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November 2001

Vaccine safety: no link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders
Parents should feel confident and safe when having their children immunized. No evidence exists that proves a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurodevelopemental disorders, such as autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or speech and language delay. The Institute of Medicine recently reported these findings, consistent with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, was used for many years in vaccines to prevent contamination. Taking in a high dose of mercury is toxic to the human nervous system. But because of the increasing number of vaccines routinely recommended for infants, concern was raised in 1999 by the Food and Drug Administration that the total amount of mercury contained in the vaccinations could be exceeding the recommended mercury levels for infants.

Although there's no data to suggest thimerosal caused any harm, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service have requested manufacturers remove thimerosal from vaccines. As a result, most, if not all, childhood vaccines are now thimerosal-free.

The Institute of Medicine's recommendations emphasized the importance and continued safety of childhood vaccination. Parents should definitely be reassured that all routine childhood immunizations are in their children's best interests, as they clearly have been shown to prevent potentially life-threatening diseases.
November 2001 Update

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Injuries From Infant Walkers
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending a ban on mobile baby walkers after recent studies have shown serious injury associated with their use.

Baby walkers are made for infants who are sitting up, but not yet walking on their own. Most of them are designed with a rigid base set on wheels. The infant sits in a cloth seat that supports his weight, yet allows his feet to be in contact with the floor. This design lets the child move around quickly and independently, without adult help.

Unfortunately, problems have developed. Infant walkers were responsible for 34 deaths from 1973 to 1998. Moreover, 8,800 children under 15 months of age were treated in emergency rooms in the United States in 1999 for injuries associated with walkers. About one quarter of these injuries resulted in fractures and head injuries. Injury rates related to infant walkers are higher than those associated with any other type of baby equipment.

Many dangers can arise while your baby is strapped into an infant walker. Walkers can tip over, tumble down the stairs, gain speed quickly, knock over baby gates, and make hazardous or poisonous items easier to reach. Studies have shown that injuries occur even with close adult supervision.

Some parents think the walkers will help their child learn to walk sooner, but this has not been proven true. In fact, some studies suggest babies who use walkers actually learn to crawl and walk later than those without walker experience.

If you do choose to use an infant walker, despite this recent recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, never leave your child unattended, even for a moment. Be sure to block off stairs in your home with gates. Remember, though, infants in walkers can travel at high enough speeds to knock gates over, so gates do not guarantee your baby's safety.

To be safe, avoid mobile infant walkers altogether. Stationary activity centers (such as exercise saucers or bouncer seats) which do not roll on wheels provide a safer environment in which your baby can develop and thrive.
November 2001 Update

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