Saturday, December 30, 2006

Male Contraception

From the "Please don't make me a daddy" file

In a study recently published online by Developmental Biology, members of Dr. John Herr's laboratory at the University of Virginia Health System report the discovery of a new protein within a sperm's tail that could prove a key target for male contraceptive drugs.

'"There's considerable interest in developing new male contraceptives," said Herr, who heads UVa's Center for Research in Contraceptive and Reproductive Health. "To support this effort, our team has been searching for proteins that might serve as target sites for small-molecule drugs."

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fish Oil Supplements For Pregnant Moms Boost Kids' Hand-eye Coordination

Our OB/GYN is very strict about limiting the amount of fish that the Philosopher Mom consumes when pregnant (like she is now....). However, she has encouraged the PM to take fish oil supplements that contain various omega fatty acids. Her reason, to date has been that it appears to help with brain development and post-partum depression. A small study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood shows that these supplements boost hand-eye coordination in children whose mothers took them.

The researchers base their findings on 98 pregnant women, who were
either given 4g of fish oil supplements or 4g of olive oil supplements
daily from 20 weeks of pregnancy until the birth of their babies.

non-smokers and those who did not routinely eat more than two weekly
portions of fish were included in the study. Eighty three mothers
completed the study.

Once the children had reached two and a
half years of age, they were assessed using validated tests to measure
growth and development.

These included tests of language,
behaviour, practical reasoning and hand-eye coordination. In all, 72
children were assessed (33 in the fish oil group and 39 in the olive
oil group).

There were no significant overall differences in language skills and growth between the two groups of children

those whose mothers had taken fish oil supplements scored more highly
on measures of receptive language (comprehension), average phrase
length, and vocabulary.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Less Sugary Drinks During Childhood May Cut Disease Risk

I"m getting sick of people jumping on the "obseity epidemic" bandwagon. The statistic that roughly 50 or 60 % of North Americans are obese is absurd. The BMI scale adopted by WHO were set up by pharmaceutical companies masquerading as an awarness group, much in the same manner as was done for anxiety a few years ago. There are relatively few cases where solid evidence exists to show that obesity causes illness. Osteoarthritis and uterine cancer are two exceptions. In most cases is appears that obesity is co-symptomatic with other illnesses such a Type 2 diabetes. This means that the cause of obesity and the cause of the illness are the same, rather than obesity being the source of the illness.

Think of it this way. Statistically, there is a link between ice cream consumption and drowning. However, this does not mean that eating ice cream casuses drowning. Rather, in the summer people eat more ice cream and spend more time doing aquatic activities (which leads to more drownings).

All this to say: watch what you and your kids eat.

Symptoms of heart disease and diabetes usually seen in adults are
increasingly being found in adolescents according to a longitudinal
study, which suggests that reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened
beverages during childhood may lessen the risk of chronic disease in
later life.

Read more

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Thursday, December 14, 2006 Launches!

So, I may be a day late, but parenting site is now live. Babble is run by the people at Nerve Publishing, who also operate the literary softcore site Like Nerve, I expect that Babble will be fun, edgy, relevant and a little pretentious. Check it out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What Is The Role Of Donor Breast Milk?

More and more women are turning to breastmilk banks, either as donors or users for their infants. In cities where such banks do not exist, an elaborate network of underground donors springs up, with transactions facilitated by lactation consultants or breastfeeding clinics. Offers of breastmilk for sale can even be found on Craigslist. A new study just published in the British Medical Journal questions the wisdom of this.

From Science Daily.

More evidence is needed to determine whether donor breast milk is beneficial for babies in intensive care, argues a senior doctor in this week's British Medical Journal.

Mother's milk is recommended for all babies, but mothers of preterm babies and other babies in intensive care are often unable to provide enough milk for their baby's needs. Donor breast milk and formula milk are options to make up the shortfall.

But the extent to which pasteurised donor breast milk retains the biological properties of mother's milk is uncertain and its place in present day neonatal intensive care is unclear, says Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine at Imperial College London.

What evidence is there to support the use of donor breast milk, she asks?

A recent detailed analysis showed that donor breast milk reduced the risk of necrotising enterocolitis (a serious inflammatory condition of the bowel) when compared with formula, but infant growth was slower, and benefit was seen only when breast milk or formula was the sole source of nutrition. Current practice would be to use donor milk as a supplement to mother's milk and not as sole diet.


U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rates Decline As Result Of Improved Contraceptive Use

Rationality prevails again.

