Home Cleaning Products May Up Risk of Childhood Asthma

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

New parents who obsessively clean their homes to protect babies from germs might want to relax a bit, suggests a new study linking high exposure to cleaning products with an increased risk of childhood asthma.

Researchers surveyed parents about how often they used 26 common household cleaners over babies’ first three to four months of life. By the time the kids were 3 years old, children with the highest exposure to cleaning products were 37% more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma than those with the least exposure.

With greater exposure to cleaning products, kids were also 35% more likely to have chronic wheezing and 49% more likely to have chronic allergies, the study found.

“Parents are striving to maintain a healthy home for their children,” said study coauthor Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

“We want parents to question the socially accepted norm that a home needs to smell like chemical-based cleaning products in order to be clean,” Takaro by email. “Instead, we propose that the smell of a healthy home is no smell at all.”

In other words, parents should read labels and look for items that are free of dye and perfume, and consider natural cleaning products instead of chemical alternatives.

The first months of life are critical for development of the immune and respiratory systems, and exposure to chemicals inside the home is particularly problematic because infants spend so much time indoors, the study team writes in the journal CMAJ.

Chemicals in cleaning products can cause chronic inflammation that may contribute to development of asthma or make symptoms more frequent or severe, the researchers note.

Most kids in the study were white, and most parents were non-smokers without any history of asthma.

Because asthma can be difficult to diagnose with breathing tests in very young children, researchers also tested kids’ skin for allergies and asked parents how often children experienced symptoms like wheezing.

The most commonly used cleaning products in the study were dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, multipurpose spray cleaners, glass cleaners and laundry soap.

The study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how any specific cleaning products or chemicals in these products might directly cause asthma symptoms.

The American Lung Association recommends against using cleaning products that contain volatile organic compounds, fragrance and other irritants, but manufacturers in Canada and the United States are not required to list all ingredients in cleaning products. Some “green” products may contain harmful substances, as these products are not regulated, the study team notes.

“While much remains unknown, we think that these cleaning products (and the chemicals they contain) act as irritants to the airways of growing children,” Dr. Elissa Abrams of the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

Young children who spend a lot of time indoors, and especially babies and toddlers who touch everything with their hands and mouths, may be especially vulnerable, Abrams said by email.

“The take-home message is that parents should be careful which cleaning products they use in the home,” Abrams said.

Source: Reuters


Today’s Comic

Study: Most Sweetened Drinks Aimed for the Kids in the U.S. Do Not Meet Nutrition Recommendations

Kay Campbell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Fruit drinks and flavored waters that contain added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners dominated sales of drinks intended for children in 2018, making up 62% of the $2.2 billion in total children’s drink sales, according to a new report from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

That year, companies spent $20.7 million to advertise children’s drinks with added sugars, primarily targeting kids under age 12, according to the report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In fact, children ages 2 to 11 saw more than twice as many TV ads for children’s sweetened drinks than for children’s drinks without added sweeteners.

This report follows a consensus statement released in September by health and nutrition experts that recommended that children under age 5 should not consume any drinks with added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners, and that they should consume limited amounts of 100% juice.

But common nutrition-related claims and images of fruit on packages of sugary fruit drinks and flavored waters make it difficult for parents to easily identify the healthier drinks for their children, say the authors.

“Beverage companies have said they want to be part of the solution to childhood obesity, but they continue to market sugar-sweetened children’s drinks directly to young children on TV and through packages designed to get their attention in the store,” says Jennifer L. Harris, lead author and director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center. “Parents may be surprised to know that pediatricians, dentists, and other nutrition experts recommend against serving any of these drinks to children.”

Researchers assessed the top-selling brands of children’s drinks—including 34 sweetened drinks (fruit drinks, flavored waters, and drink mixes) and 33 drinks without added sweeteners (100% juice, juice-water blends, and one sparkling water)—analyzing sales, advertising spending, children’s exposure to TV advertising, nutritional content, and product packaging. Brands with at least $10 million in sales in 2018 were included.

