Children’s Health

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Frustrated Neighbors Want Faster Action Over L.A. Battery Recycling Plant

Roberto Cabrales of Communities for a Better Environment regularly includes the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon in the activist group’s “toxic tour” of pollution sites to the east and south of Los Angeles. (Chris Richard)

Roberto Cabrales of Communities for a Better Environment regularly includes the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon in the activist group’s “toxic tour” of pollution sites to the east and south of Los Angeles. (Chris Richard)

By Chris Richard

Like most 6-year-olds, Claudia Gomez’s son, Stanley, loves to play in the dirt, and he doesn’t much like washing his hands. But these days more than ever, Gomez is a stickler for cleanliness.

On Sunday evening, she spotted the grime as Stanley raced past her on his way to play outside.

Exide plant may have showered its neighbors with lead dust for decades. 

“I already washed my hands!” Stanley complained.

The protest didn’t work. Gomez hauled Stanley to the sink and started scrubbing.

Gomez is being so careful because the state Department of Toxic Substances Control has warned parents not to let their children play in the dirt. The department is urging frequent hand-washing as a precaution against lead poisoning. Continue reading

High Levels of Lead Found in Soil Near L.A. Battery Recycling Plant

The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. (Photo/Chris Richard)

The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. (Photo/Chris Richard)

By Chris Richard

Tests of homes and schools near a battery recycling plant east of Los Angeles have detected elevated lead levels, prompting state officials Monday to caution the public against exposure and to order expanded testing.

Both neighborhoods surveyed exceeded the state’s “health screening level” for lead of 80 parts per million. One home topped 580 parts per million, according to a testing report.

Residents are cautioned to keep children away from bare soil and to wash hands thoroughly.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has given Exide Technologies until March 21 to develop a plan for additional testing of the 39 homes and two schools included in the original study, as well as a wider area.

This announcement follows testing last month in Boyle Heights and Maywood, just east of downtown Los Angeles. It marks the DTSC’s first discovery of widespread ground contamination in residential areas near Exide’s plant in Vernon. Continue reading

Parents Love Their Phones, Tablets Even During Meals With Kids

Study shows that plenty of parents can't put the phone down even when eating with their kids. (Getty Images)

Study shows that plenty of parents can’t put the phone down even when eating with their kids. (Getty Images)

By Brittany Patterson

We know Americans’ use of mobile gadgets has reached near ubiquitous status in our daily lives. Research shows our continued use has health effects on our skeletons, is changing they way we communicate, and even making walking less safe.

“My concern is that it’s becoming such an obsessive habit that we’re missing interaction with our kids.” 

But a new study published Monday in Pediatrics quantifies for the first time yet another side effect of our technological obsession: Many of us are engrossed with our devices even when eating with our children.

Researchers anonymously watched 55 caregivers eating with one or more young children in fast food restaurants across different Boston neighborhoods and took copious notes. (They couldn’t call the caregivers “parents” because they were watching surreptitiously.) Researchers watched how often and for how long caregivers used devices during the meal — and if the children tried to get the caregiver’s attention. Their notes were independently analyzed and coded to identify common themes.

Dr. Jenny Radesky led the team of researchers, from Boston Medical Center. Continue reading

Survey: Alcohol and Tobacco Ads Target California’s Children

California’s kids are overexposed to ads for alcohol, tobacco and junk food. That’s according to a new survey from public health departments throughout the state. They sent hundreds of teens and young adults to thousands of corner stores throughout the state to record what kinds of products and advertising they find.

Twenty-two year old Luisa Sicairos saw shelves lined with products like marshmallow-flavored vodka, fried chips, and plenty of sugary drinks in her neighborhood in San Francisco. She says the young, slim models that appear in ads next to these products and on the labels send a mixed message.

“It’s still bombarding us with all this stuff on how we should look, and then they’re saying, oh, but you should be drinking soda,” she says. Continue reading

Just One Dose of Many Common Medicines Can Kill a Child

Many over-the-counter products contain acetaminophen. One dose is usually not a problem, but it's easy to lose track of how much your child is taking. An overdose can cause liver failure or death. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Many over-the-counter products contain acetaminophen. One dose is usually not a problem, but it’s easy to lose track of how much your child is taking. An overdose can cause liver failure or death. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Scott Hensley, NPR

Concerns about drug risks have led 28 state attorneys general to ask the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its approval of Zohydro, a long-acting narcotic painkiller, before the medicine is even put on the market.

People often underestimate the risks of individual drugs and combinations of drugs for young children.

The risks for addiction and overdose from the potent opioid outweigh the benefits of pain relief, critics say. Some point to the risk for children, in particular. A single capsule of Zohydro could kill a kid, the medicine’s instructions warn.

