Intelligence, Power Lines, Laundry Pods – PediaCast 304

Join Dr Mike in the PediaCast Studio for more news parents can use. This week’s topics: parenting skills & intelligence, emergency epinephrine at school, a coat of armor for button batteries, power lines & cancer, cancer cell fingerprints, and the dangers of laundry pods.


  • Vaccine Safety
  • Parenting Skills & Intelligence
  • Emergency Epinephrine at School
  • Coat of Armor for Button Batteries
  • Power Lines & Cancer
  • Cancer Cell Fingerprints
  • Laundry Pod Danger



Announcer 1: This is PediaCast.


Announcer 2: Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now, direct from the campus of Nationwide Children’s, here is your host, Dr. Mike.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to PediaCast. It’s a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike, coming to you from the campus of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. We’re in Columbus, Ohio. It is Episode 304 for December 10th, 2014. We’re calling this one “Intelligence, Power Lines and Laundry Pods”. I want to welcome everyone to the program.

We have a News Parents Can Use edition of the program lined up for you this week. I’ll get to the complete run-down of topics in a few moments, but first I was going to a bunch of pediatric journals and other sources of pediatric news for you this week, in preparation for today’s show, and I came across an editorial in a New England Journal of Medicine regarding measles and the increasing number of measles cases, mostly resulting from parents who are choosing to forego immunizations in their children.

Of course, being a few miles away from the epicenter of the largest recent measles outbreak in the nation just a few months ago, in a predominantly Amish population of unvaccinated children in North Central Ohio, and subsequently hearing about measles non-stop there for awhile in the local news media, and seeing kids in the urgent cares and the emergency department, whose parents were worried their child’s funny looking rash might be the measles, because moms and dads were hearing all those news reports as well — then, of course, hosting this show and reading the questions you sent me regarding vaccinations and their safety which we covered more than a time or two, and at the same time, seeing everyone sort of flipping out about enterovirus D68 and Ebola, two viral diseases we don’t currently have immunizations against — but in hearing and reading about the fear that’s out there regarding enterovirus D68 and Ebola, I also believe there are lots of families who wish we did have vaccines against this and other emerging diseases.


So kind of a pole here, a pole in two different directions — you have some parents who are anti-vacs, don’t want anything to do with vaccines, and then you got another group of parents that are like, “Hey, there’s these other diseases, why don’t we have vaccines against them as well.”

All of this sort of the pull back and forth really got me thinking. And you know how thinking goes; it sort of carries you from one place to another. At least, that’s how it happens in my head — flight of ideas and all that. First, it got me thinking about how vocal the non-vacs crowd has been really over the last of couple of decades. Despite the lack of evidence showing an association with autism, and despite the lack of evidence showing a compelling danger from thimerosal, which was removed from most vaccines — not because it was dangerous, but to remove it as a barrier or as an excuse for not vaccinating your kids. So this got me thinking just how effective the non-vacs voice has been. The sheer number of people who despite evidence to the contrary believed that government and organized medicine in corporate America are somehow in cahoots to turn a profit and bring harm upon our children.

And then, along comes the Internet, which morphs into social media, and just spreads that fear to the degree that enough parents aren’t vaccinating their kids that we see significant outbreaks of measles and mumps — last year on the campus of the Ohio State University — and pertussis, lots more whooping cough out there. These are diseases that were only known by name because there were shots against them, not because they actually happened as recently it goes, the Reagan administration. Really, it took Al Gore inventing the Internet to change the mindset of a significant number of parents. This is a difficult thing for those of us who have dedicated our careers to helping children.


When I started out as a pediatrician, parents trusted our opinion. We were an advocate for their children, and moms and dads understood and respected that. They really trusted the opinion that we gave based on evidence. When we could come up to a conclusion because of evidence, they would go along with that. But somewhere along the way, parents begin to trust what they heard in chat rooms and forum boards and blog posts and podcasts. And the doctors in the crowd know what I’m talking about. It’s frustrating, and some days, it’s downright depressing.

