Thursday, September 4th, 2014
Some common household items could put pregnant women’s unborn children at risk, new research from the the journal Epidemiology shows.
The study found that a woman’s exposure to a group of chemicals called phenols, especially triclosan and parabens, which are found in many soaps and cosmetics, were linked to baby boys’ increased birth weights at birth and also at age 3. Higher birth weights are dangerous as they can indicate future problems, like obesity.
Chemicals in the phenol family are endocrine interrupters, and Science Daily reports that they include:
- Parabens: used as a preservative in cosmetics and healthcare products
- Triclosan: some toothpastes and soaps carry this antibacterial agent and pesticide
- Benzophenone-3: a UV filter found in sun protection products
- Dichlorophenols: used in the manufacture of indoor deodorisers
- Bisphenol A (BPA): used in making polycarbonate-based plastics, like plastic bottles, CD cases, etc.
- Epoxy resins: found in lining of food cans, dental amalgams
And though many of these chemicals may seem unavoidable, there is some good news—BPA in food packaging for infants and young children was banned in 2013 and will be banned for all food packaging starting Jan. 1, 2015.
Photo of liquid soap courtesy of Shutterstock.
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New Research, Parents News Now
Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Parents who are involved in active play with their children during their toddler and preschool years may have better academic performance to look forward to, according to new research by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The findings come from a study of African American boys who were transitioning from preschool to kindergarten.
“The transition to kindergarten can be challenging for many children due to new expectations, social interactions, and physiological changes,” said Iheoma Iruka, the study’s lead author, in a statement. “Transitions may be even more arduous for African American boys, given the many challenges they are likely to face compared to their peers.”
Iruka found four patterns for African American boys after they transitioned—and her team also demonstrated the key role that parenting plays in these outcomes.
Just over half the boys (51%) showed increases in language, reading, and math scores in kindergarten, but a sizeable group (19%) consisted of low achievers in preschool who declined even further academically after transition. The smallest group (11%) included early achievers who declined in kindergarten both academically and behaviorally; by contrast, 20% of the boys in the study comprised a group of early achievers who remained on their high-performing academic and social paths after the transition.
According to Iruka, the results clearly suggest that some African American boys experience challenges to their academic achievement and social skills as they move into to kindergarten.
“In addition, the two groups of early achievers is especially revealing about the importance of effective parenting,” she said. “African American boys from homes where mothers frequently engaged in literacy activities and intentional teaching—and other activities like playing games and taking the child on errands—were likely to be in the high achieving groups.”
Iruka’s study also showed that parent-child interactions influence whether a high-achieving African American boy stays on course.
“It’s important to note that the early achievers who declined academically and socially were more likely to be from homes in which the parents were inattentive,” she said. “The group of boys with detached parents showed a significant decrease in their reading and math scores and an increase in aggression during the preschool-to-kindergarten transition.”
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Image: African American boy, via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 18th, 2013
Boys are slightly more likely than girls to be born prematurely, a new international study on newborn health has found. Additionally, boys don’t tend to fare as well as girls world-wide. More from The Associated Press:
“This is a double whammy for boys,” said Dr. Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who led the team of researchers. “It’s a pattern that happens all over the world.”
The gender difference isn’t large: About 55 percent of preterm births in 2010 were male, the report found. Nor is it clear exactly why it happens.
The finding comes from a series of international studies being published Friday that examine newborn health and prematurity. About 15 million babies worldwide are born too soon, most of them in Africa and parts of Asia where survival is difficult for fragile newborns. Globally, about 1 million babies die as a direct result of preterm birth and another million die of conditions for which prematurity is an added risk, the researchers calculated.
Friday’s report offers some of the first estimates of how many preemie survivors go on to suffer certain disabilities, and found that where these babies are born, and how early, determines their risk.
Overall, Lawn said about 7 percent of survivors have two of the most burdensome disabilities: neurologic-developmental impairment ranging from learning disabilities to cerebral palsy, and vision loss.
But the biggest risk is to the youngest preemies, those born before 28 weeks gestation. Worldwide, 52 percent of them are estimated to have some degree of neurodevelopmental impairment, the report found.
Moreover, the risk of impairment in middle-income countries is double that of wealthy countries like the U.S.
