Archive for the ‘
Child Health ’ Category
Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Don’t be surprised if “phthalates-free” labels become more important than ever. A new study released by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City has linked the harmful chemicals to a decrease in children’s IQ, reports HealthDay News. The study was published yesterday in the science journal PLOS ONE.
The study centered on 328 mothers and children from low-income backgrounds in New York City. Researchers analyzed how the exposure to five types of phthalates during the third trimester of each woman’s pregnancy affected her children’s IQ at 7-years-old. Each woman’s urine was measured for chemicals during pregnancy, and later on, each school-age child was given an IQ test.
Results showed that children whose mothers had the highest exposure to two phthalates (DnBP and DiBP) had IQs that were at least 7 points lower than children whose mothers had lower exposure to the chemicals. The three other phthalates (BBP, DEHP, and DEP) did not seem to have any significant affects on children’s intellect.
Phthalates are chemicals that are commonly added to plastics as stabilizers. “Depending on the specific phthalate, they are used to make plastic flexible, as adhesive and as additives to cosmetics, air fresheners and cleaning products, as several ‘hold’ scents,” says Pam Factor-Litvak, Ph.D., the study’s author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. According to the CPSC, paints and inks can contain phthalates. CBSNews adds that the two specific phthalates, DnBP and DiBP, can also be found in products like “vinyl upholstery, shower curtains, plastic food containers, raincoats, dryer sheets…”
Even though this study is not conclusive that pthalates are the definite cause of low intellectual development, the results add to the ongoing belief that exposure to phthalates can have toxic negative long-term affects. Other research studies have shown that phthalates can disrupt hormones, cause physical defects (cleft palates and skeletal malformations), increase asthma, and lead to insulin resistance, reports CBSNews.
Manufacturers are not obligated to include labels that point out their products contain phthalates, but Congress permanently bans three types of phthalates (BBP, DEHP, DBP) from being used in amounts greater than 0.1 percent in children’s toys and children’s products related to feeding, sleeping, sucking, and teething. Three other phthalates (DINP, DIDP, DnOP) are also banned from children’s products on an interim basis. “While these regulatory actions were taken to protect young children, there have been no regulatory actions to protect the developing fetus in utero, which is often the time of greatest susceptibility,” Dr. Factor-Litvak noted.
Avoiding all phthalates is impossible, but it is possible to reduce your exposure to them. Dr. Factor-Litvak suggests that food never be microwaved in plastic containers and that scented products (such as personal care and cleaning products) never be used. Also, “avoid use of plastics labeled as #3, #6 and #7 as these contain phthalates as well as BPA (bisphenol A), and store food in glass rather than plastic containers as much as possible,” she adds.
Baby products that don’t contain phthalates:
Image: Group of pregnant bellies via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Can birth weight affect your child’s future academic performance? A new large-scale study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University says yes.
According to a news release:
The research suggests that babies who weigh more at birth have higher test scores from third through eighth grade. The relationship is apparent even among twins; heavier-born twins have higher average test scores in third through eighth grade than their lighter-born twin.
Even the advantage of attending a higher quality school was not enough to compensate for the disadvantage of a lower birth rate, according to the study. The low birth-rate advantage held up across the board for all children — regardless of race, socioeconomic status, enrichment experiences provided by parents, maternal education and a host of other factors.
Researchers merged birth data and school records of all children born in Florida between 1992 and 2002 — that’s more than 1.3 million kids — to reach these conclusions. However, in an article in The New York Times, study co-author David N. Figlio said this is most likely the first of many more studies that will be conducted on this subject, mentioning that weight may just be “a proxy for other aspects of fetal health that more time in the womb would not improve.”
It’s also important to note that babies born at a higher birth weight can also often be, depending on their weight, at an increased risk for a number of other health complications. And birth weight is definitely not the end all, be all for your child’s success in school—take a look at these 15 ways you can boost your child’s success in school.