I’ve encountered the non-vacs crowd in working on this podcast. In fact, most negative reviews that PediaCast gets come from non-vaccinating parents who think I should be more neutral on the subject like them. There’s a few pediatrician out there who write books on alternative vaccine schedules, but really, doing that just adds fuel to the craziness.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I have a glimmer of hope. We don’t watch a ton of television in our house, as most of you know. But one show we do watch on a fairly regular basis is Last Man Standing. It’s a sitcom starring Tim Allen. The episode was called Big Shots, Season 4, Episode 7 for those of you keeping score, and the premise of the entire episode centered on whether Boyd, the little boy in the family, whether he should get shots or not. Boyd’s mom, Christine, is non-vacs – not really trusting vaccines — but his father, Ryan, is leaning pro-vaccine, which is surprising to Boyd’s grandfather (played by Tim Allen) because if you were to believe stereotypes, Ryan will be expected to lean non-vacs just as Christine does, Boyd’s mom.


At the end of the day, it gets complicated. The plot twists in sort of unexpected ways. But really, I thought the topic was actually handled in a really sensitive yet sensical and responsible manner. To be honest, it gave me hope that maybe we’re on the verge of turning the ship round. Maybe our efforts of promoting evidence-based ideas, of admitting when we’re wrong, of making changes when changes need to be made, and of remaining transparent through the process, maybe that is starting to speak louder than the distorted fear mongering that continues to rise from the websites and social media. Maybe we’re starting to make a real difference.

Yes, vaccines come with a small risk, but they come with an enormous benefit. I liken it to riding in a car. There’s a small risk that you’ll get killed in an accident that’s not your fault. Although I’d say that risk is not bigger than the risk vaccines pose, yet we’re still driving cars every day. Why? Because the benefit far outweighs the relatively small risk. Are we finally getting through to people that the benefit of vaccines far outweighs the little risks? I hope so.

We have some way to go, but as my mind wandered through the topic, I realize I was seeing a glimmer of hope despite the unsettling editorial I read in the New England Journal of Medicine. Really, the fact that you are listening to me today, that’s hope, too. That there are thousands of moms and dads out there who are interested in hearing an evidence-based pediatric infused with a healthy dose of common sense. That’s encouraging.


Let’s go on with the show and spend some time together looking at some truth as it relates to pediatric medicine. At least truth as we see it today, knowing full well that what we believe next week will be based on what we learn tomorrow. It’s a journey. It’s one which requires a map, so we don’t succumb to the fear of being lost in the woods. I think all that fear mongering is causing some parents to be lost in the woods.

All right, enough of my musings on the effect of the Internet on our collective sanity. What are we covering on this podcast today? Parenting skills and intelligence, I didn’t realize that fit right in with our introductory conversation. Again, how you, parent, affect your child’s intelligence down the road? Are there things you can do to make your kids smarter? And when I say smarter, I mean a gain in IQ points. Or is intelligence dictated by genetics? What your kids get at birth is what he or she has to work with, no more and no less. Stay tuned. We’ll explore more on intelligence and parenting.

And then, emergency epinephrine at school — kids with a history of severe life-threatening allergic reactions should carry an EpiPen with them, right? Including at school. But what about children and school staff who have never had an allergic reaction? What if they have a first-time ever episode of anaphylaxis while on school grounds? Should schools have a stock of EpiPens for anyone who needs one emergently? We’ll take a look at one large school district that has undesignated EpiPens for staff and students, and we’ll take a look at their experience over a year’s time, and answer an important question: should your child’s school district be doing the same thing? So that’s coming up.

Then, a ‘coat of armor’ for button batteries. You’ve heard button batteries are particularly dangerous when swallowed by a child. In fact, a swallowed button battery is a medical emergency. It’s not something you want to give some time and see if it comes out the other end. Why is that? Why are button batteries being swallowed in medical emergency? What makes him so dangerous and is there a way to make them safe? We’ll explore answers to those questions together.


