Friday, November 23, 2007

Weekly Science Roundup

Prenatal Arsenic Exposure Detected In Newborns

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2007) — MIT researchers have found that the children of mothers whose water supplies were contaminated with arsenic during their pregnancies harbored gene expression changes that may lead to cancer and other diseases later in life. In addition to establishing the potential harmful effects of these prenatal exposures, the new study also provides a possible method for screening populations to detect signs of arsenic contamination.

Rapid Response Teams Save Children's Lives At Pediatric Hospital, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Nov. 22, 2007) — Gut feelings can save lives, say clinicians and researchers at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ancient greek pottery potty

Curious Boy is nearly two, and the questions have already begun.  "Are you toilet training him yet?"  He is certainly interested, but we haven't really started to push him, since I think that he is still a bit young.  When the time comes though, I have found the training method we are goind to use:

Via BoingBoing

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Worst Toys of 2007

The wonderful people at World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) have released their anually "bottom ten" list of the worst toys of the year.  They include:

GO DIEGO GO ANIMAL RESCUE BOAT (recalled for lead)

STICKY STONES (easy to swallow loose magnets)

See the rest of the list....

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

This week in science - gross nail infections are underdiagnosed in kids

Tinea Of The Nails Underdiagnosed In Children

ScienceDaily (2007-11-18) -- Doctors have observed, through a research carried out during the past 9 years, an increase in the number of children affected by tinea of the nails, as well as an underdiagnosis of this affection by paediatricians. ... read full article

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

In Children And Adolescents, Low Self-esteem Increases Materialism

ScienceDaily (2007-11-16) -- One of the first studies to focus on materialism among children and its development reveals a strong connection between an increase in materialism during adolescence and a decline in self-esteem. Indeed psychologists show that the relationship appears to more than just a correlation, but a causal relationship -- low self-esteem causes increased materialism and raising self-esteem decreases materialism. ... read full article

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Aqua Dots Update

A little bit of poking around has yielded some more information about the toxic component in Aqua Dots.  It is called 1,4-butanediol and has the formula HOCH2CH2CH2CH2OH.  This compound is metabolized in GHB.  The version of the toy that was tested contained 1,4-pentanediol, which has the formula HOCH2CH2CH2CH2CH2OH.  While 1,4-pentanediol is not harmless, once metabolized it does not have any effects similar to GHB.  The two compounds differ only in the number of carbon atoms they contain.

As a scientist this is a perfect illustration of the specificity of our enzymes.  One single atom makes a dramatic difference in the way our body responds to the molecules.

This also raises an important point about understanding the dangers of substituting different compounds into consumer goods.  Because our bodies are so sensitive, it is important that we recognize the dangers of many of the components in our consumer goods.  The EU is very far ahead of Canada and the US in the respect, though our federal government has recently shown some movement on this front.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Of Breasts and Brains

Breastfeeding makes your kid smarter. A new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that children with a certain genetic mutation get roughly 7 bonus IQ points if they are breastfed. The kicker... 90% of the population has the mutation.

The Breast and the Brightest (

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lead paint and Aquadots... It's Red Bull and Vodka for Toddlers

Hot on the heels of the series of lead paint-related recalls this summer, is something way out of left field. Aquadots/Bindeez have been recalled by the CPSC, and here in Canada Toys R' Us has followed suit. They are still for sale though, and although they have not been formally recalled, the federal government is looking at totally overhauling its toy safety protocols.
The last few month have made me wonder if I shouldn't go into business making wooden toys. My dad made Curious Boy some giant blocks out of untreated cedar - I bet those would be a hit.
As a chemist, this particular toy recall is very interesting. I'm still trying to find out what the compound in the product is.

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How can someone be intolerant to rice cereal?

I hate infant rice cereal. It's got no taste. I really hate that the consistency changes over time, so that if you start with a thick cereal, you are guaranteed that before you are half-done, it's soup. Mostly though, I hate that it makes Zen Girl bleed. Rice cereal! Rice cereal? The reason we start kids on rice cereal is because it is the most begnin of foods. ZG was really enjoying eating, and now we have had to stop giving her food. Our dietician wants us to re-introduce rice cereal next week and see what happens.
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Canadian Parents - without the drugs?

Clint over at pointed out that just launched. While my initial impression is neutral - the site looks like, but no one is drunk or on drugs - I'm going to join Clint in decrying the total lack of dad-related content. In an era when more and more fathers are taking an active role in parenting, it would be nice for the mainstream print and online media outlets to take notice. In case anyone from is reading, I know at least one dad blogger who wouldn't mind helping you overcome your daddy-deficit.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Selling Breastmilk

AP is running a story about a woman in Iowa who took out an ad in her local paper to sell 100 oz of breastmilk. I've seen postings on craigslist before, but this seems to be the first time that the mainstream media has caught on. There are a few safety issues with using another woman's milk for your own child. This mother has already donated some milk to a local milk bank, so it's likely that she has been tested for all the right things already.