Look, kids are curious about sex. Every parent knows it, because every parent was. No parent wants to think about their kid having sex, but in the age of herpes and HIV/AIDS, no parent can afford not to. The 'abstinence only' method of sex education is basically no sex ed at all and every place in the world that has stuck to this method has seen in an increase in teenage STI transimission and teenage pregnancy. Kids wait longer when they know more. Kids are safer when they know more. Telling kids not to have sex, without telling them the honest joys and risks (both emotional and physical) that it entails is like giving a two year old a loaded gun.

From Science Daily

Eighty-six percent of the recent decline in U.S. teen pregnancy rates is the result of improved contraceptive use, while a small proportion of the decline (14%) can be attributed to teens waiting longer to start having sex, according to a report by John Santelli, MD, MPH, department chair and professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health and published in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The scientific findings indicate that abstinence promotion, in itself, is insufficient to help adolescents prevent unintended pregnancies.

Data from the report, "Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use" suggest that the United States is following patterns seen in other developed countries where increased availability and increased use of modern contraceptives have been primarily responsible for declines in teenage pregnancy rates. The study by Dr. Santelli of the Mailman School in conjunction with researchers at the Guttmacher Institute examines information from the National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative household survey that provides comprehensive coverage of female adolescents.

Between 1995 and 2002, U.S. teen pregnancy rates declined by almost one-quarter (24%). The new study examines the data to determine the relative contributions of abstinence and contraceptive use to this decline. According to the analysis, most of the decline (86%) was due to more sexually active teens using contraceptives, using more effective methods (e.g., condoms and birth control pills) and using multiple methods (e.g., the pill together with condoms) in 2002 than in 1995. When broken down by age, delays in sexual activity played a greater role for younger teens aged 15--17 (23% of the decline). Among 18--19-year-olds, the decline in the risk of teen pregnancy was entirely attributable to improved contraceptive use.

"The United States seems to be following the recent patterns in other developed countries where increased availability and use of modern contraceptives and condoms have led to remarkable declines in teen pregnancy," said Dr. Santelli. "If most of the progress in reducing teen pregnancy rates is due to improved contraceptive use, national policy needs to catch up with those realities."

The authors conclude that this study raises serious questions about the value of the federal government's funding of abstinence-only education programs that prohibit information about the benefits of condoms and contraception. They suggest that public policies and programs in the United States and elsewhere should vigorously promote provision of accurate information on contraception and on sexual behavior and relationships, support increased availability and accessibility of contraceptive services and supplies for adolescents, and promote the value of responsible and protective behaviors, including condom and contraceptive use and pregnancy planning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

W.A.T.C.H. Out! These toys suck

With the advent of the Christmas shopping season and the bonanza of toy-buying that will occur, WATCH has released it's 10 worst toy list.

Lots of choking hazards and shooting-your-brother-in-the-eye hazards. What struck my were the Heelys (I never knew what they were called). I've seen kids whizzing around on these shoes with wheels and thought "That's pretty cool and pretty scary." Seems I was right.

Also on the list are a rocket launcher and the Fear Factor Candy Challenge

There's nothing that really astounds me though. No bag-o-glass or rusty nails.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Story time: Review

Kids love stories told to them, and when you can't do it, a good recording of a story is always appreciated.

Storytime Favorites

Download "The Nightingale" (mp3)

from "Storytime Favorites"

by Toni Graney and Jeffrey Reid Baker

JRB Records

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Quel Surprise: Ambitious parents spend on educational toys for toddlers

The Philosopher Mom and I are both in the health/education field and are frankly skeptical of the whole "edutainment" business, but it appears that we might actually be alone in seeing things this way.

In today's IHT, the market-research (shudder) firm In-Stat states that the market for "eductainment" toys from companies like V-Tech and LeapFrog could reach $1.7 billion (yes with a B) this year.

My real concern with all of these techno-toys is that they channel and stifle creativity at a very early age. They limit the amount of time that children spend on imaginitve play, and parents can acutally get frustrated if they feel that kids aren't making enough progress. This in turn leads to the child feeling like a failure.

If balls and blocks were good enough for Galileo, Faraday and Einstein, they should be good enough for my kid (and yours too).

The decision in our house is pretty clear. The Curious Boy has no patience for most toys and prefers pushing around his high chair to just about anything else.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The End of Religion? Ask Nietzche

Religion and morality are complicated issues for many people, and since
we are an interfaith family the subject of teaching these things is
coming up more and more regularly. Although Curious Boy is too young by
far to get any of it, we hope that by talking we can hash out some
semblance of a coherent position by the time he is a bit older

There has been a few recent articles chronicling the rise to prominence
of the "New Athiests". Most visible is Richard Dawkins (YouTube),
who even appeared recently on South Park. Dawkins' principle weakness
is that he is as much a fundamentalist as the people he derides.

