All posts by Maggie Pearson

Study Finds Possible Link Between Mothers Taking Antidepressants While Pregnant and Children with Autism!

CNN’s American Morning’s (Christine Romans’) sound bite on a possible link between pregnant mothers taking antidepressants giving birth to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), set off some loud alarm bells in many homes throughout the country.  This morning, CNN’s Romans synopsized a study the results of which signal the possibility that pregnant women taking antidepressants which are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa, may give birth to children with autism.

The lead author of this study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Lisa Croen, PhD, director of autism research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, noted “This is the first study of its kind to look at the association, and the findings have to be interpreted with a lot of caution.” She also noted that causality could not be definitely attributed using the results of a single study.

The study suggests that use of antidepressants during early pregnancy may pose a greater risk of ASD to the child.  In this study of less than 300 children who have ASD, children exposed to the drugs during the first trimester were nearly four times more likely to develop an ASD, compared with unexposed children.

The study’s researchers found that “any exposure to the drugs in the womb increased the risk of ASD diagnosis 2.2-fold, while first-trimester exposure increased the risk 3.8-fold.”  Slightly more than 2 percent of all autism cases among children born in the late 1990s could be attributed to SSRI exposure, Croen and her colleagues estimate.”  And, she says, this percentage could be higher today, “because SSRI use during pregnancy has become more common.” A study in 2005 study found that 6.5 percent of pregnant women were taking SSRIs.

While physicians aren’t quite ready to tell pregnant mothers to stop using antidepressants, the results of this study should be noted and definitely will spawn further research into the possible link between the use of antidepressants by pregnant women and ASD in their offspring. will continue to keep its blog followers posted on the results of additional  research in this possible link between antidepressants and ASD.

Summer Sun… and Sunscreens

Recently, the use of sunscreens for children and adults has been in the news as one might expect this time of year.  On June 14, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published an important announcement about the labeling on sunscreens.  Parents may want to know what this change in sunscreen labeling means for them and their families. Sunscreens will soon have to have appropriate labeling as to the actual SPF levels and whether or not a sunscreen is actually “broad spectrum” protection or not.

Parents need to know that some sunscreen products protect against only UVB rays while others protect against UVA (which are more damaging) and UVB rays. The FDA, however, now will require sunscreen manufacturers “to prove their product effectively protects against both forms of dangerous ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) before they can claim to protect against skin cancer and other sun damage, as well as sunburn.

Beginning next summer, parents will be able to purchase sunscreens with an SPF of at least 15 that show the words, “broad spectrum”, on the label. (SPF, or sun-protection factor, is represented as a number, such as 15, 30 or 50, indicating the degree of sunburn protection provided by a sunscreen.) SPF is related to the total amount of sun exposure rather than the length of time of sun exposure.

Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says “These changes to sunscreen labels are an important part of helping consumers have the information they need so they can choose the right sun protection for themselves and their families.”   Dr. Woodcock also noted that “most skin cancers are caused by sun exposure.” “Not only should consumers regularly apply and reapply sunscreens with Broad Spectrum and SPF of 15 or higher, they should also limit sun exposure.”

So, while the FDA is busy regulating sunscreens, parents are busy trying to protect their young children’s skin.  Vince Iannelli, MD, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that there are some basic things parents should do to protect kids against harmful UV (ultraviolet) radiation exposure, and they are:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater, with both UVA and UVB protection;
  • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen at one time for a child;
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or more if your child goes swimming or perspires;
  • Limit children’s sun exposure and encourage the wearing of hats, sunglasses and other protective clothing when possible! wishes you a safe, healthy, happy and sunny summer!

B-Nimble Strollers Recalled by CPSC and Britax Child Safety Inc.