For example, China is saving more preemies’ lives but at the cost of their vision, Lawn said.
Middle-income countries are missing out on a lesson the U.S. learned the hard way several decades ago, that giving these tiny babies too much oxygen can trigger a potentially blinding condition called retinopathy of prematurity.
“Disability is not something that’s inevitable. It’s preventable,” she said, calling for improved quality of care including eye checks to prevent or reduce vision loss.
The March of Dimes reported this month that 11.5 percent of U.S. births now are preterm. That rate is inching down, thanks mostly to fewer babies being born just a few weeks early as standards for elective deliveries have tightened, but it still is higher than in similar countries.
Image: Newborn baby, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 14th, 2013
The blogosphere has lit up over the writings of a South Dakota mom whose blog went from 8 followers to more than 750,000 hits after she wrote a post advocating that boys should be allowed to play with guns, said kids who are being bullied should “toughen up,” and lamented a culture of over-protective parents. More from ABC News:
Stephanie Metz’s maternal outburst has the provocative title, “Why My Kids Are NOT The Center Of My World.”
“I think a lot of people have kids and raising kids is never easy,” Metz, 29, of Rapid City, S.D., told ABC News. “There are many viewpoints, but I think a lot of people agreed with what I said and they just want to share my post.”
Metz was inspired to write her post on Oct. 25 after her son Hendrix, 4, (she has another son Jameson, 2) decided to bring a different object to show and tell, after he told his mother his initial choice may resemble a weapon. That original toy, which is pictured below, may get him in trouble, he told his mother.
This, she writes, is what infuriates her. “How long will it be before their typical boy-ish behavior gets them suspended from school?” she worries.
“The mentality of our society in 2013 is nauseating to me, friends,” Metz writes in her blog.
Metz warns parents that constantly sheltering their children and protecting them from all things “evil” sets a child up for failure.
“Kids are being raised to never have to deal with adversity,” Metz told ABC News. “I don’t think we are raising a generation that will be able to function in the real world.”
“Society is constantly coddling your kids,” Metz said. For example, she says, kids are awarded with trophies even if they didn’t win.
Some of her blog examines the topic of bullying, for which Metz said she has received the most backlash about.
“Understand I am not condoning kids to be cruel to each other, but I think kids need to toughen up when kids are not nice to them,” Metz said.
Read one reaction to Metz’s post here, in which the writer argues that the culture of protection and reaction against all forms of bullying is “more reaction than cause.”
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Monday, September 2nd, 2013
A new government report reveals that a surprising number of boys received the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) last year, the first year that it was recommended for adolescent boys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 5 boys received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, NBC News reports.
Shared through sexual contact, HPV can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts in both sexes, and in rare cases, throat and anal cancer. The vaccine was first recommended for girls ages 11 and 12 beginning in 2006, and then recommended for boys in 2011. More from NBC News:
The shots are largely intended not to protect boys from disease, but to stop them from spreading a sexually transmitted virus to girls that could cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine hasn’t been very popular among girls. The government report issued Thursday is the first real sense of how many boys are getting the shots.
“It’s a good start,” said Shannon Stokley, a vaccination expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Introduced in 2006, the vaccine protects against human papillomavirus, which is spread during sex. Most infections go away on their own, without people developing symptoms. But the virus can cause cervical cancer in females, genital warts in both sexes, and some other, less common conditions like throat and anal cancer.
The vaccine was first recommended for girls ages 11 and 12 because it works best if given before a teen starts to have sex. In 2011, it was also recommended for boys that age to help prevent the virus’s spread.
The CDC report covers vaccination rates for last year, the first full year since the shots were advised for boys. It’s based on telephone calls to families for about 19,000 boys and girls ages 13 to 17.
About 21 percent of the boys had gotten at least one of the three doses. Less than 7 percent were fully vaccinated.
The rates look relatively good compared to the initial rates for some other vaccines aimed at adolescents. For example, the initial rate for a meningococcal vaccine was just 12 percent.
Rates tend to start low when a vaccine is first recommended and build after. So the HPV numbers for boys are reason to be optimistic, said the CDC’s Dr. Melinda Wharton, although she added a word of caution.
“Given how the coverage level has stalled for girls, though, a solid start isn’t enough,” she said.
Image: Three teen boys, via Shutterstock
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