A more moderate voice in the debate is Sam Harris (LINK) author of Letter to a Christian Nation.

In last week's International Herald Tribune (via The Boston Globe) Harris argues that religion is a bad reason to be good.

America's midterm elections are fast approaching, and their outcome

could well be determined by the "moral values" of conservative


While this possibility is regularly bemoaned by liberals, the link

between religion and morality in our public life is almost never


One of the most common justifications one hears for religious faith,

from all points on the political spectrum, is that it provides a

necessary framework for moral behavior. Most Americans appear to

believe that without faith in God, we would have no durable reasons to

treat one another well. The political version of this morality claim is

that the country was founded on "Judeo-Christian principles," the

implication being that without these principles we would have no way to

write just laws.

It is, of course, taboo to criticize a person's religious beliefs.

The problem, however, is that much of what people believe in the name

of religion is intrinsically divisive, unreasonable, and incompatible

with genuine morality.

The truth is that the only rational basis for morality is a concern for the happiness and suffering of other conscious beings.

This emphasis on the happiness and suffering of others explains why

we don't have moral obligations toward rocks. It also explains why

(generally speaking) people deserve greater moral concern than animals,

and why certain animals concern us more than others. If we show more

sensitivity to the experience of chimpanzees than to the experience of

crickets, we do so because there is a relationship between the size and

complexity of a creature's brain and its experience of the world.

Unfortunately, religion tends to separate questions of morality from

the living reality of human and animal suffering. Consequently,

religious people often devote immense energy to so- called "moral"

questions - such as gay marriage - where no real suffering is at issue,

and they will inflict terrible suffering in the service of their

religious beliefs.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More meaningful holiday gifts

The options for giving meaningful/ethical holiday gifts continues to grow. I think that the holiday season is a very poignant time to teach children about the realities of global poverty and our obligation as the wealthiest in the world to share some of what we have in order to help others.

World Vision has been a pioneer in the ethical gift catalog, where you can buy everything from a wheelchair ($14) to a share in a deep well ($100) in someone's name.

WorldVision (Canada)

Oxfam has joined the trend as well with a chicken starting at $15 CAD.

Oxfam Unwrapped (US, Canada)


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A World map of happiness

So it seems that the "pursuit of happiness" part of the US constitution needs a little help. When 80 000 people around the world were asked to rate their own happiness, the US placed 23rd out of 178. Not bad, except that my true north strong and free placed 10th. IN YOUR FACE!

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1. Denmark

2. Switzerland

3. Austria

4. Iceland

5. The Bahamas

6. Finland

7. Sweden

8. Bhutan

9. Brunei

10. Canada

11. Ireland

12. Luxembourg

13. Costa Rica

14. Malta

15. The Netherlands

16. Antigua and Barbuda

17. Malaysia

18. New Zealand

19. Norway

20. The Seychelles

Other notable results include:

23. USA

35. Germany

41. UK

62. France

82. China

90. Japan

125. India

167. Russia

The three least happy countries were:

176. Democratic Republic of the Congo

177. Zimbabwe

178. Burundi

It seems that wealthy countries with small populations fare well, as do democracies with a strong social component (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada).

From ScienceDaily

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The philosophermom and I spent the weekend in NYC ...

The philosophermom and I spent the weekend in NYC sans Curious Boy. As we were strolling along east 68th Street headed toward Central Park it occurred to me that I was at the heart of DaddyBloggerLand. Well, I guess I shoulda called (or blogged) first, but the excitement of a weekend without the kid was overwhelming and I forgot. So DaddyType no.1 (Greg) and MetroDad and ChildsPlayx2 (I think) and all the other Dad Bloggers, I'm sorry I missed the chance to meet you all IRL. I acknowledge of course, that you might not have wanted to get together and are simply happier this way.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I love TreeHugger:

The consensus among public health experts is that excessive use of antibacterial agents in household products leads to increased antibiotic resistance as well as other health effects.  (See Hygiene Hypothesis at Wikipedia).  Anyhow, here is a list of stuff that contains the antibiotic triclosan, which has many similar features to the amphibian
hormone 1. 

