Friday, April 4th, 2014
Significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic chemicals often found in household cleansers and paints, have been found in the polyurethane foam and polyester foam padding materials found in many crib mattresses. More on the new study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin:
The researchers studied samples of polyurethane foam and polyester foam padding from 20 new and old crib mattresses. Graduate student Brandon Boor, in the Cockrell School’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, conducted the study under the supervision of assistant professor Ying Xu and associate professor Atila Novoselac. Boor also worked with senior researcher Helena Järnström from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. They reported their findings in the February issue of Environmental Science & Technology.
The researchers found:
- New crib mattresses release about four times as many VOCs as old crib mattresses.
- Body heat increases emissions.
- Chemical emissions are strongest in the sleeping infant’s immediate breathing zone.
The researchers concluded that, on average, mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 87.1 micrograms per square meter per hour, while older mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 22.1 micrograms per square meter per hour. Overall, Boor said crib mattresses release VOCs at rates comparable to other consumer products and indoor materials, including laminate flooring (20 to 35 micrograms per square meter per hour) and wall covering (51 micrograms per square meter per hour).
Boor became motivated to conduct the study after finding out that infants spend 50 to 60 percent of their day sleeping. Infants are considered highly susceptible to the adverse health effects of exposure to indoor air pollutants.
“I wanted to know more about the chemicals they may inhale as they sleep during their early stages of development,” he said. “This research also helps to raise awareness about the various chemicals that may be found in crib mattresses, which are not typically listed by manufacturers.”
The 20 mattress samples are from 10 manufacturers. The researchers chose not to disclose the names of the manufacturers studied so that their results could draw general attention to the product segment without focusing on specific brands.
At present, not much is known about the health effects that occur from the levels of VOCs found in homes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Researchers advised parents to allow new mattresses to air out in a garage or protected porch for as long a period as possible before placing it in a child’s crib.
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Image: Baby in crib, via Shutterstock
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Friday, April 4th, 2014
A number of programs that send trained volunteers to the homes of new moms to help out and dispense advice and support will receive federal funding for another 6 months, following a Congressional vote to extend the funds. More from The New York Times:
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Similar community models [to a New Hampshire program called Good Beginnings] make the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs funded through the federal-state partnership successful, said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund. “In Utah, state organizations noticed a high rate of infant mortality among the Asian Pacific Islander population. For that group, the best messenger is the aunt or grandmother — a registered nurse might not be as effective as a trained parent educator.” Federal funds went to a program designed to understand the community it was trying to reach. “They were able to greatly reduce infant mortality rates,” Ms. Perry said. In the mid-2000s, the infant mortality rate for Pacific Islander families in Utah was more than double the statewide rate. Just a few years later, it was lower than the rate in the rest of the state, with nearly 48 percent more babies living.
In a bipartisan vote, Congress approved a six-month extension of the federal funding that goes to the programs, which would have run out in September 2013. That means it will be months before program directors and employees will once again have to turn their attention to securing their funding for another year — months that can be spent on work that increases family self-sufficiency, reduces medical costs and even lessens the need for remedial education for the children in participating families.
Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Boys who start smoking before age 11–very young smokers–are far more likely to have sons who battle weight and obesity issues, according to a new British study. The finding puts emphasis on a growing body of research supporting the idea that childhood habits can affect the health of offspring years down the line. More from Reuters:
The scientists said the findings, part of ongoing work in a larger “Children of the 90s” study, could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty in men may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation.
“This discovery of transgenerational effects has big implications for research into the current rise in obesity and the evaluation of preventative measures,” said Marcus Pembrey, a professor of genetics at University College London, who led the study and presented its findings at a briefing on Wednesday.
Smoking rates in Britain and some other parts of Europe are on the decline, but worldwide, almost one billion men smoke – about 35 percent of men in developed countries and 50 percent in developing ones, according to the World Health Organization.
While previous studies in animals and in people have found some transgenerational health impacts, the evidence so far is limited. It points, however, to epigenetics – a process where lifestyle and environmental factors can turn certain genes on or off – having an effect on the health of descendants.
Pembrey said his team’s research was prompted in part by signals from earlier Swedish studies that linked how plentiful a paternal ancestor’s food supply was in mid childhood with future death rates in grandchildren.
For the new study, published in the European Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers had access to detailed lifestyle, genetic and other health data from 9,886 fathers.
Of these, 5,376, or 54 percent, were smokers at some time and of those, 166, or 3 percent, said they had started smoking regularly before the age of 11.
Looking at the next generation, the team found that at age 13, 15 and 17, the sons of men who started smoking before 11 had the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) scores compared with the sons of men who had started smoking later or who had never smoked.
“These boys had markedly higher levels of fat mass – ranging from an extra five kilograms (kg) to 10kg between ages 13 and 17,” the study said.
Although it was there, the effect was not seen to the same degree in daughters.
Image: Young man smoking, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
An after-school exercise program has shown promising results in helping children lose weight and improve heart and lung strength. More from Reuters:
It’s clear that activity is good for kids, lead author Naiman A. Khan told Reuters Health. But he was surprised at just how much of a difference this program made.
“We saw their overall body fat, abdominal fat go down, and in the absence of the program kids actually increased in overall body fat,” said Khan, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
For their study, the researchers randomly divided 220 kids ages eight and nine into two groups. One group participated in the FITKids program, which includes 70 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity five times per week for nine months, and the other group did not.
In the exercise group, kids did 20 to 25 minutes of health-related fitness activities plus 50 minutes of organized noncompetitive games meant to keep their hearts beating at 55 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate.
That’s higher than most previous exercise studies have aimed for, which may be why this study got such good results, according to Dianne Stanton Ward of the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill.
Ward studies obesity prevention in children. She was not involved in the new research.
Image: Girl exercising, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Less than a year after being struck by lightning and sustaining a serious brain injury, an Ohio boy is starting to integrate back into his school. ABC News reports:
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Ethan Kadish was simply enjoying a summer day when he suffered a devastating injury. Kadish and two other children were struck by lightning as they played Frisbee at a summer camp last June. Ethan’s heart temporarily stopped, leaving his brain deprived of vitally needed oxygenated blood.
As a result of the oxygen deprivation, Ethan suffered a hypoxic brain injury, which has left him unable to walk or talk. He spent five months in the hospital, and a gastrointestinal perforation put him back in the hospital just 10 days after he was released.
In spite of these setbacks, earlier this month Ethan returned to school, less than a year after his initial injury.
Now in a wheelchair and with a nurse, Kadish is able to attend classes at his middle school three days a week. He cannot talk, but works with teachers in the special education classroom. His mother Alexia Kadish, of Loveland, Ohio., said after just a few weeks at school they have already seen a difference in Ethan.
“It’s been more amazing than we could have imagined,” Kadish said. “We initially thought any sort of schooling would be homebound initially.”
Kadish said Ethan has been sleeping better on days when he’s at school. Ethan also gets visits from his old friends when he’s at school.
Even his younger sister will sometimes walk over from her fifth grade class room to visit him.
Kadish said Ethan’s road to recovery will be a long process and even doctors don’t know exactly how much his brain will recover from the injury. The eighth grader, who loved sports and musicals, no longer speaks but he has started laughing again.
“He laughs a lot. He even accesses the sad side … it’s more a of a pouting cry,” Kadish said. “He’s accessing the emotional areas of his brain. We’re hopeful that it indicates that he’s becoming more present.”