A recall notice was issued on June 23, 2011, by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Health Canada, and Britax Child Safety Inc. of Charlotte, North Carolina, recalling 20,000 B-Nimble strollers in the United States and approximately 8,000 strollers in Canada, manufactured by Britax Child Safety, Inc. of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The reason for this particular recall is possible brake failure of the stroller, which could endanger a child occupant.  “An audible click heard when the brake pedal is depressed could give a false impression that the brake is fully engaged, when it is not. When the brake is not engaged, the stroller can move unexpectedly posing the risk of injury to the child occupant.”

The stroller was manufactured in China and imported to the U.S. by Britax Child Safety.  The stroller was sold at retail stores nationwide for approximately $200 from September 2010 to June 2011.  These strollers were manufactured on or after August 1, 2010, and possessed model numbers: U311771, U311773, U311775 and U311780.

Consumers are advised to stop using these strollers immediately. Consumers may contact Britax for more information and to receive an improved replacement stroller by calling Britax toll-free at (888) 427-4829 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and, or visiting the firm’s website at

To view photos of the B-Nimble stroller, please visit the CPSC website at:   As always, the CPSC wants to remind consumers that it is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Tamper-Resistant Electric Receptacles–Important Safety Feature, Especially for Children, Required in New Homes!

The National Fire Protection Association says, “Each year, approximately 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns when they stick items into the slots of electrical receptacles. It is estimated that there are 6 to 12 child fatalities a yearrelated to electrical shock due to young children placing items into electrical sockets.  According to one recent Anthony Dawes YouTube video, many of these injuries occur to young children–mostly boys age 3 and under!

The NFPA also notes that owners of homes and apartments tend to change and no matter whether a family has children or not, new dwellings are required to have the tamper-resistant receptacles in all new dwellings. This change to the National Electrical Code became effective in 2008, and while plastic caps and sliding outlet covers are good, they need to be tamper proof to protect young children especially.

It should also be noted that exposure to electrical shock and burn accidents are not limited to a child’s own home, as children frequently visit homes of relatives and friends who may or may not have children. The National Electrical Code® Article 406.11 requirement for tamper-proof receptacles ensures all new homes and apartments are safer for children, whether they are in their own home or they are visiting other homes.

So, if you have an older home, at a minimum, to keep young children safe, get the plastic caps or install new sliding outlet covers, but for maximum protection, have your electrician install the tamper-resistant outlets and urge relatives and friends with young children to be aware of this requirement as well.

Recall of 30,000 Metal Futon Bunk Beds by Big Lots

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in conjunction with BigLots of Columbus, Ohio, has announced the recall of approximately 30,000 metal futon bunk beds sold by BigLots due to a child’s entrapment death.

The problem with this bunk bed is that a child (behind the futon or in the ladder area) can and did become entrapped when the futon and its metal frame were lowered from the seated to the flat position. A three-year old Burlington, Iowa, boy died after becoming entrapped at the head and neck in the bunk bed in March of 2010. The weight of the futon’s metal frame prevented the child from breathing and escaping. Another hazard with this particular bunk bed is that the space between the last rung on the bunk bed’s ladder and the futon mattress is too small, creating a space for a child’s head and neck to become entrapped.  So, in a word, these bunk beds are “hazardous” to young children.

The bunk beds hold twin mattresses, and the bottom bunks have a convertible futon bed.  The model number BFB1008 can be located on a label on the bed’s upper bunk support rail. The recalled metal futon bunk beds weremanufactured in China, imported and sold exclusively by Big Lots stores nationwide from January 2009 through April 2010 for approximately $200 unassembled.

As with any recall, consumers are advised to stop using these bunk beds immediately and to contact BigLots for a repair kit which contains new ladders and other parts which can be assembled at home. For additional information on this recall, consumers may

contact Big Lots toll-free at (866) 244-5687 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, e-mail the firm at or visit the firm’s website

To view a photo of the particular metal bunk bed, please go to:

In’s opinion if we had purchased such a set of bunk beds, rather than repairing it or using it at all, we would pack it up and send it back to BigLots!  We also think that at some point in time this country is going to have to take a stand vis à vis the safety of Chinese products being imported into the U.S.