Powerlines and cancer — I’m sure you’ve wondered this before. Is living under powerlines dangerous? If so, by what mechanism do they cause harm? If you look at the numbers, is there really an increased risk of cancer for those who make their home nearby? We’ll fill you in on the proposed mechanism by which powerlines could be dangerous, and then we’ll share some numbers, at least in regard to the United Kingdom and one specific type of cancer. So we want to keep it evidence-based, and since this particular study dealt with folks living under powerlines in the United Kingdom and looked at one specific type of cancer, that’s what we’ll keep our comments to.

Speaking of cancer, cancer cell fingerprints — what if a simple blood test could diagnose a tumor-type without the need for invasive surgery and tumor-sampling? Now, of course, sometimes the tumor needs to be removed, but other times it doesn’t. Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly what type of tumor you’re dealing with right from the get-go before and to determine if risky invasive procedures are actually warranted? We’ll talk about a research team that’s working on that technology, so stay tuned.

And then, at the end of the program, for my final word, we’ll look at laundry pods. They are convenient and growing in popularity, but they are also colorful and look like a bag of juice or candy. Kids are ingesting them, daily, which is resulting in trips to the emergency department and hospitalization. So how exactly are laundry pods dangerous and what can you do to protect your kids? so stick around and I’ll fill you in.


Quick reminder, PediaCast is your show, so if there’s a topic you’d like me to talk about or you want to point me in the direction of a news article or a journal article, or you have a question for me, it’s easy to get in touch. Just head over to and click on the Contact link.
Also, the information presented in PediaCast is for general educational purposes only. We do not diagnose medical conditions or formulate treatment plans for specific individuals. So if you have a concern about your child’s health, be sure to call your doctor and arrange a face-to-face interview and hands-on physical examination.

Also, your use of this audio program is subject to the PediaCast Terms of Use Agreement, which you can find at

All right, let’s take a quick break and I will be back with News Parents Can Use, right after this.


Dr. Mike Patrick: All right, we are back. Reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children. But according to new research, none of these actions have any detectable influence on children’s intelligence later in life. This, according to research from Florida State University, recently published in the journal Intelligence. Dr. Kevin Beaver, a professor of Criminology at FSU and his team examined a nationally representative sample of youth and compared them to a sample of adopted children from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. In doing so, the researchers found evidence to support the argument that IQ is not the result of parental socialization.


The study analyzed parenting behaviors and whether they had an effect on verbal intelligence, as measured by the picture vocabulary test. The IQ tests were administered to middle and high school students, and again when the students were between the ages of 18 and 26. Dr. Beaver says, “Previous research had detected that parenting related behaviors affect intelligence. But that research is perhaps incorrect because it didn’t take genetic transmission into account.”

The subject of how much influence parents have on intelligence has long been debated. Previous research has shown that parents who socialize their children in accordance with certain principles like reading with them often or having family dinners every night, these parents have children who are smarter than children whose parents do not do these things.

The current research injects the argument that intelligence is not the result of parental socialization, instead it’s passed down from parent to child genetically, not socially.

In order to test these two explanations, investigators use an adoption-based research design. Dr. Beaver explains, “We thought this was a very interesting setup and when we tested these two competing hypothesis in this adoptive-based research design, we found that there was no association between parenting and the child’s intelligence later in life, once we accounted for genetic influences. Including children who share no DNA with adoptive parents eliminates the possibility that parental socialization is really just a marker for genetic transmission.”

Dr. Beaver says, “In previous research, it looks as though parenting is having an effect on a child’s intelligence, but in reality the parents who are more intelligent are doing things like reading to their children and sitting down for nightly dinners together which is masking the actual genetic transmission of intelligence to their children.”

Does this mean parents can neglect or even traumatize their children and it won’t affect them? Dr. Beaver’s response to that question is an emphatic no. But he says the way you parent a child is not going to have a detectable effect on their IQ, as long as that parenting is within normal bounds.


OK, so those of you who are long-time PediaCast listeners, you know I’m a strong advocate of being a social parent. Reading to your kids, conversing with them, getting down on the floor and playing, turning off the screens, getting out the board games, taking a hike together in the woods or a bike ride, spending time together, including a phones-stay-in-the-pocket family meal around the kitchen or dining room table. Now, I’ve never promised that doing these thing will make your child smarter by increasing their IQ. But, would doing these things improve the relationships that your family forges? Would it increase your child’s lifesmart or streetsmart? Would they increase your, the parent’s, lifesmarts or streetsmarts?

