Entries in Hazardous (4)


Feds Fighting to Keep Hazardous Toys Off Shelves for Holiday Season

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Top federal officials are trying to block a flood of dangerous toys from overseas from hitting the U.S. store shelves this holiday season.

Federal customs and consumer protection officials have intercepted more than 2 million units of dangerous toys and children's products so far this year at U.S. ports of entry, they said Thursday.

At a press briefing Thursday, U.S. Customs and Consumer Product Safety Commission officials laid out a display of seized toys that any child could love: princess jewelry, toy cars, dolls and action figures.

But the innocent-looking playthings from overseas manufacturers were blocked from entering the country because they all can be hazardous to the health of a child, investigators said. Some contained dangerously high levels of lead. Others had sharp edges or contained small parts that could choke a small child.

"Together with CPSC, we have intercepted record amounts of unsafe products," Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar said. "We are here to raise consumers' awareness about the very real danger of unsafe products."

Earlier this month in Detroit, authorities intercepted more than 3,000 toy guns from China. Testing revealed all had excessive levels of lead.

At a seizure last week in Jacksonville, Fla., authorities found toy cars also had lead contamination at levels high enough to do long-lasting harm to a child. In total, nearly 24,000 toys, valued at $22,000, were seized for lead violations in the Jacksonville case.

Since 2008, customs officials said, seizures have nearly doubled both in quantity and value for consumer products imported into the U.S. CBP has targeted more than 5,000 high-risk shipments for examination through the Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) in Washington on behalf of CPSC, leading to the seizure of thousands of dangerous imported consumer products.

But dangerous toys still kill some American kids. Thirteen kids younger than 15 died in toy-related deaths in 2011, according to the CPSC. That is down from 19 fatalities in 2010 and 17 reported in 2009. The majority of the toy-related fatalities were attributed to asphyxiation, choking or drowning. They included children choking on balloons, drowning after trying to retrieve a toy from a swimming pool or being found with tricycles in swimming pools.

The Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries Report released by CPSC Thursday estimated 193,200 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries to children younger than 15 occurred in 2011. Many of the incidents were associated with, but not necessarily caused by, a toy.

For children younger than 15, non-motorized scooters continued to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries. There are no figures for how many of those toys may have come from overseas, but officials believe that oftentimes, it is cheap and shoddily-made imports that cause the problems.

"Proactive surveillance at the ports, strong toy standards and educational efforts create a safer holiday toy shopping experience for consumers by keeping dangerous products off store shelves," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "Ultimately, our goal is to protect our most vulnerable population -- kids -- and keep them safe this holiday season."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Growing Concern: Grill Brush Bristles Get Stuck in Food, Throats

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -- Few things taste better at the end of a summer day than a juicy burger or steak hot off the grill. But when a piece of wire from the grill cleaning brush gets stuck in your food, not to mention your throat or stomach, that dinner can quickly turn hazardous to your health. One hospital has reported a rash of such cases.

Doctors from Rhode Island Hospital reported this week that six people came to the emergency department from 2011 to 2012 with wire bristles from grill brushes lodged in their throats, stomachs, intestines or other organs after eating meat cooked on an outdoor grill.

The cases were the second round of such injuries at the hospital. In 2009 and 2010, another six patients came to the ER with the same problems, the doctors reported in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Dr. David Grand, the lead author of the report and a diagnostic radiologist at Rhode Island Hospital, said the injuries are relatively infrequent compared with the number of people who grill and use grill brushes every day. But he said it probably happens more often than doctors may suspect.

"What was most striking about this collection is that we saw so many cases at just one hospital," Grand said. "I started getting calls from around the country from doctors who had seen similar injuries in their patients."

Concern over grill brushes has been simmering lately as these injuries have popped up around the U.S. In May, Sen. Charles Schumer called for a federal review of grill brush safety by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration after hearing reports of two men, in New Jersey and Washington, who had been injured and needed surgery after accidentally ingesting a bristle.

In response to Schumer's request, the CPSC combed data on injuries from hospital emergency departments around the U.S. and found nine cases of people injured by swallowing brush bristles reported since 2007. Grill brushes were also responsible for 28 other injuries since 2007, eight of which came about when consumers reported that a bristle got stuck on the grill or in their food.

The commission is reviewing the reports "to see if there is an identifiable pattern of defect in the product category or a specific product that could create an unreasonable risk of injury or death," CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum said in a letter to Schumer in June.

Grand said his team was unable to link any of the injuries at Rhode Island Hospital to a particular product or brand of grill brushes.

