May 15, 2009

DT Friday Freakout: Viagra Edition

Just a little list of headlines, recalls, and over-interpreted science and medical news to ruin your parenting weekend:

  • The Northbridge, Mass. bus driver who left a 3-yo on the bus all day had dropped a 5-yo at the wrong day care a few days earlier. "I was wicked frantic," said the [1st] abandoned kid's mom. "You don't know who to trust," said a completely unrelated woman. The bus driver and monitor have both been fired. Northbridge is halfway betwen Worcester and Woonsocket. [ via dt freakout senior correspondent sara]

  • Sure, you want an urban garden--or even a suburban one--just like the Obamas'. But would you still want one if you knew your soil was full of poisonous lead?? Because if it's near a building more than 30 years old, an orchard, or a road, it's basically like eating of the ground in Chernobyl. "It's kind of a dirty secret nobody really knows about because we're all distracted worrying about lead in toys from China," says some scientist who probably eats nothing but Go-gurt and Steak-ums all day. [nyt]

  • Maybe it was the baby turning purple, but the CPSC has now announced a recall of 77,000 Eddie Bauer playpens with rocking bassinets. Make that "rocking bassinets of suffocation." Eddie Bauer is made by Dorel and were sold between Jan. 2008 and five minutes before the recall announcement at major retailers in the US and Canada, including Burlington Coat Factory. BCF also sold all those recalled Simplicity products; for a random store with a tiny baby section, they sure can pick some winners. []

  • On an only somewhat related note, even while they keep sending me info about other topics, Dorel has now spent eight months not answering my questions about why their Safety 1st brand sells the thoroughly bogus Babyplus Prenatal Education System.

  • Even without Babyplus, five-month-old babies are already "a lot smarter than others may realize." i.e., they can tell liquids from solids just by watching. [sciencedaily, abstract at psych sci]

  • Iron deficiency during pregnancy "may delay brain maturation in preemies!" Actually, it may have some impact on early stages of auditory neural pathways, which may have some impact someday on language, since ears and brains are used for hearing. Every other word in that last sentence should probably be italicized for dramatic reading purposes. [sciencedaily]

  • No irony deficiency here: Pediatricians from Miami working in Mexico and El Salvador found that Viagra was a highly effective, low-cost treatment for persistent pulmonary hypertension, aka a newborn's inability to breathe outside the womb. The standard US treatment, nitric oxide, is often not available in developing countries, but Viagra can be ordered online. Perhaps you may have seen an email about it? [pediatric academic societies 2009 mtg press releases]

  • An Oregon State University study finds that doctors and the midwives who bring their homebirth patients to them when there are complications often have an antagonistic relationship. "[D]iscussions with doctors and midwives uncovered a deep gulf between the two groups of birthing providers, with doctors expressing the firm belief that only hospital births are safe, while midwives felt marginalized, mocked and put on the defensive when in contact with physicians." A now-obligatory Obama reference about dialogue soon followed. [sciencedaily]

  • Children and parents like nurses better when they wear crazy uniforms designed by children, says a study conducted by a professor of nursing science at the University of Florence. mi scusi, Firenze. See what passes for crazy in Italy here. [scienceblog]


Lead in soil near roadways is something to worry about, but outside urban spots like Brooklyn, I think worries are overstated. We stopped using lead in fuel in the 80s and the levels have declined in most roadside soils (when I was a soil chemist in grad school in the mid-90s, roadside heavy metals research was still a hot topic).

I'd say another big worry that hasn't gone away and it only getting worse is Cadmium levels in soil. This is a primary element found in car brake pads, and cars slowing down emit it like crazy as brake dust, which settles into nearby soils and sticks around for quite a long time. I don't know the toxicology of it off the top of my head, but I seem to recall cadmium was a pretty gnarly heavy metal element you didn't want in your food.

Do plants take lead and cadmium up into their cells? I have a friend in Cambridge, MA who does all her gardening in containers (with bought dirt) due to what's likely in the ground there.

a quick Google of "lead soil plant transfer" shows that both cadmium and zinc are often studied alongside lead, so yeah, the heavy metals-in-soil issue is more than just lead.

As for transfer to plants, and specifically from edible parts of plants to humans, though, it seems more complicated. Landsdown & Yule's 1986 book, The Lead Debate cites several studies on p134: "Acidity and low humus content favour lead uptake by plants"; "translocation [of lead] within plants is poor," with roots getting more concentration than aboveground parts; and surface contact could be a factor, too.

So Brooklyn tomatoes are fine; wash the zucchini; skip the carrots; and grow potatoes in one of those bins Kottke linked to a while back.

Lead in soil is one of the many reasons you should build a raised bed for a garden. It's also a lot easier than digging around in the compacted crappy soil most people have.

I'm in Cambridge, MA and we do all our vegetables in containers with bought dirt---is that tested for heavy metals?---and homemade compost. Most urban folks I know do container gardening or plant veggies in raised beds with soil imported from supposedly safer places.

I really liked the story about the child-designed scrubs in the Florence Meyer hospital. Now if I could only get a few sets for my wife.

And if you go and check out the website, look out for Bruno Lozzozzo. He appears to be a comicbook character with a pig for a best friend.

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