Other opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet, are already fixtures in America’s medicine cabinets. And as the prescriptions for drugs like these have surged, so have the reports of overdoses and deaths — for children and adults.

But opioids are just one kind of risky medicine. Doctors have a disturbingly long list of drugs that can lead to the death of a child after just one or two doses. Continue reading

Can Marijuana Help Children with Severe Epilepsy?

(David McNew/Getty Images)

(David McNew/Getty Images)

By Danielle Venton

Mark Kohr doesn’t smoke pot. But open his freezer and among the tamales and organic chicken strips, you’ll also find four pounds of cannabis. He plans to process the cannabis, worth about $900, into an oil for his daughter.

Camille, who is 13, has a severe, sometimes fatal, form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. Like many kids with Dravet Syndrome, conventional medications didn’t seem to work. Kohr says that the cannabis her parents prepare for her does.

“Here we are with one of the most difficult medical things to treat — seizures,” Kohr says. “And we’re making the medicine at home. Isn’t that the weirdest thing on earth?” Continue reading

Covered California Health Plans to Include Children’s Dental Next Year

(ianus/Flickr)

(ianus/Flickr)

By Lisa Aliferis and April Dembosky

It was a big debate last summer. While children’s dental coverage is one of the Affordable Care Act’s 10 essential health benefits, the ACA gives states the flexibility to offer the coverage in a stand alone plan. Covered California first required insurers to include children’s dental, then told them to strip out the benefit, in favor of offering stand alone plans at an additional cost.

Now the data is in. Less than one-third of enrolled children on Covered California through 2013 also has dental coverage. Executive director Peter Lee says the additional cost appears to be on issue. “A lot of folks are low income,” he said. “They’re thinking additional coverage versus food on the table.”

Covered California’s board voted Thursday to make a change. Starting in 2015 all medical plans for children sold through the marketplace will be required to include dental coverage. Continue reading

Minority Parents Less Likely to Use Appropriate Car Seat, Study Finds

Children should always use a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. (Joshua & Amber/Flickr)

Children should always use a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. (Joshua & Amber/Flickr)

By Brian Lau, MD

Many studies have shown that parents don’t always use carseats and booster seats, and their kids could be at increased risk in a crash. A new study published this week shows that non-white children have particularly low use.

Researchers from The University of Michigan surveyed 601 parents about their car seat usage for 1 to 12-year-old children that received treatment at the emergency room. They found that non-white parents were nearly four times less likely to use appropriate child car restraints than white parents.

Doctors and policy makers have known of this disparity and attributed it to socioeconomic variables. But the new study shows that differences remained even after accounting for education and income. Continue reading

How California’s Mentally Ill Children Suffer — Few Hospital Beds Statewide

 (Debora Bogaerts/Flickr)

(Debora Bogaerts/Flickr)

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story incorrectly identified John Muir Medical Center, Concord as the facility where Maria Ramirez’s granddaughter was taken. We regret that error.  The post has been edited so that it no longer contains the incorrect information.

By Elaine Korry

Maria Ramirez began caring for her granddaughter when the girl was just a toddler. Her granddaughter began hurting herself — cutting her arms and swallowing things — before she was 10. Soon, says Ramirez, she couldn’t let the girl out of her sight. “She was running in front of cars, just really impulsive,” says Ramirez. “It was out of control, and I was really scared.”

Ramirez has a job and health insurance, so she did what any parent or guardian would do: she took her granddaughter to her local hospital for treatment. But instead of finding help, she always got the same reply, “No beds, no beds.”

Ramirez, a Bay Area artist who loves gardening, says she knew early on that her granddaughter was going to need help. “She was a hard child to make smile. She was very serious,” says Ramirez. Continue reading

UC Berkeley Research: Yes, Your Toddler Really Is Smarter Than a 5-Year-Old

Children under age 2 can reason abstractly, UC Berkeley researchers show. (Getty Images)

Children under age 2 can reason abstractly, UC Berkeley researchers show. (Getty Images)

By Nancy Shute, NPR

Parents, does your 18-month-old seem wise beyond her years? Science says you’re not fooling yourself.

Very small children can reason abstractly, researchers say, and are able to infer the relationships between objects that elude older children who get caught up on the concreteness of things.

In experiments at the U.C. Berkeley, children as young as 18 months were able to figure out the relationship between colored blocks.

The child would watch a researcher put two blocks on top of a box. If the blocks were identical, the box would play music. The majority of children were able to figure out the pattern after they were shown it just three times. They would then help the researcher pick the correct block. Continue reading