I guess that depends on the diversity and depth of information you share back and forth. Will doing these things improve your child’s quality of life? Will they improve your quality of life? Again, none of these things have anything to do with IQ. I say yes, and until I see research that strongly suggest otherwise, I’ll remain an advocate for reading to your kids, talking to your kids, playing with your kids, and enjoying family meals around the table, phones in the pocket, as often as possible. And that advice remains for parents of biological and adopted kids alike.

All right, let’s move on. During the 2012 to 2013 school year, 38 Chicago Public Schools students and staff were given emergency medication for potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. These findings is detailed in a new report in partnership with Northwestern University and Chicago Public Schools.

Following national and local legislation, Chicago Public Schools was the first large urban school district in the nation to develop and implement an initiative to supply all public and charter schools in Chicago, with epinephrine auto injectors — medical devices also known as EpiPens — used to treat acute and severe allergic or anaphylactic reactions. The impact during the initiative’s first year, the 2012 to 2013 school year, underscores the need for stocking undesignated epinephrine in schools across the country.


Dr. Ruchi Gupta, associate professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and corresponding author of the report, which was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, says, “Currently, there is no treatment or cure for food allergies. Timely administration of an epinephrine is a child’s first and primary line of defense in the event of anaphylaxis resulting from an allergic reaction.”

Anaphylaxis, by the way, is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen. Since last year, 41 states passed policies encouraging schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto injectors in their schools for a possible anaphylactic emergency.

So let me take a second to explain what this means. Undesignated EpiPens, these are not ones that are prescribed for a specific child with a history of severe allergies and brought to school in case that specific child has a severe allergic reaction at school. As the name implies, undesignated EpiPens are stocked at the school for anyone to use in the case of an emergency.

Some highlights from the report — the majority (92 %) of those receiving an EpiPen injection were students. More than half (55%) didn’t know they had an allergy. Undesignated EpiPens were used 21 times during the school year to treat food induced allergic reactions. Among food induced reactions, peanut was the most common, followed by fish. The trigger of more than a third of the severe allergic reactions was unknown. Elementary schools had the most cases of EpiPen administration, and school nurses administered the medication in the majority of cases.


Dr. Stephanie Whyte, co-author of the study and chief health officer at Chicago Public Schools, says, “Our goal is to prevent any health-related barriers to learning, which is why we have worked with all of our schools to address this critical issue by equipping them with the tools and guidance they need to keep students safe and healthy.”

The EpiPens are issued by the school district and available to all Chicago Public Schools, to be used when a person is having a severe allergic reaction and his or her own epinephrine is unavailable or if he or she has no history of allergic reactions.

Dr. Gupta says, “Because of the amount of time kids spend in school, and given the fact that many first-time allergic reactions occur on school grounds, it is imperative for school districts across the country to provide access to emergency epinephrine to students who may not otherwise have access to the potentially life-saving medication.”

Most district-issued EpiPens were administered on the city’s north-northwest side where the rate of food allergy has been found to be higher. However, a large number of EpiPens were also used on the far south side — an area of the city with a low reported rate of food allergy. But this highlights the need for access to district-issued EpiPens citywide, as children on the far south side may not have access to routine medical care and a food allergy diagnosis, but could still experience their first severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction at school.

Dr. Gupta adds, “This is definitely a national issue in schools around the country. We think the situation in Chicago schools is representative of schools everywhere. Most states now have policies in place for stocking epinephrine in schools. This is an essential step to keep kids with food allergies safe.”


Most states do, as Dr. Gupta points out, have laws in place to allow local schools to stock undesignated EpiPens, including here in Ohio. But, in most states, including here in Ohio, this is not a mandate. In other words, a school is allowed to stock undesignated EpiPens if they want to, but whether they actually do it or not is a decision made by local school staff and the local Board of Education.