Confusing Package Claims and Hidden Low-Calorie Sweeteners

Some companies have developed drinks that may be healthier for children, such as juice and water blends that do not contain added sweeteners, and these companies have begun to advertise them to parents and children, researchers say. But those healthier drinks, such as 100% juice, represented just 38 percent of children’s drink sales in 2018.

Study authors also say that package claims on sweetened children’s drinks, and similarities between claims on sweetened and unsweetened drinks, can confuse parents about their nutritional content.

Sugar-sweetened children’s fruit drinks typically contained just 5% juice or less, but according to the report, 80% of those packages included images of fruit and 60% claimed to have “less” or “low” sugar or “no high fructose corn syrup.”

Children’s drinks with and without added sweeteners also had similar package sizes and types, flavor names, use of fruit imagery, and front-of-package claims for products.

“You shouldn’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out whether or not a product is healthy for your child,” says Maria Romo-Palafox, study author and assistant professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University.

In addition, low-calorie sweeteners, such as sucralose and stevia, were found in 74% of children’s sweetened drinks, including drinks that also contained added sugars, but there was no mention of low-calorie sweeteners on the front of packages.

“The fronts of the packages make children’s drinks look healthy, but there’s no way to know which ones have added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners reading the front. You have to read the nutrition facts panel on the back and you have to know the names of low-calorie sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium and sucralose, to realize they are in the product,” Romo-Palafox adds.

Industry, Regulators, and Legislators Can Do More

Authors say the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI)—the voluntary, industry self-regulatory program—should establish nutrition standards that conform with health expert recommendations. Specifically, drinks with added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners should not be advertised directly to children.

Beverage manufacturers should also clearly indicate that products contain added sugars and low-calorie sweeteners and the percent juice content on the front of children’s drink packages, they say.

Further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could require that products with nutrition-related claims on packages meet minimum nutrition standards and prohibit the use of fruit and vegetable images on drink product packages that contain little or no juice.

Also within the options available to legislators, state and local taxes on sugary drinks should include children’s fruit drinks and flavored waters to raise the price and discourage purchases.

Additional key findings:

Beverage manufacturers made some progress in developing and advertising healthier drinks for children.

  • More companies sold unsweetened juice-water blends, which are healthier than sweetened children’s drinks and contain only juice and water. The majority contain less than 50 calories in one box or pouch.
  • With the exception of one sugar-sweetened children’s fruit drink, licensed characters only appeared on children’s drinks without added sweeteners (primarily 100% juice)—a significant improvement compared to 2014.
  • Kraft Heinz was the only company to advertise sugar-sweetened drinks directly to children on children’s TV, including Kool Aid Jammers and Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters.

However, companies continued to extensively promote sweetened children’s drinks, and many children’s drinks were high in sugar despite healthy-sounding claims.

  • One-third of all children’s fruit drinks contained 16 grams or more of sugar per serving—equivalent to 4 teaspoons, which is more than half of the maximum amount of added sugars experts recommend for children per day.
  • Of the 100% juice children’s drinks studied, only 4 of 13 came in appropriate sized boxes or pouches for a toddler (age 1 to 3 years). Some contained more than 6 ounces of juice, which is the maximum recommended daily amount for preschoolers (age 4 to 6 years).

Source: University of Connecticut

Leading Health Organizations Support First-Ever Consensus Recommendations to Encourage Young Children’s Consumption of Healthy Drinks

Leading medical and nutrition organizations recommend breast milk, infant formula, water, and plain milk as part of a new set of comprehensive beverage recommendations for children, outlined by age (birth through age 5). They caution against beverages that are sources of added sugars in young children’s diets, including flavored milks (e.g., chocolate, strawberry) and sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages, in addition to a wide variety of beverages that are on the market and targeted to children such as toddler formulas, caffeinated beverages, and plant-based/non-dairy milks* (e.g., almond, rice, oat), which provide no unique nutritional value.