We���ve all seen the personal care items that proclaim the equivalent of ���Kills Bacteria On Contact,��� or, ���Kills the Germs That Cause Bad Breath.��� There���s a whole conversation we could start about whether sterile lifestyles���the sort that get enforced with bactericides in personal care and cleaning products��� could have an adverse impact on childhood immune system development and allergic response. But, we���ll leave that topic for later. This post is focused on the environmental risk versus the human health benefit of adding the bacteriocide Triclosan to soaps and lotions. (A list of consumer products containing triclosan is presented below.) We're focused on this more narrow question because of a recently studied consequence of triclosan in freshwater environments. Triclosan, widely used in soaps and toothpastes for its ability to kill bacteria, has been found to hasten the transformation of tadpoles into adult frogs. The new research, "published online September 29 in Aquatic Toxicology , is the first to show that triclosan can act as an endocrine disrupter at concentrations found in North American streams... More than 55% of streams examined in 2002 had a median concentration of 0.14 parts per billion (ppb) (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2002, 36, 2322���2329)". The concern is not just with aquatic life, due to triclosan���s structural similarity to thyroid hormones, which orchestrate growth and development in wildlife and humans.

The following partial list of Triclosan-containing personal care products was obtained from the Household Products Database.

Noxzema Triple Clean Antibacterial Lathering Cleanser

Colgate Total Toothpaste, Fresh Stripe

Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Solar

Gentle Antibacterial Body Soap with Moisture Beads

Clearasil Daily Face Wash

Shield Deodorant Soap Bar, Surf Scent

Softsoap Gentle Antibacterial Body Wash with Vitamins

Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel

Softsoap Fruit Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

Right Guard Sport, Deodorant Aerosol, Fresh

Right Guard Sport, Clear Stick Deodorant

Suave Deodorant Soap, Antibacterial

Old Spice High Endurance Stick Deodorant,

pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin Cleanser

Softsoap Liquid Antibacterial Body Soap

Clean and Smooth Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

Old Spice Red Zone Antiperspirant & Deodorant

Colgate Total Toothpaste

Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss

New Vaseline Brand Intensive Care Antibacterial Hand Lotion

Lever 2000 Soap Bar Antibacterial

Lever 2000 Deodorant Soap Bar

Imina Lathering Facial Cleanser

Softsoap 2 in 1 Antibacterial Hand Soap Plus Moisturizing Lotion

Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap with Light Moisturizers

Right Guard Sport, Deodorant Aerosol

Suave Liquid Hand Soap, Antibacterial

Bath & Body Instant AntiBacterial Hand Gel-Freesia

Dial Liquid Antibacterial Soap, Original Formula

Clean and Smooth Kitchen Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

From TreeHugger

Monday, November 06, 2006

The holiday shopping bonanza is beginning, with the pumpkins being rapidly replaced by red and white.  I've been thinking long and hard about how to shop this season, given the amount of Christmas/Hanukkah gifts we buy. 
Some things that have caught my eye so far:

RED:  Bono is the spokesman for this line of products that donates large portions of profits to buy anti-retroviral drugs for Africans.  There are specially branded products, like the iPod nano in red and their signature INSPI(RED) t-shirt from Gap.

More to come

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sam Harris is everywhere this week...

Maybe because of the primaries or maybe because a lot of what he says makes sence, Sam Harris is everywhere.  I talked about his Boston Globe article earlier, then all of a sudden he shows up on Tapestry, the weekly religion/spirituality show on CBC Radio 1.  Then, he's written an article in Newsweek.

This is someting that I think I will continue to talk about because it is a serious issue.  Don't think that I am using these posts to bash fundamentalists or people of faith.  If you know Harris, you will see that theistic liberals like me are equally repugnant to Harris.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rock on OId Macdonald.....

Billed as Delightfully modern interpretations of nursery rhyme classics sure to please both kids and hip parents alike this record is fun, but at some moments it really does seems as though everyone is trying really hard to remind you that "I have a kid, but I'm cool... really I am."

Still great fun.

Kids' Club - Family Songbook

Kids' Club - Family Songbook

Various Artists

Rock River Music

Download "Old MacDonald" (MP3, 192kbps)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wow, I guess they are starting younger

Viagra For Babies? Sildenafil Found To Prevent Rebound Pulmonary Hypertension In Infants

This is too good to pass up, even if it is a bit creepy. "Rebound Pulmonary Hypertension" occurs after infants in the ICU come off inhaled nitric oxide treatment and it seems that a single dose of sidenafil (also sold as Viagra) solves the problem.

From ScienceDirect

A single dose of sildenafil, a
blood vessel widening vasodilator (also sold under the brand name
Viagra), prevented rebound pulmonary hypertension and significantly
reduced the duration of mechanical ventilation in intensive care unit
(ICU) infants being withdrawn from inhaled nitric oxide therapy.

This research appears in the first issue for
November 2006 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

Shekerdemian, M.D., of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Royal
Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and five associates gave a
single dose of sildenafil to 15 infants undergoing withdrawal from
inhaled nitric oxide therapy. None experienced rebound pulmonary
hypertension, a common therapeutic complication.

children in the study cohort received a placebo. Ten of the 14 had an
acute elevation of pulmonary artery pressure by 20 percent or more
during the latter part of the weaning process.