So my question to you, the PediaCast listener, does your child’s school have undesignated epinephrine auto injectors along with staff who are proficient in using them? If not, why not? And don’t say it’s none of your business, because your child doesn’t have a food allergy. Your child’s first anaphylactic reaction might just be around the corner, and that undesignated auto injector may just save his or her life. So get out there and advocate, call the school, make your voice heard, even if it means tangling with your local Board of Education. Please do your part to make your school a safer place for all the children who attend.

A research team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital has developed a simple “coat of armor” to encase small batteries, rendering them harmless if they are ever swallowed. Children, particularly infants and young toddlers, can ingest these batteries, leading to serious damage to their esophagus as well as other gut tissue, and sometimes, death. Such incidents are on the rise, yet up until now, no solutions have been directed at the battery itself.

This new work, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a simple and cost-effective fix that, if implemented, could dramatically reduce — if not eliminate — this unfortunate problem.

Dr. Jeff Karp, with the Division of Biomedical Engineering at Harvard Medical School, says, “To date, there has been no innovation to address this issue with small batteries. We accepted the challenge and sought to develop something that would render the battery inert, specifically when it was outside of a device.”


Each year, roughly 5 billion button batteries are produced across the world. These small, disc-shaped batteries power everything from children’s toys, hearing aids and laser pointers to remote controls and musical greeting cards. While recent legislation requires a battery compartment in a child’s toy to be secured with screws, many items commonly used by adults contain these batteries in easily accessible formats and their packaging provides no protection.

With the proliferation of such gadgets, and the demand for more powerful batteries to operate them, the problem of accidental button battery-ingestion is increasing. In 2013, there were more than 3, 000 reported cases of accidental battery ingestion, with the majority of affected children under six years of age.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Giovanni Traverso says, “Ingested disc batteries require emergent removal from the esophagus. Swallowing one is a gastrointestinal emergency because tissue damage starts at first contact, when the battery generates an electric current and causes a chemical burn.”

Dr. Karp and his colleagues became aware of this issue in 2010, and decided to apply their collective expertise toward developing a novel solution. He says, “This seemed like a solvable problem that we could make significant headway on in a short period of time, just based on our expertise in materials and devices.”

The investigators noticed that when a battery sits within a device, there is gentle pressure applied to it, yet when it is outside the device, such force does not exist.

Dr. Robert Langer, co-author and Institute Professor from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, says, “We set out to create a specialized coating that could switch from being an insulator to a conductor when subjected to pressure.”

The team discovered this unique substance in an unlikely place — touch screens. Using an off-the-shelf material known as a quantum tunneling composite, they identified a nanoparticle-based coating that, when subjected to pressure, allows an electrical current to pass through. In contrast, it allows no current to run in the absence of such pressure. They used this material to coat one side of the batteries — covering the “minus” end or the anode. To determine the coating’s effectiveness, they teamed up with Dr. Traverso, exposing coated and uncoated batteries to gut tissue both in a laboratory dish and in living animals. In all cases, the coated batteries caused no damage while the uncoated batteries, as expected, caused significant damage.


In addition to reducing injuries, this innovation is also likely to be cost-effective. Researchers say, “The ultimate cost will depend on the exact composition of the material that is used, but for our formulation, we’re talking cents, not dollars.”

Dr. Karp and his colleagues are turning their attention to figuring out the best route toward manufacturing and scaling up to a sufficiently large number of batteries, and then working out with battery manufacturers to get the coated batteries into the hands of consumers.

As a reminder for my listeners, button batteries supporting this protective coat of armor are not yet available for purchase. And even when they are, there’s still going to be billions of unprotected disc batteries floating around for a long time to come. So if your child swallows a battery of any make or model, remember this is a medical emergency and your child should be seen by a medical provider as soon as possible. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and do not wait for the battery to show up in your child’s stool. Seek help now.

Researchers from the United Kingdom had called in to question a theory suggesting that children born close to overhead powerlines have higher rates of leukemia caused by alterations in the air. The study, recently published in the Journal of Radiological Protection, found little evidence to support the ‘corona-ion hypothesis’ which has been cited as a possible explanation for the increase in childhood leukemia associated with living under high-voltage powerlines in the UK prior to the 1980s.