“Early childhood is an important time to start shaping nutrition habits and promoting healthy beverage consumption,” said Megan Lott, MPH, RD, Deputy Director of Healthy Eating Research, which convened the expert panel. “By providing caregivers, health care and early care and education providers, policymakers, and beverage industry representatives a clear set of objective, science-based recommendations for healthy drink consumption, we can use this opportunity to work together and improve the health and well-being of infants and young children throughout the United States.”

The recommendations were developed as part of an unprecedented collaboration by experts at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy), American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Heart Association (AHA) under the leadership of Healthy Eating Research (HER), a leading nutrition research organization, and with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

“From the time children are born through those first few years, beverages are a significant source of calories and nutrients and can have a big impact on health long into the future,” said Richard Besser, MD, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Families deserve clear and consistent guidance on what their young children should drink and what they should avoid. These recommendations from our country’s leading medical and nutrition organizations will help families raise healthy children.”

Healthy Beverage Recommendations: A Snapshot

The recommendations outlined below by age are intended for healthy children in the United States and do not address medical situations in which specific nutrition guidance is needed to manage a health condition or specific dietary choices such as abstaining from animal products. (See infographic on the right column.)

Research shows that what children drink from birth through age 5 has a big impact on their health – both now and for years to come. While every child is different, the nation’s leading health organizations agree that for most kids, the following recommendations can help to set children on a path for healthy growth and development. As always, consult with your health care provider about your child’s individual needs.

  • All children 5 and under should avoid drinking flavored milks, toddler formulas, plant-based/non-dairy milks*, caffeinated beverages and sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages, as these beverages can be big sources of added sugars in young children’s diets and provide no unique nutritional value.
  • 0-6 months: Babies need only breast milk or infant formula to get enough fluids and proper nutrition.
  • 6-12 months: In addition to breast milk or infant formula, offer a small amount of drinking water once solid foods are introduced to help babies get familiar with the taste – just a few sips at mealtimes is all it takes. It’s best for children under 1 not to drink juice. Even 100% fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit.
  • 12-24 months: It’s time to add whole milk, which has many essential nutrients, along with plain drinking water for hydration. A small amount of juice is ok, but make sure it’s 100% fruit juice to avoid added sugar. Better yet, serve small pieces of real fruit, which is even healthier.
  • 2-5 years: Milk and water are the go-to beverages. Look for milks with less fat than whole milk, like skim (non-fat) or low-fat (1%). If you choose to serve 100% fruit juice, stick to a small amount, and remember adding water can make a little go a long way!

“As a pediatrician, I know what a child drinks can be almost as important as what they eat, in terms of a healthy diet. This is especially true for very young children,” said Natalie Muth, MD, who represented the American Academy of Pediatrics on the expert panel. “We know that children learn what flavors they prefer at a very early age—as young as 9 months—and these preferences can last through childhood and adulthood. That’s why it’s important to set them on a healthy course, and this guide will help parents and caregivers do that.”

“Nearly 40,000 people in the U.S. die each year from heart problems due to overconsumption of sugary drinks. This is unhealthy and unacceptable, and the seismic shift in our culture needed to change this status quo must start with our kids,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “The American Heart Association is proud to endorse these guidelines and stand with parents, caregivers, medical professionals, restaurant owners and policymakers who can help ensure a healthier future for our kids.”

To develop the evidence-based recommendations, HER conducted an extensive review of scientific literature, existing guidelines from national and international bodies, and reports on early childhood beverage consumption. It also convened an expert panel of representatives from AAP, AHA, the Academy, and AAPD and a scientific advisory committee whose members discussed and reviewed the preliminary and final recommendations. Panelists and committee members were experts in pediatrics, early childhood nutrition, dentistry, and dietary and nutrition guidance.

