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Johnson & Johnson recalls Infants’ Tylenol

Johnson & Johnson has issued a recall of 574,000 bottles of  Infants’ Tylenol, citing problems with the product’s dosing system.  The medication is supposed to be administered orally using a syringe.  The company has received complaints that a flow restrictor at the top of the bottle was being pushed into the bottle when inserting the syringe.” A problem with the flow restrictor makes it difficult for parents and caregivers to administer the proper dosage to infants.

No injuries from excessive doses have been reported from the design flaw; however, a number of complaints from parents prompted the company to issue the voluntary recall. Consumers may continue to use the the product if the flow restrictor remains in place at the top of the bottle.

For more information on the recall, visit

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Customs seizes dangerous toy shipment

 Click On Detroit is reporting that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPO) from the Port of Detroit targeted and seized a container of rag dolls and transformable cars after a lab analysis found that the toys contained high levels of lead and small parts that presented a choking hazard.”  The seizure was a joint effort with investigators from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The shipment of toys originated in China.  After it arrived in Newark, NJ, CPSC selected it for testing.  Customs and Border Protection held the toys in Detroit and sent samples to CPSC for chemical analysis.  The toys were found to be too dangerous for the American market.

Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, importers are required to test and certify that imports of children’s products comply with CPSC requirements.  CBPO must enforce the regulations as products come into the country.  Effective enforcement of the Act can prevent harmful products from entering the country, protect children from injury and death, and prevent the need for later recalls.

Area Port Director Roderick Blanchard praised the operation. “American children and the public at large deserve to have toys that are safe and free from harm,” he stated.  “This is an excellent example of cross agency cooperation that resulted in keeping dangerous products off the market.”


Common household chemicals may interfere with vaccine efficacy

A new study has found that certain chemical compounds may prevent childhood vaccinations from working properly.  The compounds  can lead to lower immune responses to vaccinations, putting children at risk of catching a disease they have already been vaccinated against.  In some cases, children lost the vaccines’ protections by age seven.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are commonly uses in products ranging from nonstick pan coatings to microwave popcorn bags. They break down slowly, persisting for years in the environment.  Scientists were already aware that high concentrations of PFCs were toxic for mice’s immune systems and bloodstreams.  But until recently, a parallel in humans had not been studied.

A team of Harvard researchers investigated whether PFC exposure would interfere with children’s antibody responses to tetanus and diphtheria vaccines.  They chose a group of children living in the Faroe Islands, because previous studies revealed that who frequently eat seafood may have increased exposure to PFCs.  The study concluded that, the higher the PFC levels in the children’s blood, the lower their response to vaccinations.  When PFC exposure doubled, blood antibody levels dropped by 49% at age seven.  Indeed, CBS reports that “a doubling of a child’s PFC levels corresponded with a child being two to four times more likely to have an immune response considered  too low to be clinically effective.”

The study’s author, Dr. Philippe Grandjean, stated that he and the other researchers “were kind of shocked when we saw those numbers . . . . This is the first study to say that by [exposing children to PFCs], we are screwing up a major aspect of disease prevention in our society. I’ve been in the field for quite a while, and this is a very strong signal.”  Dr. Grandjean added that he doesn’t “feel comfortable with the compounds for myself and my family and would rather eliminate them.”

Eliminating exposure may be easier said than done.  In addition to microwave popcorn bags and nonstick coatings, PFCs are also found in furniture, clothing, cars, and carpeting that have been treated with stain repellants, as well as lubricants used in skis and snowboards.

Further research is needed to understand how PFCs collect in our bodies and what effect they may have on other vaccines.  But one thing is clear: greater efforts should be made to keep harmful chemicals out of the natural environment.


Infant dies suddenly; is powdered formula to blame?

Wal-Mart has pulled Enfamil Newborn formula from its shelves after one Missouri newborn died and another became ill.  Each baby had consumed the formula, and both tested positive for an environmental bacteria named Cronobacter that can cause serious injury and death.  Currently, investigators are not sure if the formula caused the death and illness.  According to Business Week, regulators are testing the formula, the water used to prepare it, and the clothes the children wore.

No recall has been issued for the formula.  However, until tests are completed, officials are urging consumers to discard or return the formula.  Furthermore, Wal-Mart is allowing its customers to return or exchange the product.  If tests come back negative, the product will likely be returned to the shelves.

Illness from Cronobacter is rare, affecting just two or three infants per year.  Nevertheless, Wal-Mart should be applauded for exercising an abundance of caution and preventing other infants from ingesting what could be a contaminated product.

Regardless of the tests’ eventual results, public health officials are reminding parents to take a few crucial steps when feeding babies powdered formula:

  • Clean and sterilize all glassware and bottles with soap and hot water.
  • Always wash hands before preparing formula.
  • Boil and cool water before adding it to formula.
  • Prepare only enough formula for one feeding.  If there is extra, it should immediately be refrigerated and used within 24 hours.


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Chemicals in Johnson & Johnson baby products cause controversy

Johnson & Johnson has always promoted an image of its products being safe and gentle enough to use on babies.  For decades, parents have reached for the company’s baby care products, trusting that the ingredients within them were safe and non-toxic.  Just two months ago, the company even ranked first in a Forbes survey of the most trusted brands in America.  But this image took a major hit last month,  when a report revealed that the famous baby shampoo continues to use two known carcinogens:  1,4-dioxane, a chemical byproduct, and quaternium-15, a preservative that releases formaldehyde.