End of the School Year: What to do to keep kids safe over the summer!

Teaching your kids about safety is one summer pastime that we encourage parents to do.  Summer means children may be out of daycare and out of school, at home spending more of their time with family, caregivers and babysitters, especially if parents are working.  And parents want to make certain their kids are happily busy doing something healthy and safe, and participating in a pastime that they and you appreciate–whether it’s playing with friends, building a sandcastle, hunting for fireflies, or enjoying family outings.

President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Ernie Allen says, “Child safety is important all year, but summer is an especially important time for parents and children to include safety in their activities.” “Always listen to your children and keep the lines of communication open. Your children are your best source for determining if everything is okay. Teach your children to get out of dangerous or uncomfortable situations right away and practice basic safety skills with them. Make sure they know they are able to tell you about anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.”  NCMEC’s 10-point Child Safety checklist below is great for parents to review and use to keep kids safe this summer[1]:

1.         MAKE SURE children know their full names, address, telephone numbers and how to use the telephone.

2.       BE SURE children know what to do in case of an emergency and how to reach you using cell phone or pager number. Children should have a neighbor or trusted adult  they may call if they’re scared or there’s an emergency.

3.         REVIEW the rules with your children about whose homes they may visit and discuss the boundaries of where they may and may not go in the neighborhood.

4.         MAKE SURE children know to stay away from pools, creeks, or any body of water without adult supervision.

5.         CAUTION children to keep the door locked and not to open the door or talk to anyone who comes to the door when they are home alone.*

6.         DON’T drop your children off at malls, movies, video arcades or parks as these are not safe places for children to be alone. Make sure a responsible adult is supervising younger children any time they are outside or away from home.

7.         TEACH your children in whose vehicle they may ride. Children should be cautioned to never approach any vehicle, occupied or not, unless accompanied by a parent or other trusted adult.

8.         BE SURE your children know their curfew and check in with you if they are going to be late. If children are playing outside after dark, make sure they wear reflective clothing and stay close to home.

9.         CHOOSE babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and       neighbors. Many states now have registries for public access to check criminal history or sex-offender status. Observe the babysitter’s interaction with your children, and ask your children how they feel about the babysitter.

10.        CHECK out camp and other summer programs before enrolling your children. See if a    background screening check is completed on the individuals working with the children.   Make sure there will be adult supervision of your children at all times, and make sure you are made aware of all activities and field trips offered by the camp or program.

* And if you don’t have to leave your children at home alone, don’t. Always make sure there is someone with them if you can’t be, hopefully, a trusted adult, babysitter, family member, or caregiver.  Thank you and keep safe this summer! With grateful thanks to Ernie Allen and all the wonderful people at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for the work they do!

No Energy Drinks! Nada… None!

–“Kids should not have energy drinks!”

I don’t know about you folks, but I am so relieved. Everyone interested in child safety and health has been awaiting the report by the American Academy of Pediatrics with baited breath!  And the APA says, “Kids shouldn’t have energy drinks at all and only need sports drinks occasionally.” Phew, I was beginning to wonder.

For years, doctors have warned parents and caregivers about giving kids too much sugar in candy, snacks, ice cream, sodas, sweetened juices and other foods; the evils of high fructose corn syrup and caffeine have been preached to us almost incessantly by nutrition activists–and then into the marketplace–as if in defiance of everything we’ve been taught–come energy drinks for kids.  You could have knocked me over with a feather! Caffeine and other stimulants contained in energy drinks “have no place in the diet of children and adolescents,” cautioned Marcie Beth Schneider, MD, of Greenwich Adolescent Medicine in Greenwich, Conn., and colleagues.  (I’m thinking we should recommend Marcie Beth for something in the order of sainthood.)

The APA says, “Frequently downing Gatorade, Powerade and other sports drinks can substantially boost risk of weight problems for the average child.” And here in the U.S. the problems associated with childhood obesity have increased in the past decade in geometric proportions! (APA says the exception to that statement is youth athletes who participate in regular, high-intensity sports and may benefit from electrolyte-replacing drinks following sports activity.)