ABC News contacted several companies that manufacture grill brushes. Michael Wales, a spokesman for the Grill Daddy Brush Company, said the company rigorously tests its products and has never had any reports of consumers accidentally swallowing the stainless steel bristles from their brushes. Other companies did not respond to requests for comment.

When swallowing a wire bristle leads to a puncture in the intestines, the bacteria lining the gut can filter into the bloodstream, increasing the risk of widespread infection in the body. Additionally, some of the bristles have to be removed surgically, which always comes with possible complications.

Once lodged in the body, the bristles may also puncture other, larger organs. When one woman swallowed a bristle, it went through her stomach and lodged in her liver, Grand said.

Dr. Joel Levine, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of Connecticut, said he's not surprised that a wire bristle might get stuck in a bite of steak or a burger, but the risk of someone's being injured from their grill brush is probably a "low-probability event."

"Actually, the risks from what you are cooking on the grill likely outweigh the brush bristles," Levine said. "High amounts of grilled meats have been long known as a cancer risk."

The CPSC advises consumers to inspect their grills before firing them up, keeping an eye out for stray pieces of metal that could get stuck in food. Grand said barbecuers should replace worn-out grill brushes or consider using cleaning tools that don't use wire bristles.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Holy Smokes! How to Prevent a Hazardous Holiday

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- “O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging.”

This may be true for this classic and beloved song…but for those of us with trees in our homes that happen to be too dry, those leaves are easily a holiday hazard waiting to catch on fire.

Tuesday in Rockville, Md., the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission demonstrated how in only 40 seconds your entire holiday could come melting to the ground, along with your house.

“No matter how well you water a tree or how fresh it is when you bring it home, trees last only a maximum of four weeks,” John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories Inc., which independently tests products and provides safety recommendations, told ABC News.   

“It’s the speed at which it burns that’s so scary because you need time to get out once your smoke alarm goes off,” said Drengenberg.

According to the CPSC, between 2006 and 2008, there are an average of four deaths a year related to Christmas tree fires, causing an estimated $18 million in property damage.

But, Christmas trees are not the only fire hazards around the holidays. The No. 1 culprit: candles, which account for approximately 130 deaths and $360 million in property losses.

“They can be very pretty and they are very much fun to have, but you have to be careful,” Drengenberg said. “The main tip that Underwater Laboratories can give anyone is blow out the candle before you leave the room.” It may be inconvenient, said Drengenberg, but this small act can “save you a lot of grief.”

“Christmas is a time of many traditions and people like to use grandma’s table cloth on the table for Christmas dinner, but lights should not be a tradition,” Drengenberg said. Tossing lights, he said, is one thing you should feel good about doing.

If the light is frayed with wires showing or has too many bulbs burnt out CPSC and UL recommend purchasing new ones.

Drengenberg explained that a red UL sticker, which can be found on a metallic sticker attached to the lights, means the product has been tested for rain, humidity and UV light, among other things, and has been approved for outdoor use. A green UL means the lights are for indoor use only and should never be placed outside.

Tagging such as this helps to make sure you don’t purchase lights that are too thin and easily broken or that don’t have the proper surge protectors.

Inez Tenenbaum, head of the CPSC, highlighted regulatory enforcement efforts within the United States. This past week, Christmas lights arriving at a port in Long Beach from China were so thin the light could be snapped off the wire.

“Our people at the port saw that they didn’t meet the standard and we seized them and kept them from being sold in the United States,” Tenenbaum said.

Bottom line: Unsafe lights could possibly slip through the cracks and make their way into homes, so ultimately the consumer needs to verify lights are safe.

CPSC estimates that during November and December of 2010, more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for holiday decoration-related injuries, a number that has continued to rise since 2007.

Here are holiday tips from CPSC to make sure your holiday stays merry:

  •     Use the appropriate ladder when hanging Christmas lights
  •     Don’t use decorations that look like candy or food, as these can confuse young children or pets
  •     Make sure your decorations are lead-free
  •     Designate a family tree waterer to avoid the tree drying out too early
  •     Check smoke alarms and batteries
  •     Have a family emergency plan should you need to evacuate

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Thirdhand Smoke More Hazardous Than Previously Believed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Thirdhand smoke -- the smoke that sticks to clothing, hair and furniture -- may be more dangerous than previously believed, according to a new study from the American Chemical Society.

The study, published in ACS’ journal, Environmental Science & Technology, found that residual nicotine from thirdhand smoke can form toxic pollutants when it comes in contact with ozone in indoor air.  As a result, babies crawling on carpets, people laying on couches or people eating tainted food could be at a health risk.

Researchers for the study, which was published in ACS’ journal, Environmental Science & Technology, tested how nicotine interacted with indoor air on various materials, like cellulose and cotton, to simulate results on household surfaces.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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