Inhaled nitric
oxide was first introduced in the early 1990s as a therapeutic agent to
widen pulmonary blood vessels in ventilated lung regions by relaxing
pulmonary vascular smooth muscle.

Although there have been no
definitive studies of clinical benefit to date, the investigators
believe that inhaled nitric oxide therapy warrants use as an adjunctive
treatment in some of the sickest patients in the ICU. They call it
"unrivaled" in its efficacy as a selective pulmonary vasodilator.

important complication that is associated with the use of inhaled
nitric oxide is the development of rebound pulmonary hypertension on
its withdrawal," said Dr. Shekerdemian.

All infants who failed to
respond were given sildenafil during a subsequent weaning attempt more
than 24 hours later and were weaned successfully from nitric oxide

The total duration of ventilation for patients given
sildenafil was slightly over 28 hours, as compared with 98 hours for
those taking a placebo.

"The total ICU stay after the study was
completed was 47.8 hours for the sildenafil group and 189 hours for the
placebo group," added Dr. Shekerdemian.

"This study is unique in
a number of ways," she continued. "It is the first study to investigate
the pharmacologic prophylaxis of rebound pulmonary hypertension during
the primary attempt to wean from inhaled nitric oxide. This is also the
first prospective trial of sildenafil in the prevention of rebound
pulmonary hypertension. Moreover, this study is the first that defines
the extent of the problem of rebound pulmonary hypertension in infants
and children weaning from inhaled nitric oxide in the pediatric ICU."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Halloween

In typical style, it's better late than never....

The CB has been under the weather lately so Halloween was a little less than fun.  We did get him dressed up and even got the girls over..

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

SIDS is a controvercial and sensitive issue.  In Canada, bumper pads are strongly discouraged, as are blankets, due to the risk of suffocation.  There is a growing body of evidence that biology has a lot to do with SIDS in many cases.

A study published today by the  NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development indicates that certain brain abnormalities are present in infants who die of SIDS.  The research stress the importance of eliminating environemtal hazards such as second-hand smoke and suffocation risks.

The study only looked at 41 infants in all.  The overall rates of SIDS are low (144 in Canada in 1999 - 0.54 per 1000 births) and have decreased significantly in the past 15 years.  This is consistent with the increased public awareness campaigns.

Infants who die of sudden infant death syndrome
have abnormalities in the brainstem, a part of the brain that helps
control heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, temperature and arousal,
report researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. The
finding is the strongest evidence to date suggesting that innate
differences in a specific part of the brain may place some infants at
increased risk for SIDS

Infants who died from SIDS had significantly
more serotonergic neurons (neurons that make and release serotonin) in
their brainstem as compared with controls, particularly in the area
known as the midline raph�� nucleus (blue dots). (Image courtesy David
Paterson, Ph.D., Children's Hospital Boston.

Read more (ScienceDirect)

Fathers Influence Child Language Development More Than Mothers

Fathers Influence Child Language Development More Than Mothers

More news about the importance of dads in a kid's development.

In families with two working parents, fathers had
greater impact than mothers on their children's language development
between ages 2 and 3, according to a study by the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill's Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development
Institute and UNC's School of Education

he children whose fathers used more diverse
vocabularies had greater language development when they were tested one
year later. However, the mothers' vocabulary did not significantly
affect a child's language skills.

Read more (ScienceDirect)

Hair Samples Show Babies Can Be Exposed To 'Crystal Meth' While In The Womb

Methamphetamine, or crystal meth is the fastest growing drug in North America.  It is cheap, potent and incredibly addictive.  It is to this decade what crack was to the 80s and heroin to the 90s.

A study in the British Medical Journal has shown conclusively that crystal meth can cross the placenta when pregnant mothers use the drug.

Babies can be exposed to methamphetamine or
"crystal meth" while in the womb, reveals an analysis of hair samples,
published ahead of print in the Fetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives
of Disease in Childhood

The authors carried out hair sample analysis on
more than 8,000 people, totalling more than 34,000 test results between
1997 and 2005.

In all, 396 samples tested positive for crystal
meth, accounting for 8% of the total during this period. This number
included 11 mother and baby pairs.

All but 14 of the samples
testing positive for crystal meth had been sent for analysis in 2005.
The first positive cases dated from 2003.

Wide ranging levels
of the drug were found in both the mothers' and the newborns' hair
samples. But the levels matched, indicating that the drug is able to
cross the placenta directly to the developing fetus, say the authors.