“Choosing healthful beverages for children is just as important as choosing healthful foods,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Terri J. Raymond, president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “These consensus recommendations provide a strong base for registered dietitian nutritionists and health care practitioners to help educate children and parents alike, and create examples of healthy dietary patterns for children ages 0 to 5 in order to support optimal physical and cognitive growth and development as well as overall health.”

“Choosing drinks wisely for your child is crucial to good oral health; that’s why we talk about it during the age-one dental visit,” said AAPD president Dr. Kevin Donly. “A child with a healthy smile can eat, speak, play, and learn more easily than a child suffering from tooth decay.”

The full guidelines and accompanying technical report can be found at http://www.healthydrinkshealthykids.org. This site also contains a set of parent-focused one-minute videos, in English and Spanish, covering all the different topics included in the guidelines such as tips for swapping out sugary drinks and understanding different types of milk.

Source: American Heart Association

Frankfurters Cut the Wrong Way Can be Choking Hazard for Kids

Amy Haneline wrote . . . . . . . . .

Summer is already filled with enough hazards to stress out parents — we’re looking at you, open water and fireworks.

But what about your kids’ plates?

Summer is peak hotdog season. Considering 150 million franks are consumed on the Fourth of July in the United States alone, there is a strong chance they will be on the menu many a weekend.

So, now is a good time for a reminder that hotdogs can be serious choking hazards, said Dr. Tanya Altmann, author of Baby & Toddler Basics.

The size, shape and texture of hotdogs make them especially dangerous for young children, so the pediatrician is here to explain everything parents should know before handing a kid a dog.

“Hotdogs are long and round and when (young children) bite off a piece of it, it really looks kind of like a thick quarter and that is the perfect size to get lodged into a child’s throat,” Altmann said.

Any food that is “large, round and solid” can be a potential choking hazard, Altmann said.

That’s why hotdogs often rank at the top of lists of foods to avoid giving young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that hotdogs should be kept away from children younger than four years old.

Other potentially dangerous foods include whole grapes, hard or sticky candy, chunks of meat or cheese and popcorn.

Choking incidents among kids

In a 2013 study of choking incidents among young children, the AAP reported “choking is a leading cause of injury among children, and can sometimes be fatal.”

Researchers investigated non-fatal food-choking-related emergencydepartment visits among children ages zero to 14 years from 2001 to 2009. On average, 12,400 children (or 34 per day) were treated for a choking incident.

Hard candy caused most choking episodes (15 per cent), followed by other candy (13 per cent), meat other than hotdogs (12 per cent) and bones (12 per cent). Hotdogs accounted for 2.6 per cent of the cases.

At what age can a child eat a hotdog?

Parents can start introducing solid foods (except raw honey, which can harbour bacteria that causes foodborne illness in infants) to babies around six months of age, Altmann said. Parents should consider both the nutritional value and safety of a food when choosing their baby’s diet.

“If you wanted to mash up a hotdog into puréed or bite-sized pieces, theoretically you could feed it to an older infant or toddler, but I would argue it may not be nutritionally the best choice,” she said.

Cut hotdogs lengthwise first

All foods for babies and young children should be cut into one-centimetre or smaller pieces, the AAP recommends. However, cylindrical-shaped foods require extra care.

Thus, hotdogs should be cut lengthwise into strips first and then cut again into smaller pieces. The same goes for other common choking hazards such as grapes, cherries and cherry tomatoes.

For older kids who want to eat a hotdog while holding it, Altmann says parents could still cut the dog in half longways to help reduce choking risk.

When can parents stop cutting hotdogs for kids?

Usually around age four is when the choking risk is reduced because children are a little more aware, their throats are a little bit bigger and they are able to handle things that need to be chewed a little more before they swallow them, Altmann said.

What to do in a choking situation

“Make sure the child is really choking,” Altmann said. If a child is coughing or talking, there’s a chance the child can push the food out on his or her own.

But look for the following signs of a choking child: being unable to breathe; gasping or wheezing; unable to talk; turning blue; grasping at their throat; waving their arms; appearing panicked; and going limp or unconscious.

