ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Bone Density Predicts Chances of Breast Cancer
Genes May Help Drive Rotator Cuff Injury
Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago
CANCER
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Method for Treating Cervical Lesions May Pose Pregnancy Risks
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
CAREGIVING
Distance No Bar to Kidney Transplants in Remote Areas
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
DIABETES
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
Shedding Light on Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
Air Pollution Exposure May Slow Fetal Growth
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
EYE CARE, VISION
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
FITNESS
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
Go To Work But Skip The Car
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
Have Fun But Put Play It Safe on the 4th
Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Fussy Babys Could Be Out Of Your Control
Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
MEN'S HEALTH
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
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When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe

(HealthDay News) -- Parents are crowding into stores this holiday season, searching for toys that will prompt smiles, cheers and hugs from their kids.

But parents also need to keep in mind that there are potentially dangerous toys on store shelves, so they must use judgment and common sense with every purchase.

"There are still some items that fall through the cracks," said Liz Hitchcock, a public health advocate for U.S. PIRG, who wrote this year's Trouble in Toyland report for the non-profit consumer protection group. "Consumers buying toys should be careful of what they buy."

There is encouraging news: New federal laws passed in the wake of the massive toy recalls of 2007 are kicking in, which means the toys out for this year should be among the safest ever, experts said.

"New federal safety rules are in place that should give consumers greater confidence when they go toy shopping this holiday season," said Nychelle Fleming, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. There are now tough limits on lead and phthalates (endocrine disruptors commonly used in plastics) in toys, as well as new mandatory safety standards.

"This is the first holiday shopping season where you'll see these things implemented," she said.

Government and business reaction to the problems of 2007 also have improved toy safety, Fleming noted. There were 162 toy recalls in 2008; this year, by November there had only been 38 toy recalls, she said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission attributes the drop in toy recalls to several factors, Fleming said: toy manufacturers placing a greater emphasis on quality, improved product enforcement at United States ports, better cooperation with countries that produce toys, and sharper consumers putting more thought into what they pluck off store shelves for purchase.

Despite this new emphasis on toy safety, researchers at U.S. PIRG still found in their Trouble in Toyland report toys on shelves in September and October that pose potential hazards to children. These include:

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Choking hazards, which prompted the most toy safety recalls in 2009, according to U.S. PIRG. By November, 5.3 million toys and children's products had been pulled from store shelves -- part of the 38 total toy recalls -- due to choking hazards.

Still, the group said it was able to find toys for children under age 3 that contained small parts. "Kids under the age of 3 put everything in their mouth," Hitchcock said. Parents should use a cardboard toilet paper tube or a choke tube to test individual pieces of a toy and see if they will pose a choking hazard.
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Toys containing toxins. Despite the new federal laws, U.S. PIRG found a number of children's products that contained high amounts of lead or phthalates.

"We were disappointed to find lead in products on store shelves, because a lot of attention was paid to lead in toys," Hitchcock said. "Parents can't just trust that every product on a store shelf is safe and free from excessive amounts of lead."

People who want to avoid the potential of lead in their children's toys should avoid buying certain types of toys, Hitchcock said. These include painted toys and inexpensive costume jewelry made out of metal.
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Loud toys. A new safety concern involves toys that could damage children's hearing.

ASTM (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) has created standards that limit the noise made by most children's toys to 85 decibels. But U.S. PIRG found a number of toys that surpassed that limit. "If it seems too loud for the parent, it's certainly going to be too loud for the child," Hitchcock said.

Another type of toy -- one that many people rarely think of as a toy -- caused the most toy-related deaths and injuries in 2008, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Riding toys -- tricycles, bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, scooters and the like -- caused nine of the 19 reported deaths in 2008. They also accounted for 26 percent of the 172,700 toy-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments, more than any other type of toy, the agency said.

People who buy their child a riding toy need to buy the helmet, pads and other safety equipment necessary for safe use, Fleming stated.

"The complete gift includes all the safety gear," she said.

When shopping, parents can improve their chances of picking a safe toy by paying attention to the warning labels on toy packaging, Fleming and Hitchcock said.

The labels don't pertain to a child's aptitude. Rather, they take into account a wide range of developmental factors like dexterity and "mouthing behavior" to determine which toys pose a hazard to younger children.

"Always be a good label reader," Fleming said. "These labels are provided for safety."

SOURCES: Liz Hitchcock, public health advocate, U.S. PIRG, Washington, D.C.; Nychelle Fleming, spokeswoman, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Bethesda, Md.; Nov. 24, 2009, Trouble in Toyland report, U.S. PIRG Published on: December 10, 2009