries that are used.

· Caution hearing aid users to keep hearing aids and batteries out of the reach of children.

· Never put button batteries in your or anyone else’s mouth for any reason as they are easily accidentally swallowed. You need to set an example for your children. (Some children think button batteries look like candy.)

· Always check medications before ingesting them. Adults have swallowed button batteries, too, mistaking them for pills or tablets.

· Keep remotes and other electronic gadgets 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 you’re the National Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.

Meanwhile, from all of us at, have a safe and happy ramp-up to the holiday season!

BPA Revisited

BPA Revisited

It’s not as though people hadn’t begun to suspect there might be something negative linked to the presence of BPA in plastic water bottles and can linings. The Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Safety tips website has an entire page devoted to BPA noting that “BPA is a chemical that has been used for more than 40 years in the manufacture of many hard plastic food containers such as baby bottles and reusable cups and the lining of metal food and beverage cans, including canned liquid infant formula. Trace amounts of BPA can be found in some foods packaged in these containers.”

There have been some hints along the way that human and animal exposure to BPA in varying degrees might not be too good. Previously performed studies have linked the chemical BPA to asthma in young children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have compiled data on BPA, otherwise known as bisphenol A, exposure, which show that nearly all Americans have a measurable amount of the chemical in their systems.

Findings of a recent scientific study published in the journal, Pediatrics, this week highlight questions about the use of BPA by pregnant women and BPA’s effects on their young children. The Time Health™ website, a division of Time Magazine, noted this study “promise[s] to heat up” the debate over the safety of the use of BPA.

The study, performed by research fellow Joe Braun of the Harvard School for Public Health, found that among “a group of 244 moms with higher BPA levels during pregnancy and their three year olds” (whose BPA levels were also measured), “moms with higher BPA levels were more likely to have children who were aggressive, anxious and hyperactive and showed poor emotional control, compared with moms with lower levels of BPA.” The effect was more striking in girls than in boys. “Girls in the study were more than twice as likely as boys to show anxiety and depression if their mothers had been exposed to BPA.” The study points to the importance of the relationship of healthfulness in pregnancy to early brain development.  Braun stated, “It’s possible that the brain is more vulnerable to the effects of BPA during certain parts of pregnancy, such as the early stages, and not as vulnerable later.”

Certainly, the results of this study are daunting and something pregnant women should pay attention to, but can we always tell if BPA is in our water bottles or cans?  HHS says that we should note that plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom.  “In general, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA.  Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.”  And to minimize exposure, parents and caregivers can do the following:

  • Do not put very hot or boiling liquid that you intend to consume in plastic containers made with BPA.  BPA levels rise in food when containers/products made with the chemical are heated and come in contact with the food.
  • Discard all bottles with scratches, as these may harbor bacteria and, if BPA-containing, lead to greater release of BPA.

Of course, these suggestions are only good if you can identify the bottles and cans that contain BPA.  If you can’t tell, we suggest that you stick to glass containers of baby foods and/or containers you know do not contain BPA–or containers to use to feed baby, (such as glass or stainless steel or china), that can be washed with hot, soapy water and rinsed before and after using.