Friday, August 26, 2011

Packing Your Kids' School Lunch Will Kill Them

School lunches are vile and dangerous things that are leading our children down the path of obesity and certain death from cancer before they reach the tender age of 100. That much is a given. So what's a responsible parent to do? Pack your own kid's lunch of course.

Please, though, no peanut butter or any nut products. No violent characters on the lunch box. Actually, the lunch box itself is probably infested with lead and the plastic containers are dripping with BPA.

According to new research by people in white coats, well-meaning parents are unintentionally (perhaps) sending their little ones off to an early grave, or at least the nurse's office, because the lunches are not kept at the proper temperature.

Researchers at the University of Texas (official motto: "Meat Is A Vegetable") report that

More than 90 percent of sack lunches prepared at home and sent with kids to preschool were kept at unsafe temperatures, a new study by nutritional scientists at The University of Texas at Austin found.

The study will be published in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics and was published online Aug. 8.

"Parents need to be aware of how important the storage temperature is for foods they pack for their young children," said Fawaz Almansour, a graduate student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and lead author of the research.

The best storage temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for cold foods and above 140 degrees for hot foods. Between 40 and 140 degrees is the "danger zone."

Study authors suggest that parents and the public need to be educated on safe food packing practices in order to prevent bacteria from growing and potentially causing illness.

Almansour and his colleagues, including Professor Margaret Briley and postdoctoral researcher Sara Sweitzer, collected data on sack lunches from more than 700 preschoolers at nine Texas child care centers. The lunches were measured with noncontact temperature guns [Worried Dad note: They sure do love their guns in Texas] one and one-half hours before the food was served.

They found that while 45 percent of the lunches studied had at least one ice pack, 39 percent had no supplemental ice packs. Even including lunches with ice packs, 88 percent were at room temperature. Less than 2 percent of lunches with perishable items were found to be in a safe temperature zone, while more than 90 percent (even with multiple ice packs) were kept at unsafe temperatures. [Worried Dad note: basically, we're screwed.]

Perishable items studied included meats, cheeses and vegetables. Prepackaged foods produced by manufacturers were not included in the study.

"The simple addition of one extra icepack could have prevented many of the perishable items in lunches from reaching the danger zone," wrote the researchers in their study.

They go on to say that the addition of two or more icepacks in lunches could help prevent food-borne illness in children.

In an aside, inadvertently picked up because they didn't realize their mikes were still plugged in, one of the researchers was overheard muttering "I never realized how much parents hate their kids. I mean, just one ice pack could save all those kids in there. What a loss."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Your kid's car seat is giving her cancer

According to people in White Coats, a chemical used to make all sorts of baby-related things flame resistant, from car seats to high chairs, is suspected of causing cancer.

From the New York Times:

The new research found that foam samples from more than a third of the 101 baby products that were tested contained chlorinated Tris. Over all, 80 of the products contained chemical flame retardants of some kind, some of which are considered toxic, though legal to use. In one instance, flame retardants represented 12 percent of the weight of the foam in a changing pad; most products were closer to 3 to 5 percent.

Among the products examined were changing table pads, sleep positioners, portable mattresses, baby carriers, rocking chairs and highchairs.

Fourteen of the products contained the flame retardant TCEP, which the State of California describes as a cancer-causing agent. Four of them contained Penta-BDE, a flame retardant that builds up in human tissue and that manufacturers voluntarily phased out in 2004; it is banned in many countries, but not the United States, and in some states, including New York.

"Why do you need fire retardant in a nursing pillow?" said Dr. Blum, who is the executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization that brings scientific data about toxic chemicals to policy makers.

"The whole issue is, they are toxic chemicals that are in our homes at high levels; and right now, people don’t know much about it," she said.

But what if a mother accidentally sets her cigarette on her nursing pillow while she reaches for her margarita? What about that????

Last year, California exempted strollers, nursing pillows and baby carriers from the flammability standard. Dr. Blum characterized the exemption as a positive step, though she noted that many other baby products were not exempted and it was not yet clear if manufacturers had stopped using flame retardants in those products.