But what the APA says parents really need to be aware of is that “sports and energy drinks are being marketed to kids for a wide variety of inappropriate uses.” Energy drink advertisements target kids’ desire to excel in sports, suggesting better athletic performance and replacement of fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, as well as a boosting energy, enhancing concentration and mental alertness.” Nice huh… and meanwhile as sports enthusiasts, parents are concerned about a trend in adult sports figures (who shall remain nameless) consuming performance enhancing drugs in everything from bicycling competitions to baseball… Wouldn’t sanctioning energy drinks be kind of like programming our kids to do the same when they become adult sports enthusiasts or athletes?

One survey cited by the APA report says that “56.4% of U.S. kids drink sports beverages and 42.3% consume energy drinks.”  To me, those are startling figures!  And while sports drinks may contain around 70 calories per serving, energy drinks may contain as much as 270 calories per serving… whoa Nellie!  And the latter may contain–are you ready–stimulants like caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, L-carnitine, and creatine.  This raises a whole host of issues in my book.

So, parents, if you want more information on the APA report, go to: Schneider MB, et al “Clinical report-Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate?” Pediatrics 2011; 127: 1182-1189.   But with this report, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, that water is still the best choice of drink for our kids!

Kids and Pesticides–Things Parents Should Know!

Recently, in an article for Bottom Line’s Daily Health News (May 19, 2011), the work of Dr. David Pimentel, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York,[1] was referenced regarding the increasing concern about pesticides in the environment and what concentrations of pesticides over time do to adults and children. There is serious concern about the effects of exposure to pesticides in young children, as children are growing!

While it’s been almost 40 years since the 1972 ban by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the regular use of the pesticide DDT (Its chemical name is 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis-(p-chlorophenyl) ethane.), DDT is still used in other countries to combat insects which carry diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Yet, since 1972, pesticide use in the U.S. has not declined but increased.  In fact, about 70,000 chemicals are in use today in different pesticides and herbicides and some are known carcinogens.

There is new research linking pesticides to diseases and unhealthy conditions other than cancer, such as Parkinson’s Disease, dementia and infertility in men. In “Pesticides and Risk of Parkinson’s Disease”(J. Firestone et al, American Medical Association, 2005), the authors find pesticide exposures are suspected risk factors for Parkinsonism.  In children, however, the problem of pesticides, Dr. Pimentel says, is “amplified” compared with adults, as children actually consume more food in proportion to their body weight than adults, so they receive a proportionally greater amount of food exposed to pesticides or herbicides. A study in children found that the body fluids of “children eating a variety of conventional foods contained markers for organophosphates, a lethal pesticides used to disable the nervous system of pests.”[2] When the same children’s diets were changed “to only organic foods, the chemicals disappeared from their bodies within 36 hours.”[3] While pesticides have been tagged as contributors to the increased incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, they continue to be used and their use continues to be scrutinized by scientists in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as by university laboratory scientists like Dr. Pimentel.

While newer pesticides and herbicides on the market are used in lesser concentrations than DDT was used, some of the newer pesticides and herbicides are more toxic, such as paraquat and rotenone.  So what should parents and caregivers do to protect children from at least some of the effects of pesticides and herbicides found in/on foods?

  • Thoroughly washing and peeling fruits and vegetables helps, but some toxins present while the vegetables and fruits were growing can still be present in the plant.
  • Preparing foods less likely to retain pesticide residue following washing/peeling such as onions, avocados, corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Some of these have thick skins which are often removed before consumption and which protect the food, while others may be sprayed less as they generally experience less predation by insects.
  • Knowing and avoiding fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides and purchasing more organic fruits and vegetables can help eliminate 80 percent of the pesticide exposure in foods.  Conventional fruits and vegetables which have the greatest exposure to pesticides include:  Celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes, grapes, carrots.