Over two years ago, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics issued a report called No More Toxic Tub.  The report revealed that a number of baby products, including Johnson & Johnson shampoo, contained carcinogens.  The advocacy group asked Johnson & Johnson to reformulate its products and remove the harmful ingredients.  The company listened–or so the Campaign thought.   In fact, when the Campaign re-analyzed the labels of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo sold in 13 different countries, in found that the carcinogens were still being used in about half of the formulations, including the shampoo sold in America.  Quaternium-15 was found in products sold in the United States, Canada, China, Indonesia, and Australia.  Meanwhile, products sold in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, and Japan, contained non-formaldehyde preservatives.

So why the double standard? As Campaign for Safe Cosmetics director Lisa Arch stated, “Clearly there is no need for Johnson & Johnson to continue to expose American, Canadian, and other babies to formaldehyde when it is already using alternatives in other markets. ”  The company is obviously capable of producing safe alternatives, but deliberately chose to make no changes to the products  in some of its biggest markets.   It’s worth noting that, after the release of the first report, Johnson & Johnson did introduce a “natural” line of baby products.  However, these cost about twice as much as the original products–a price difference that many consumers may not be able to afford.

Luckily, it seems the Campaign’s advocacy has been effective.  As Forbes recently reported,

On November 16th, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would remove quaternium-15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives from all of its baby products worldwide within two years, and reduce 1,4 dioxane in all of its baby products to less than 4 parts per million (ppm).  Long term, the company indicated it will replace the chemical process, called ethoxylation, that results in 1,4 dioxane contamination. Johnson & Johnson also announced that it has removed phthalates from all of its baby products worldwide. The announcement does not cover the company’s non-baby products (e.g. products in the Neutrogena and Aveeno lines).

It remains to be seen when the reformulated products will actually be available.  Furthermore, consumers continue to be misled by products that claim to be safe, gentle, and natural.  Still, there are ways for consumers to learn what harmful chemicals are used in everyday personal care products.  The EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is an easy-to-use search tool that contains information on over 69,000 products.   Consumers can use the tool to discover health concerns associated with each product.


10 toys to avoid this holiday season

As holiday shopping continues, consumer advocacy group WATCH (World Against Toys Causing Harm) has released its annual list of the 10 worst toys for children. Among the list are “toy” weapons, including a Power Rangers “Samurai Mega Blade and “Zing Toys Z-Curve Bow.”  The samurai blade extends a full two feet and includes the following warning:  “Do not: (1) aim toy at anyone, (2) hit anyone with toy, (3) poke anyone with toy, (4) swing toy at anyone…”  Essentially, do none of the things children expect to do with a toy sword.  The age recommendation is four years and older; it’s hard to imagine children of any age adhering to these instructions.  WATCH warns that the blade can cause “serious facial or other impact injuries.”

The “Z-Curve Bow” is a foam bow and arrow set that claims to be able to fly over 125 feet.  The label warns kids to alert people close to a target before firing, but it’s doubtful that children would actually trek 125 feet to see who may be near a target.  WATCH also took issue with a warning that tells users to not pull arrows back at more than half strength–an instruction that children may not even understand, let alone comply with.

Absurd instructions seemed to be a theme among the toys.   A “Fold & Go Trampoline” sternly warns consumers that the product should only be used for “controlled bouncing.”   The portable trampoline is recommended for children ages three and up; as one reporter put it, “what segment of the population is better at controlled bouncing than 3-year-olds?”

Also making the list was a “Sword Fighting Jack Sparrow” figurine complete with a rigid, four inch plastic sword.  WATCH warned that the sword could cause eye and other impact injuries.  Meanwhile, toy school buses with removable tires pose a choking hazard, and a wooden duck intended for one year olds contains a 33 inch cord that far exceeds the industry’s 12 inch standard limit.

The Toy Industry Association dismissed the list, claiming that such reports “needlessly frighten parents.”  But toy injuries are nothing to scoff at–the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that toy injuries sent 250,000 children to ERs in 2009 alone.

To see the full list of toys, visit WATCH’s website.

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Children’s entertainment company agrees to pay $1.3 million penalty after failing to report serious product danger

Spin Master, a Toronto children’s entertainment company, recently agreed to pay a $1.3 million civil penalty to resolve allegations made by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).   The company manufactures Aqua Dots, a children’s craft kit containing small beads that stick together when sprayed with water.  The beads contain several banned hazardous, toxic substances.  A number of children (and one dog) received emergency medical treatment after ingesting Aqua Dots.  CPSC alleged that Spin Master learned of these incidents in October 2007, but failed to report them to the Commission, in violation of federal law.

In the next few weeks, Spin Master allegedly continued to receive reports of children harmed by Aqua Dots.  However, no reports were made to CPSC.  In November 2007, CPSC received reports stating that two children had fallen into comas after ingesting Aqua Dots.  CPSC contacted Spin Master and, two days later, a recall was issued.

CPSC noted that Spin Master had hired a company to test the toxicity of the product, but the testing was considered inadequate.

Federal law requires companies like Spin Master to report to CPSC within 24 hours of receiving information on a potential product defect or danger.  Spin Master denied knowingly violating the law.  However, the company has agreed to pay the $1.3 million civil penalty.

Visit CPSC for more details and pictures of the toxic product.

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