The corona-ion hypothesis is based on the fact that high-voltage overhead powerlines create charged particles in the surrounding air by a process known as ionization. On occasion, these ionized particles known as corona ions can be blown away by wind and attached to air pollutants such as those from traffic or smoking. The corona-ion hypothesis suggest that this electrically charged pollutants are more likely to be retained in the airway or lungs and this could lead to serious health effects, including childhood leukemia.

Researchers from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the University of Oxford and those from an organization called National Grid have previously shown that on average and in recent decades, there has been no increased risk of leukemia among children born near high-voltage power lines. However, the same piece of research confirmed an increased risk prior to the 1980s, which has yet to be explained.

To investigate this theory, researchers used data from over 7, 000 children in England and Wales who were born and diagnosed with leukemia between 1968 and 2008, and who lived within 600 meters of a high-voltage overhead power line. The researchers calculated the exposure of each of the subjects to corona ions using a model based on the following criteria: one, the voltage of the power line; two, the distance the child live from the power line; three, how the concentration of corona ions varied with distance from the power lines; and four, using data from various weather stations, the amount of time and speed the wind blew in each direction around the power lines.

The results did not suggest that exposure to corona ions explained the pattern of increased leukemia rates close to high-voltage overhead power lines previously found in earlier decades.

Co-author of the study Dr. Kathryn Bunch says, “We found in earlier studies that, for previous decades, childhood leukemia rates were higher near power lines. This new paper seems to show this association wasn’t caused by corona ions, but it leaves us still searching for the true cause, and we are undertaking further investigations of the variation in risk over time.”


She points out that childhood leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer and accounts for around a third of all cancers diagnosed in children under the age of 15 each year in the United Kingdom.

Speaking of childhood cancer, newly-identified cancel cell fingerprints in the blood could one day help doctors diagnose a range of childhood cancers faster and more accurately. This according to research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute.

Investigators from the University of Cambridge found unique molecular fingerprints for 11 types of childhood cancer, which could be used to develop blood tests to diagnose these diseases. This could lead to a quicker and more accurate way to diagnosing certain tumors, and could also reduce the need for children to undergo surgery in order to obtain a diagnosis.

Researchers say childhood cancers behave differently than adult cancers and require different treatments. The exact treatment depends on the cancer in question, and determining that information typically involves risky invasive procedures and of obtaining samples of the actual cancer cells. Identifying cancer fingerprints may change this long-standing strategy.

Investigators uncovered the fingerprints left by tumors by analyzing blood samples from children when they were diagnosed with cancer. They were looking for molecules that turn genes on and off, called microRNAs, to find common changes linked to different tumors. In particular, they found a very specific fingerprint which identifies different types of neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer which develops from a type of nerve cell.

The research suggested that different types of tumor could be identified using a blood test which recognizes the unique fingerprints produced by the tumor.


Dr. Matthew Murray, one of the lead researchers and a doctor at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, says, “Being diagnosed with cancer is often devastating for a child and his or her family, and the tests involved can be upsetting. We hope this early research could eventually lead to the development of non-invasive tests which are faster, more accurate and gentler, transforming the way we make a cancer diagnosis in the future.” He adds, “Using a blood test instead of sampling a tumor by surgery means diagnostic results will take a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. However, before such a test can be incorporated into clinical practice, our findings must be validated in large, independent studies.”

Dr. Julia Ambler, Director of Medical Research at the charity organization known as Sparks, says, “We are delighted to have been able to fund a project that will hopefully lead to a more quicker diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancers, and which has the potential to benefit hundreds of children and their families each year. This project is at a really exciting stage, and we are looking forward to seeing results from the next step.”

Professor Nick Jones, chief scientist at Cancer Research UK, adds, “These early results show promise that one day a blood test could be used to diagnose these cancers. This research is the first step towards a potential test which would be very exciting, but more work needs to be done before we see this in the clinic. Making sure that the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer is much kinder in the future is urgently needed. Survival from childhood cancers has climbed to 80% in recent decades. We must continue to push the pace in this area. We need to make sure even more children survive, and there are fewer side effects from their treatment.”