[1]“What You Should Know About Pesticide Dangers”, Bottom Line’s Daily Health News (May 19, 2011) Resource: David Pimentel, PhD, professor, department of entomology, systematics and ecology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

2 Ibid.

3 Op. Cit.

Urgent for Moms of Infants! Warning about SimplyThick product

If you have a product called “SimplyThick” in your kitchen cabinet and you are about to use it or add it to milk or formula for your infant or premature baby–DO NOT!  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about this product as it is believed to have caused a life-threatening intestinal condition, according to the LA Times Health Key reporter, Marissa Cevallos in her article May 23, 2011, called necrotizing enterocolitis in infants, especially premature babies, and, sadly, two babies who received the SimplyThick product have succumbed due to this condition.

The Food and Drug Administration issued the warning May 20, 2011, warning physicians and parents against giving the thickening agent to premature babies. Thomas Maugh, II, of the Los Angeles Times in his article of May 20, 2011, noted that “The product is frequently added to thin foods, such as breast milk or infant formula, to make them easier to ingest for people who have swallowing difficulties.”,0,603801.story

As learns more about this particular warning, we will keep you posted!

FDA Advisory Committees Vote to Recommend Dosing Info Change on Children’s Meds

Two FDA advisory committees, the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and the Pediatric Advisory Committee–voted this week to recommend that dosing information for children 6 months to 2 years old be added to all over-the-counter children’s medicines containing acetaminophen, a change approved by doctors as well as the drug manufacturers. The meeting focused on liquid children’s medicines, which have never contained dosing information for children under 2 years of age, according to an article by Matthew Perrone, the Associated Press health reporter, in The Boston Globe of May 14, 2011.

The FDA advisory committees held the two-day joint meeting in order to hear testimony from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, McNeil Consumer Healthcare (manufacturer of Children’s Tylenol) and the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (AAP). This after years of parental and caregiver confusion over which and how much medicine to give young children, often due to confusing dosing language in medicine packaging.

Parents and caregivers will remember reported some children’s “cold” medicines were removed from the marketplace (more than once and for different reasons) during the past two years.  The Consumer Healthcare Products Association now touts single-ingredient pediatric liquid acetaminophen medicines as “safe and effective” and recognized that parents and caregivers need information to dose the medicines appropriately “to make them most helpful for children.”

In his statement to the joint meeting, as reported by Caitlin Hagan of CNN,  Dr. Daniel A.C. Frattarelli, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Drugs, said the AAP supports using weight-based dosing for children “because it is a better method” to determine the amount of medicine a child should receive. “Caregivers who understand that dosing should be based on weight rather than age are much less likely to give an incorrect dose.”

One recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in November 2010, in response to unintentional drug overdoses of children by parents and caregivers administering over-the-counter children’s medicines found that there was a prevalence of inconsistent dosing directions and measuring devices among popular pediatric medicines. [Evaluation of Consistency in Dosing Directions and Measuring Devices for Pediatric Nonprescription Liquid Medications; H. Shonna Yin, Michael S. Wolf, Bernard P. Dreyer, Lee M. Sanders and Ruth M. Parker (JAMA. 2010;304(23):2595-2602. Published online November 30, 2010. doi: 10.1001/jama. 2010.1797.]

The FDA advisory committees also noted that parents have given their children the incorrect dose of medicine much of the time because the dosing instructions are confusing. While the committee members did not make any final recommendations, they discussed ways to improve the labels, including standardizing measuring units (millileters as opposed to “teaspoons”) for all children’s medicines and offering dosing instructions with illustrations. applauds any move to reduce parental and caregiver confusion in this area whether it is regulation of the allowable amounts of certain medicines to be given to children, less confusing dosing language in packaging and/or pre-measurement of dosages that would make dispensing children’s medicines more accurate, effective and helpful to children.  We simply wish these ground-breaking recommendations could have come sooner–for kids’, parents’ and caregivers’ sakes.