Health Highlights: May 6, 2010

By on May 6, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

More Nighttime Driving Deaths Among Young Blamed on Cell Phones

Talking and texting on cells phones is a likely reason why the proportion of nighttime fatal crashes involving drivers 16 to 19 years old increased 10 percent between 1999 and 2008, says a U.S. study.

Texas Transportation Institute researchers analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Reporting System and found that the total number of fatal crashes dropped between 1999 and 2008. However, the percentage of crashes that occurred at night increased, the AP reported.

There were 4,322 fatal crashes in 2008 involving drivers ages 16 to 19, and 2,148 (nearly 50 percent) of them were at night. In 1999, nighttime crashes accounted for 45 percent of the overall 6,368 fatal crashes involving drivers in that age group.

Nighttime crashes accounted for 18,601 of the 44,803 fatal crashes in 2008 involving drivers ages 20 to 97, compared with 18,899 of 48,991 fatal crashes in 1999, the AP reported.

Alcohol use is the primary reason for the proportional increase in nighttime crashes among drivers ages 20 to 97, but driver distraction caused by talking and texting on cell phones is the likely cause among younger drivers, the study authors said.

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CPSC Investigating Concerns About New Pampers Diapers

Reports that new types of Pamper diapers can cause serious rashes are being investigated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The agency decided to look into the issue after receiving a handful of complaints that babies and toddlers had suffered severe and persistent rashes and blisters that resemble chemical burns, the Associated Press reported.

The new versions of Swaddlers and Cruisers diapers, which were introduced to the United States in March, use Dry Max technology instead of the paper pulp used in older versions. Cincinnati-based Proctor and Gamble says the new diapers are safe.

“There is no evidence from the people that have called us — or from the research that we have done — that a single baby has experienced a skin safety issue as a result of our Pampers with Dry Max,” the company said in a statement, the AP reported.

The CPSC investigation is in the early stages and wants parents to report any problems with the diapers. “We would like parents and caregivers to report to CPSC if they feel that their baby has been affected by this issue,” he said. “It’s so important for it to come directly to us,” said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson.

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Record Number of Births to Unmarried Women in 2008: Study

Unmarried women accounted for a record 41 percent of births in the United States in 2008, compared with 28 percent in 1990, says a new study about the demographics of American motherhood.

The Pew Research Center study also found that new mothers are increasingly older and better educated. Nearly 14 percent of new mothers in 2008 were 35 or older, compared with about 9 percent in 1990, the Associated Press reported.

In 2008, about 10 percent of new mothers were teens, compared with 13 percent in 1990.

The study is based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as a telephone survey conducted in April 2009, the AP reported.

Among the other findings:

  • Most new mothers (54 percent) in 2008 had at least some college education, compared with 41 percent in 1990. Among new mothers 35 or older, 71 percent had at least some college education in 2008.
  • There were 4.3 million births in the United States in 2008, compared with 4.2 million in 1990.

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Congress Investigates Recall of Children’s Medicines

The actions of federal regulators and drug maker McNeil Consumer Healthcare will be scrutinized by a Congressional committee investigating the recent massive recall of over-the-counter children’s medicines that includes brand names such as Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and Zyrtec.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said they are “deeply concerned” about the recall. Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said they plan to ask “tough questions about the conditions of the manufacturing plant and controls put in place by the drug company’s management, and about whether FDA’s inspection and recall procedures were sufficient,” the Washington Post reported.

The hearings are expected to begin within the next few weeks.

Newly released FDA documents reveal that agency inspectors found widespread quality control problems at McNeil Consumer Healthcare’s Pennsylvania plant, where the recalled medicines were manufactured. McNeil is a division of Johnson & Johnson.

For example, the inspectors discovered that raw materials known to be contaminated with unspecified bacteria “were approved for use to manufacture several finished lots of Children’s and Infant’s Tylenol drug products,” the Post reported.

There were a number of other problems in quality-control methods and manufacturing processes, according to the FDA.

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Children More Likely to Eat ‘Fun’ Fruit: Study

Children are more likely to eat fruit if it’s made fun and attractive, say European researchers who studied nearly 100 children ages 4 to 7.

The children were offered apples, strawberries and seedless grapes cut into cubes and either made into a hedgehog — skewered with colorful cocktail sticks and stuck into a watermelon — or given to them on a white plate, BBC News reported.

Even though they understood that presentation doesn’t change the taste of the fruit, the children ate nearly twice as much of the “fun” fruit. The study appears in the journal Appetite.

“How food looks probably does have quite an influence, especially for kids who are getting used to different types of foods,” Dr. Laura Wyness, of the British Nutrition Foundation, told BBC News.

Simple ways to make food interesting include cutting it into triangles, squares or strips, she said.

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