Photo of little girl courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Monday, November 24th, 2014
For the roughly 10 percent of U.S. children who have been diagnosed with eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, a topical skin treatment is the best way to manage the chronic condition, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests.
While many parents have feared treating their children with topical steroid creams, the AAP reports that they are safe and can be the most effective way to improve quality of life for children who are suffering.
A news release from the AAP states:
Treating atopic dermatitis is important because of the tremendous impact it has on the quality of life of children and their families. Managing the condition can include an action plan for families that includes recommendations on frequency of bathing, prescription medications, moisturizers and antihistamines.
An article published in The Wall Street Journal earlier this month posed the question, “Are You Bathing Your Baby Too Much?” While a number of factors can potentially lead to developing eczema, like genetics, environmental factors like how often your child is bathed can also play a role. The AAP currently recommends bathing your baby three times a week or less, however a study conducted by the market-research firm Mintel Group found that households reported using baby shampoos and bathing products closer to five times a week, according the WSJ.
Several studies as mentioned in Pediatrics have reported that eczema diagnoses among children are on the rise over the past several years, with 65 to 95 percent of eczema cases being diagnosed in children ages 1 to 5 years old.
Does your child have eczema? Read about this mom’s experience with her son’s severe eczema, and be sure to consult your healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding your child’s condition and treatment procedures.
Photo of baby with eczema courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Friday, November 7th, 2014
Is air pollution a factor in causing ADHD? A new study published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE suggests there may be a link.
A news release states:
Prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, a component of air pollution, raises the odds of behavior problems associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, at age 9, according to researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health.
Researchers followed more than 200 women and their children living in New York City. Moms had their placenta and umbilical cord blood tested for PAH levels after birth, and children had their urine tested at ages 3 or 5. The results revealed that PAH exposure during pregnancy lead to a much higher chance (five times higher) chance that a child would develop inattentive-type ADHD, one of three types of ADHD.
“The findings are concerning because attention problems are known to impact school performance, social relationships, and occupational performance,” the study’s lead author Frederica Perera said.
NBC News reports:
PAHs are generated when carbon-based things are burned — from steaks on the grill to coal or oil burned to generate electricity. In New York, “traffic and residential heating are major local sources. There is also some contribution from coal-burning sources in states upwind,” Perera’s team also noted.
It’s not clear yet from this research how exactly PAHs are potentially linked to ADHD, but the study suggests relations to “the disruption of the endocrine system, DNA damage, oxidative stress, and interference with placental growth factors resulting in decreased exchange of oxygen and nutrients.”
Eleven percent of kids ages 4 to 17 (that’s 6.4 million!) have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study from 2013. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, read up on what you need to know here.
Photo of factory smoke courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
It takes just four minutes of physical activity to help a child focus for at least 50 minutes of classroom learning time, according to a recent study from Queen’s University in Canada.
In Ontario, where the study took place, elementary schools are required to have twenty minutes of daily physical activity (DPA), so the researchers said they wanted to determine the best way to use that time.
“Given the time crunch associated with the current school curriculum we thought that very brief physical activity breaks might be an interesting way to approach DPA,” Dr. Brendon Gurd, lead researcher and professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University told PsychCentral. ”We were particularly interested in what effects a brief exercise bout might have in the classroom setting.”
Researchers evaluated small groups of second and fourth graders in their classrooms, giving them either 10-minute breaks with no activity in between or 4-minute “FUNtervals” within their 10-minute breaks that consisted of “a high-intensity interval protocol.”
Activities included lunges, squats, and jumps as part of a fun “task” like imagining making s’mores, PsychCentral reports, with “a 20-second storyline of quick, enthusiastic movements followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight intervals.” None of the activities required extra equipment; all took place inside the classroom.
The study found that fidgeting, drawing, and restlessness decreased significantly after the activity.
Check out these easy and fun ways to get your kids to exercise here.
Photo of kids at recess courtesy of Shutterstock.
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