Dr. Blum is among a group of academics and environmentalists who argue that the California standard exposes people and their pets to toxic chemicals. The flame retardants can migrate from furniture to household dust, and can be ingested by people and pets.

Some of the chemicals used in flame retardants are suspected carcinogens, and studies have linked the chemicals to variety of health issues, including problems with fertility and neurological development, the authors of Wednesday's journal article said.

Heather M. Stapleton, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Duke University and the lead author, complained that current federal oversight of chemicals is so weak that manufacturers are not required to label products with flame retardants nor are they required to list what chemicals are used.

Under current law, it is difficult for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to ban or restrict chemicals. Even now, the agency has yet to ban asbestos, widely known to cause cancer and other lung diseases.

"We can buy things that are BPA free, or phthalate free or lead free. We don’t have the choice to buy things that are flame-retardant free," Dr. Stapleton said. "The laws protect the chemical industry, not the general public."

When can we start buying baby products that will spontaneously combust in a cloud of cancer?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Million Dollar Apps

Remember the old bumper sticker that says "I'm spending my kids' inheritance"? Turns out that the little rugrats are turning the tables and spending our retirement money. But instead of spending it all at the local head shop like I did my friends did, kids these days are blowing them all on Apps for their smart phones.

According to the Washington Post,

Over the winter break from school, 8-year-old Madison worked to dress up her simple mushroom home on the iPhone game Smurfs' Village. In doing so, she also amassed a $1,400 bill from Apple. was raising alarms about this about two months before The Post got on the case. Of course, you could read all about it on The Post's own iPad App for just $3.99 a month.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Playboy Mansion Hit With Really Boring Illness

What's the world coming to? People who have visited the Playboy Mansion are reporting that they have been struck by a disease, and it's just a respiratory illness. And they got it at a conference. Don't they understand that "social disease" is supposed to be a euphemism?

Plus, why do all these women have a great-grandpa fetish? Eww.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New York Times is worried your kid will bump into the coffee table

For real.

They plastered it all over the Home and Garden section.

You can read the whole story here, but it's basically a long variation on this:

Do not be fooled. The coffee table means your children harm. And when it attacks, results can be ugly.

Last year, 143,070 children age 5 and younger visited emergency rooms after table accidents, according to estimates from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Coffee tables, in particular, turn up in more than a quarter of the accident reports, in the commission’s sample count.

The safety commission recommends that parents install bumpers on the corners and edges of their tables. Do they work? Who knows? Perhaps style-savvy children can be repelled by things that are ugly and made of foam.

Coming next week: It's all fun and games until somebody pokes their eye out!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Alcohol will kill you dead or save your life

A new study by people in white coats reports that alcohol is more destructive than crack or heroin. According to the study in the British medical journal The Lancet (typical Brits to name a medical journal after a "small and extremely sharp bladed instrument used for surgery or anatomical dissection") alcohol outranked such sentimental favorites as heroin, crystal meth, marijuana cigarettes (or whatever those damn hippies are calling them these days), and crack.

While some on the list were more harmful than alcohol to the health of the individual user, booze outranked them all when you combined the negative impacts to both the individual and society.

Hungover readers of Worried Dad may have a hazy recollection of my post about two months ago that Not drinking alcohol can kill you.

Interestingly, LSD was ranked as pretty benign overall, leading study author T. Francis Leary to suggest that we all start dropping acid instead of Jagerbombs.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BPA to sperm: DROP DEAD

According to the latest reports from people in White Coats, workers in Chinese factories that process BPA-laden products had two to four times lower quality sperm, including lower sperm counts, than workers in factories that don't deal with BPA. Those with the worst sperm also had the highest levels of BPA.

The report was published by the Journal of Fertility and Sterility. Oddly, the article The impact of luteal phase support on gene expression of extracellular matrix protein and adhesion molecules in the human endometrium during the window of implantation following controlled ovarian stimulation with a GnRH antagonist protocol, also in the current issue, hasn't generated any press coverage.

Asked to comment on the possibility that BPA can lower sperm counts, study author Dr. De-Kun Li simply responded "That can't be good."