Only one newborn had no evidence of the drug in its hair. Fetal hair starts to grow at about 20 weeks.

authors say that the precise effects of crystal meth on a fetus are not
fully known, but the evidence to date points to restricted fetal growth
and developmental problems.

Crystal meth users were also
significantly more likely to use other drugs, the results showed. Most
(85%) of the 396 samples positive for crystal meth also tested positive
for at least one other illegal drug, predominantly cocaine. .

abuse increases complications of pregnancy and triples the likelihood
of serious medical problems among the babies born, say the authors.

Via ScienceDirect

Monday, October 30, 2006

Asthma Linked To Soot From Diesel Trucks In Bronx

More evidence that pollution is not only a broad environmental threat, but an acute danger to our health. 

More from NYU (via ScienceDirect)

Soot particles spewing from the exhaust of diesel
trucks constitute a major contributor to the alarmingly high rates of
asthma symptoms among school-aged children in the South Bronx,
according to the results of a five-year study by researchers at New
York University's School of Medicine and Robert F. Wagner Graduate
School of Public Service.

Over the course of the study, asthma symptoms,
particularly wheezing, doubled among elementary school children on high
traffic days, as large numbers attend schools in close proximity to
busy truck routes because of past land-use decisions.

The South
Bronx has among the highest incidences of asthma hospital admissions in
New York City, and a recent city survey of asthma in the South Bronx's
Hunts Point district found an asthma prevalence rate in elementary
school of 21 percent to 23 percent. The South Bronx is surrounded by
several major highways, including Interstates 95, 87, 278 and 895. At
Hunts Point Market alone, some 12,000 trucks roll in and out daily.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Breastfeeding for mental health

Although I often skeptical of many of the claims put forward by the hardcore pro-breastfeeders (like this), there are indeed many real reasons to promote breastfeeding. This Austrialian study seems legit. The study followed 2500 kids for 16 years (NB: This is an important point, some mental health problems can manifest themselves in adolescence but many show up later in life). The sample size here is encouraging at least. I hope that the researchers will continue to follow these kids to see if the trends persist.

From the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research

Even when we adjust the results to take into account other factors such as the parents' socio-economic situation, their education, their happiness and family functioning, we see that children that were breastfed for at least six months are at lower risk of mental health problems," Dr Oddy said.

The study found that children who were breastfed for less than six months compared to six months or longer had a 52% increased risk of a mental health problem at 2 years of age, a 55% increased risk at age 6, at age 8 the increased risk was 61% while at age 10 the increased risk was 37%.

The analysis is based on a scientifically recognised checklist of child behaviour that assessed the study childrens behaviour at 2, 6, 8 and 10 years of age.

Dr Oddy said that children that were breastfed had particularly lower rates of delinquent, aggressive and anti-social behaviour, and overall were less depressed, anxious or withdrawn.

"These results are powerful evidence for more support to be given to mothers to help them breastfeed for longer," she said.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Depression Symptoms Less Likely In Kids With Accurate Self-perceptions

More and more evidence points to the importance of teaching children to understand their emotions, and how to empathize with others.

From ScienceDirect (Link)

Psychology Professor Janet Kistner found that children in third through fifth grades who had the wrong idea about their level of social acceptance were more likely to develop symptoms of depression over time. The study, "Bias and Accuracy of Children's Perceptions of Peer Acceptance: Prospective Associations with Depressive Symptoms," was published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Graduate students Corinne David-Ferdon and Karla Repper and psychology Professor Thomas Joiner were co-authors.

"There's a long-running debate in the field of psychology about whether realistic perceptions are a hallmark of positive adjustment or they are associated with risk for depression," Kistner said. "Our results support the perspective that realistic perceptions are a hallmark of mental health."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oy, Jewish Lullabies

I've been looking for Jewish/Yiddish lullabies to sing to the Curious Boy, and stumbled across this record. The producer has worked with Lisa Loeb, Debbie Harris and that role model for all nice Jewish boys, Perry Farrell. The arrangements are nice and calm, very traditional.

Lilah Tov (Good Night)

Lilah Tov (Good Night)

Jewish Lullabies

Download "Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet)" (MP3, 192kbps)

Jewish Music Group

"Re-Goodie" Those Cheap Toys

One of my favourite environment/design/sustainability blogs, has a great article about what to do with the tons of cheap plastic crap that seems to accumulate on its own. The Curious Boy is not even a year old and we're already ankle deep.

Some of the ideas: give them to a doctor's office or clinics, give them to charity or have a garage sale and give the money away.