If a child is choking, call 911 and start a rescue procedure such as back-blows for infants or the Heimlich manoeuvre for older kids.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Belgian Doctors Said Parents Who Raise Children as Vegans Should be Prosecuted

James Crisp wrote . . . . . . . .

Doctors in Belgium have called for parents who raise their children as vegans to face prosecution after a number of deaths in schools, nurseries and hospitals.

It is estimated that 3 percent of Belgian children are forced to follow the strict diet, which rules out any animal products, including dairy and eggs.

The Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium published a legal opinion on Thursday, which could influence future court judgments and is the first time a health authority has taken a position on veganism in the country.

The opinion said it was unethical to subject children to the diet because it didn’t include animal proteins and vital amino acids which can help growth and prevent health problems.

The vegan diet could only be made safe for growing children if complemented with medical supervision, regular blood tests and vitamin supplements, which most parents were not qualified to provide.

“We must explain to the parents before compelling them,” said Professor Georges Casimir, who led the commission that wrote the report, “but we can no longer tolerate this endangerment.”

“This restrictive regime requires ongoing monitoring of children to avoid deficiencies and often irreversible growth delays,” the legal opinion said, “It is unsuitable for unborn children, children, teenagers and pregnant and lactating women.”

“It is not medically recommended and even forbidden to subject a child, especially during periods of rapid growth, to a potentially destabilising diet, requiring frequent supplementation and control,” it said.

“This concept of nutrition is similar to a form of treatment that it is not ethical to impose on children.”

The opinion was published after a request by Bernard Devos, a regional government official responsible for children’s rights and protection in Brussels and the French-speaking region of Wallonia.

Mr Devos asked for the opinion after children suffered health complications, including a number of deaths, in schools, nurseries and hospitals, Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper reported.

It would make it easier for him to enforce the separation of a child from parents who insisted the youngster followed the restrictive diet.

Professor Casimir warned that such a strict regime would now legally qualify as “non-assistance to a person in danger”, a crime which carries a sentence of up to two years and fines in Belgium.

A person cannot be convicted of the 1961 offence if he is unaware the person is in danger but the legal opinion now made it common knowledge that a vegan diet can kill, he told Le Soir.

The pediatrician said, “When we are children, the body manufactures brain cells. This implies higher requirements for protein and essential fatty acids. The body does not produce them, it must be brought in via animal proteins.

“We are talking here about stunted growth and psychomotor delays, undernutrition, significant anemia. Some developments must be done at a specific time in life and if they are not done, it is irreversible.”

Dawn Carr, of PETA, said, “What a load of ignorant codswallop! NHS nutritionists confirm that while a meat- and dairy-based diet is what strikes people down in adulthood – as it can lead to hardened arteries that cause stroke, brain aneurysms, and heart attacks – a well-planned vegan diet is perfect for babies and children.

“Kids, including my own, thrive on a balanced vegan diet, but as with any dietary regime, it’s the parent’s responsibility to ensure their child is getting all the necessary nutrients. And yes, that’s easier to achieve on a vibrant vegan diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and pulses.”

Heather Russell, dietitian at The Vegan Society, said: “Nutritional planning is important for everyone, not just vegans. It’s possible to provide all the nutrients needed for growth and development without animal products.”

“Both the British Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognise that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages, including infants, children, teenagers and pregnant and breastfeeding women,” she added.

In 2017, in Beveren, Belgium a couple were sentenced to a suspended six month sentence after their seven-month-old baby died of malnutrition and dehydration.

The infant’s death was blamed by doctors on the parents’ choice to only feed it vegetable milk.

A survey published last year found that 44 percent of Belgians had cut their meat consumption, despite the country’s fondness for Flemish beef stew and frites cooked in beef, horse or goose fat. 16 percent of Belgians said they eat mostly vegetarian.

The trend mirrors that seen across Europe, as concerns over climate change and animal welfare grow.

Source: The Telegraph