So a molecular fingerprints in the blood with the potential to diagnose childhood cancers, in the not too distant future, you’re going to be hearing much more about biosignatures — or molecular fingerprints as you would in medicine — not just for the diagnosis of cancer, but for the diagnosis of many other diseases and infections.


In fact, coming very soon on PediaCast, we’re going to be talking with the researcher here in the studio about the diagnosis of infection in young babies with fever using molecular fingerprints or biosignatures. So stay tuned for that, in fact, next week.

All right, that concludes the bulk of this week’s News Parents Can Use. Stick around because after the break, I have an important final word for you on the dangers of laundry pods. That’s coming up, right after this.


Dr. Mike Patrick: All right, we are back.

Laundry detergent pods began appearing on US store shelves in early 2010, and people have used them in growing numbers ever since. The small packets can be tossed into a washing machine without ever having to measure out a liquid or a powder. The convenience though has come with risks for young children. A new study from researchers here at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found out from 2012 through 2013, US Poison Control Centers receive reports of 17, 230 children younger than six years of age swallowing, inhaling, or otherwise being exposed to chemicals in laundry detergent pods. That’s nearly one young child every hour. A total of 769 young children were hospitalized during that period, an average of one per day, and one child died.

One and two year-olds account for nearly two-thirds of cases. Children that age often put items in their mouths as a way of exploring their environments. Children who put detergent pods in their mouths risk swallowing a large amount of concentrated chemicals. The vast majority of exposures in this study were due to ingestion.

Dr. Marcel Casavant, co-author of the study, chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center says, “Laundry detergent pods are small, colorful, and may look like candy or juice to a young child. It can take just a few seconds for children to grab them, break them open, and swallow the toxic chemicals they contain, or the chemicals get in their eyes.”


Nearly half (48%) of children vomited after laundry detergent pod exposure. Other common effects were coughing or choking in 13% of cases, eye pain or irritation in 11%, drowsiness or lethargy in 7%, and red eye or conjunctivitis in another 7%.

A leading manufacturer of laundry detergent pods began changing its packaging in the spring of 2013, introducing containers that were not see-through and adding latches and warning labels. However, laundry detergent pods from many makers continue to be sold in see-through packages with zip-tops or other easily opened containers.

Dr. Gary Smith, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, says, “It is not clear that any laundry detergent pods currently available are truly child-resistant. A national safety standard is needed to make sure that all pod makers adopt safer packaging and labeling. Parents of young children should use traditional detergent instead of detergent pods.”

Parents and child caregivers can help children stay safe by following these tips: again, parents with young children and child caregivers should use traditional laundry detergent, which is much less toxic than laundry detergent pods. Also, store laundry detergent pods up, away, and out of sight, in a locked cabinet is best. Close laundry detergent pod packages or containers and put them away immediately after use. Save the National Poison Helpline number, it’s 1-800-222-1222 in your cell phone and post it near your home phone.

Again, that number. It just reminds me of the jingle, “1-800-222-1222.” All those PSAs that are up and about. I’m sorry, that was just…


Dr. Mike Patrick: Not very fun, was it? 1-800-222-1222 or you can make fun of me, I really don’t care.


So there you have it, laundry pods, they are convenient but they do post a very real danger to small children. And that’s my final word.

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We’re also on iTunes, under the Kids and Family Section of their podcast directory. You’ll find PediaCast on Stitcher, TuneIn, Downcast, iCatcher, Pod Bay and most other podcasting apps for iPhone and Android.

We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Of course, we really appreciate you connecting with us there, and sharing, retweeting, re-pinning all of our posts so you can help spread the word about the show.

We also appreciate you talking us up with your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, anyone with kids, or anyone who takes care of children. As always, be sure to tell your child’s doctor about the program next time that you’re in for a sick office visit or a well child check up or ADHD recheck, med recheck of any kind. Make sure you let your doctor know. Posters are available under the Resources tab at


Until next time, this is Dr. Mike, saying stay safe, stay healthy and stay involved with your kids. So long, everybody.


Announcer 2: This program is a production of Nationwide Children’s. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on PediaCast.

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