The problem with cheap stuff is that the plasitic is not very durable and will not stand up to repeated wear, teething or dishwashing.

via ParentHacks

Monday, October 23, 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The perils of family life

Last week the Montreal suburb I live in was rocked by a triple murder/attempted suicide. A 41 year-old man killed his two children and his wife and then tried to kill himself. He failed and is currently on life support.

See the report (

This hits closer to home for me because the eldest child, a daughter was a science student at the college where I teach chemistry. Many of my students knew her well and are devastated.

This is the first time that something like this has happened in this area since I became a parent. I am in utter shock. I can't imagine the thought process that leads someone to do this.

I'm not trying to be holier-than-thou or anything, I just feel that someone who feels that his family will suffer less (for whatever reason) because they are dead is clearly in need of help.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pollution Shortens Life Expectancy Worldwide

While this AP article at ENN talks about worst case scenarios, the fact remains that pollution is having an important impact on all of our life expectancies as well as our general health.

More than 10 million people are at risk for lung infection, cancer and shortened life expectancy because they live in the 10 worst-polluted cities in the world, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The report published by the Blacksmith Institute, an international environmental research group, lists 10 cities in eight countries where pollution poses health risks and fosters poverty.

"Living in a town with serious pollution is like living under a death sentence," the report said. "If the damage does not come from immediate poisoning, then cancers, lung infections, mental retardation, are likely outcomes."

The worst-polluted places in the world, the report said, are in secluded areas far away from capitals or tourist areas.

These countries, which are mostly part of the developing world, generally have few or inadequate pollution controls, and the problem is compounded by the local governments' "lack of knowledge" and the inability of citizens to enforce justice.

Three Russian cities are among the most polluted _ Dzherzhinsk, Norilsk and Rudnaya Pristan. The other cities are Linfen, China; Haina, Dominican Republic; Ranipet, India; Mayluu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan; La Oroya, Peru; Chernobyl, Ukraine; and Kabwe, Zambia.

Read more

This explains why we have kids...

I guess it explains S&M too though....

From ScienceDaily
For years, the brain chemical dopamine has been thought of as the brain's "pleasure chemical," sending signals between brain cells in a way that rewards a person or animal for one activity or another. More recently, research has shown that certain drugs like cocaine and heroin amplify this effect -- an action that may lie at the heart of drug addiction.

Now, a new study from the University of Michigan adds a new twist to dopamine's fun-loving reputation: pain.

Using sophisticated brain-scanning and a carefully controlled way of inducing muscle pain, the researchers show that the brain's dopamine system is highly active while someone experiences pain -- and that this response varies between individuals in a way that relates directly to how the pain makes them feel. It's the first time that dopamine has been linked to pain response in humans.

Shorter Nightly Sleep In Childhood May Help Explain Obesity Epidemic

Soaring levels of obesity might be linked to children sleeping fewer hours at night than they used to, claims a researcher in the Archives of Disease in Childhood

I know that I snack more than normal when I'm tired.  I guess kids do to.


Dr Shahrad Taheri of the University of Bristol, blames the increasing availability of computers, mobile phones, TVs and other gadgets on the diminishing nightly quota of sleep, and suggests they should be banned from children's bedrooms. Dr Taheri cites the emerging body of research on the impacts on the body of a fall in the nightly quota of sleep, which reflects circumstances in real life, rather than sustained sleep deprivation, which tends to be more extreme.

This research shows that shorter sleep duration disturbs normal metabolism, which may contribute to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Even two to three nights of shortened sleep can have profound effects, the laboratory data suggest.

Oh mister sun, sun, mister golden sun...

Even the though the Curious Boy was born in the depths of winter, when spring came we were crazy about sunscreen.  We obsessed about which one to use and made sure to fully reapply every 2 hours. 

After reading a report from the European Space Agency (Link) I feel better about how strict we were.  The World Health Organization claims that 60,000 people die annually from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation.  Simply taking shade and wearing sunblock are effective measures.

Now guests at certain hotels can have recommendations about what sunscreen to use and how much time to spend in the shade texted to their phones. 


Pretty neat.

From ScienceDaily


By using data from Envisat and Meteosat-8 satellites, HappySun is also able to offer the sea surface temperature and sea water transparency. Knowing the sea temperature allows tourists to make decisions on holiday destinations depending on their desire for cool or warm waters. Knowledge of the sea water transparency is useful for tourists wanting to dive in waters with good visibility in order to explore the marine environment.

The UV protection service is currently available in Tuscany, Italy, for APT Versilia and Sardinia, Italy, for Baja Hotels. The APT Versilia website shows the temperature of the Versilia sea, while the Baja Hotels’ website shows sea temperature implemented in a Google Maps interface.

