Parents: Consumer Alerts Aren't Enough to Protect Kids

Released: 3/7/2008 9:00 AM EST
Embargo expired: 3/7/2008 11:00 AM EST
Source Newsroom: University of Michigan Health System
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Newswise — Following months riddled with recalls for lead-tainted toys and kids' over-the-counter cough and cold medications, many Americans now wonder: Are consumer alerts enough to protect children from serious health threats?

Since most recalls occur after a product has already been purchased and possibly used, the majority of Americans want the government to step in to ensure products are safe before they hit the shelves, according to a report released today by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

In fact, the poll finds that consumer safety legislation now being proposed by several states, and even U.S. Congress, would be met with overwhelming support from the American public " more than 90 percent are in favor of tougher consumer product safety laws.

"Parents are concerned that consumer alerts are coming too late in the process, and that the government is not more involved to ensure toys and other products are safe before they reach stores," says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children's Health. "One of the laws now being considered would require manufacturers to certify that their products meet safe FDA standards. That would an increased responsibility for manufacturers, but as our poll shows 9 out of 10 parents want them to take those extra steps."

*Children's OTC cough and cold medicines*
While consumer alerts are generally distributed via the media and health care professionals, 14 percent of parents report they did not heard about the recent national consumer alerts for kids' OTC cough and cold medicines, according to the National Poll on Children's Health.

"This information gap is alarming, given the potential seriousness of medical problems caused by these products," says Davis. "It raises questions about whether consumer alerts that are usually communicated through mainstream media outlets should also be issued to the public through non-traditional channels as well, such as cell phone providers (via messaging) or e-mail networks."

But the parents who did hear about the alerts took action: 39 percent report they removed the product from their home; 11 percent say they contacted a heath professional after hearing the alert; and 54 percent say the alerts affected how they will buy OTC medicines for kids in the future.

*Lead paint in toys*
Compared with alerts about OTC cough and cold medicines for children, only 2 percent of parents polled say they did not hear about the consumer safety alerts
related lead paint in toys. According to poll results, 52 percent of parents had heard about the lead-tainted toys alerts, and felt they affected their family.

Among those parents who had heard about the alerts: 44 percent removed the product from their home; 7 percent called a health professional; and for
63 percent, the alerts affected future toy purchases.

*What Americans think about proposed consumer product safety laws*
The majority of American adults think the government isn't doing enough to ensure products are safe for kids, and want the government to take action. More than half of Americans feel the government is doing too little to ensure children's medicines are safe, and nearly two-thirds feel the government isn't doing enough to keep kids' toys safe, the poll shows.

Should legislators at the state and national levels move forward with several proposed consumer safety laws, they will have a great deal of support from American adults:
"¢ 93 percent support laws that would require producers and importers to certify that products meet FDA standards.
"¢ 94 percent favor laws requiring country of origin labeling of food, drugs and devices.
"¢ 94 percent support laws to increase penalties for manufacturers and importers that violate U.S. safety standards.

For its report, the National Poll on Children's Health used data from a national online survey conducted in December 2007 and January 2008 in collaboration with Knowledge Networks Inc. The survey was administered to a random sample of 2,131 adults, ages 18 and older, who are a part of Knowledge Network's online KnowledgePanelSM. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect U.S. population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. About three-fourths of the sample were households with children.

Report highlights
"¢ About one-half of parents with young children said consumer alerts about cough and cold medicines for young children and lead-tainted toys affected their families.
"¢ About 1 in 7 parents with young children had not heard about the cough and cold medications alerts.
"¢ More than 90 percent of all adults favor tougher consumer protection laws for children's products, including new safety standards for manufacturers and penalties for violators.

For the complete report and podcast about poll results, visit the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health online at www.chear.umich.edu/mott/research/chearnpch.html. The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health " funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and part of the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Health System " is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit http://www.knowledgenetworks.com.


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