BPA apologist and spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council Stephen Hentges probably had the same thought. However, he is quoted in media reports as saying "This study of Chinese workers with high exposure to BPA is of limited relevance to consumers who, by contrast, are exposed to only very low levels of BPA."

"I mean is there really an American consumer who worries about the welfare of factory workers who make their cheap consumer crap?" Hentges inferred but did not actually say.

Li, who isn't on the BPA industry payroll had this to say:

"When you see this kind of association with semen you have to wonder what else BPA has an effect on," says Li. As a precautionary principle, he adds, "Everybody should avoid BPA as much as you can."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Toxic Face Paint No Fun For Kids

Back in the day when Worried Dad was just Worried Kid, the biggest Halloween scare was the biggest thing we were afraid of was someone sticking a razor blade in an apple. Even though says there was some bits of truth behind these rumors, what kid in their right mind would eat an apple on Halloween?

Now the all-knowing Yahoo newsdesk has reminded us of a more modern worry: toxic face paint.

Besides the obvious warnings, like not dipping your candy in face paint, the FDA has these helpful tips:

  • Read ingredient lists and don't buy any product that has non-approved colors. The FDA lists coloring agents approved for use in cosmetics. Worried Dad note: Laminate the FDA's fun 217 item chart and carry it with you every time you go shopping.

  • Don't use products with fluorescent colors (D&C Orange No. 5, No. 10, and No. 11; D&C Red No. 21, No. 22, No. 27 and No. 28; and D&C Yellow No. 7) near the eyes. Worried Dad note: Turn these colors and numbers into a limerick to make them easier to remember.

  • Don't use luminescent (glow-in-the-dark) colors (zinc sulfide) near your eyes. Worried Dad note: This may lead your child to permanently glow in the dark.

  • Before using older products, check it against these two May 2009 recall notices for Fun Express children's face paints. Worried Dad note: How can a product called Fun Express be bad?

What's a worried parent to do? Two suggestions:

  • Use a mask (free of BPA, of course). Except the stupid rubber bands that hold them up always break 20 minutes into the night.

  • Just cover their faces in chocolate. Everybody wins!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sour candy will kill your kid's teeth

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it turns out that candy is actually bad for your teeth, especially if it tastes good.

Studies by people in white coats from a few years ago (but recycled every year near the end of October for some reason) highlight the findings that sour candy (e.g. Sour Patch Kids, sour worms, sour Nerds, sour gummy vitamins -- okay, basically the word "sour" should be a tipoff) is as corrosive to the teeth of young children as battery acid.

The effects are particularly bad for baby teeth and adult teeth until they have been around for at least 10 years (you know, basically when you lose any desire to eat them)..

White Coat experts say that if a sour candy (with any kind of acid on the ingredient list: citric, lactic, malic, tartaric, fumaric, adipic, and ascorbic) should touch your child's mouth, DO NOT BRUSH THEIR TEETH right away. Either wash their mouth with water, or have them drink a glass of milk.

The good folks at the California Dental Hygienists Association (official motto: "You're not flossing regularly, are you?") suggests the following tactics:

"This Halloween, we are advising adults to think twice about buying sour candies for trick-or-treaters," said Erika Feltham, a Registered Dental Hygienist and CDHA member who has studied this issue for more than a decade. "We also are encouraging parents to comb through their child's bag at the end of the night to remove sour acid candies and replace them with a small piece of non-sour sugarless candy or gum."

Yeah, that'll work!

This kind of reminds Worried Dad about Cinderella's first couple of Halloweens. Basically Worried Mom and I dressed her up in really cute costumes, scored big time on the candy, and then ate it all as soon as she was asleep.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Celery will kill you

Worried Dad's daughter, Cinderella, has long contended that she is allergic to vegetables. Turns out she might be right.

Back in March, the Environmental Working Group declared that conventionally grown (i.e. NOT organic) celery topped their supermarket "dirty dozen." This means that with every bite of those crunchy green stalks, you are walking a chemical-laden path to a cancerous pesticide induced death.

Now, killer celery has claimed multiple victims in Texas: the count so far is 4 dead and two more sick. But the numbers are sure to rise. The culprit this time is listeriosis, a nasty little bacterium.

Okay kid, you can have a side of chocolate tonight.