"Tourists appreciate having a ‘satellite eye’ that takes care of their skin during sun exposure. Tourists, snorkellers and divers all appreciate having information on sea water in order to find the best conditions," Baja Hotels General Manager Marco Bongiovanni said.

"HappySun is an innovative service conceived in the scope of a European project with the aim of spreading the information regarding benefits and drawbacks associated to heliotherapy," Renato Baldi, APT Versilia Director, said. "We have hosted such a service on our website to promote Versilia as a place where people can sun safely."

These types of services are set to continue in the near future, as HappySun is following up the tourism aspects of the service with tour and hotel operators in preparation for next summer. In addition, the Global Monitoring of the Environment and Security (GMES) initiative – a joint initiative of the European Commission and ESA – is incorporating the public health aspects within its portfolio of services.

The HappySun service, provided by Flyby s.r.l., is backed by an ESA Earth Observation Market Development (EOMD) programme aimed at fostering the development of Earth Observation data within business practices.



Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Great Fish Debate

Finally, a reputable source, the Harvard School of Public Health has put to rest the great fish debate.  We have long known that fish is good, especially oil fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  The problem is that recent analysis has shown that these fish are also high in PCBs, mercury and other toxic compounds.  This study (Link via ScienceDaily) shows that overall, the benefits outweigh the risks, but that pretty much everyone should avoid tilefish (golden bass), king mackerel, shark and swordfish (my personal favourite). 


The evidence was suggestive that mercury may have subtle effects on brain development for a child exposed in the womb, or in early childhood. To obtain the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for brain development and minimize the potential risk of mercury, the investigators' findings agreed with the recommendations of the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration that women of childbearing age, nursing mothers and young children should eat up to two servings per week of a variety of fish (for example, salmon, light tuna, shrimp, mackerel, and up to 6 oz. per week of albacore tuna) and avoid only four species of fish--golden bass (also known as tilefish), king mackerel, shark and swordfish--larger, predatory fish that have higher levels of mercury. The researchers emphasized that this advisory is only for women of childbearing age, nursing mothers and young children, not the general population. Importantly, the evidence suggests that, for those women, it is as important for their health and for the brain development of their infants that they eat a variety of other types of fish as it is to avoid the four fish species higher in mercury.



Saturday, October 14, 2006

We're back(ish) and talking about shoes

Although this is more of a daddy types type of thing, I couldn't resist. I (and 2 million or so other readers) found this item on boingboing.

"Inchworms are kids' shoes whose size can be adjusted up to three sizes -- press a button on the underside and pull or push to change the size."

LINK (via BoingBoing via Gizmodo)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A moment of sadness

I've pulled myself away from my thesis for a moment today to talk about a sad and shocking turn of events. Someone went on a shooting rampage today at Dawson College in downtown Montreal, (map)killing one woman before being killed by police (about 20 others were wounded). I am a college professor at a different institution (although I have taught at Dawson in the past), so this tragedy hits close to home. As a parent, I am also saddened because of the trauma that all of those students must be suffering and that tonight, two families are missing members. Gun violence is a growing problem in Canada, but I think that other problems are at the root of events like this. Young people have so many issues of great complexity to deal with, and many of them have less and less time to spend with their parents in order to talk about these issues and, more importantly, learn how to deal with the strong feelings that arise from them.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of the suffering families in Montreal tonight.

Not surprisingly, has a plethora of videos and photos from the shooting. Most moving (to me at least) is this image of the campus daycare being evacuated.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Brown bear, brown bear...umm tasty cardboard - The joy of reading - Aug 28, 2006

There's a good article this week at about reading to your kids. Everyone always says that reading to babies is important, but not everyone always tells you how to do it. This article has a rundown of what to look for in a good baby/infant book and what to expect the reading process to be like.
We've been reading to the squirt since the get-go and at 8 months, he does love "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you see?" But I think his favourite thing about it is the taste.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Here we go again....

OK, OK... now I know that both of my readers...yes, you Mom, are going to be confused by the roundabout migrating from blogger to wordpress and now back to blogger. Well, a few things have happened. One is that blogger has been seriously updated - and it rocks. I can also start having ads again and maybe earn a few bucks from doing this. The other thing is that I have been working at becoming a real Philosopher Dad (and hopefully will be soon) and it made me think long and hard about what I wanted this blog to be. Instead of just posting every single science/parenting item that I come across, I hope that I will really be able to take the time to discuss the issues that affect me and my family (or the ones that piss me off at least). Posting may be slow for a while, but hopefully it will get rolling soon.

Thanks for understanding..