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Unwanted-Christmas-Surprise-Report-Investigation-Possible- by csgirla



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                                from the Field

Editor's Note: Submissions to Notes from the    health departments in Michigan that in      gation and chemical analysis of the doll
Field (500-1000 words) should be sent to        case of parental concerns, they should      for possible contaminants.
Hugh H. Tilson, MD, Medical Division,           suggest the dolls be aired out to elimi-         Methods-Eight dolls were re-
Burroughs Wellcome Company, 3030                nate the traces of chemical contami-        ceived from volunteer donors. The
Cornwallis Road, Research Triangle Park,        nants and the accompanying unusual          stuffing of each doll was extracted with
NC 27709. This column presents information      odor.                                       petroleum ether. The concentrated pe-
regarding newsworthy public health pro-              On December 27, 1985 a local tele-     troleum ether extract was analyzed for
grams and project experience at the com-        vision reporter brought to our attention    organophosphate pesticides, 1,2,4-
munity level. Further information should be     an Associated Press story that the Los      trichlorobenzene and phthalates by gas
sought from the person(s) listed in the foot-
note to each article.                           Angeles County Health Department            chromatography.' All petroleum ether
                                                had reported that these dolls were con-     extracts of dolls were subjected to anal-
                                                taminated with chemicals, including         ysis by GC/MS. High resolution gas
                                                traces of the pesticide malathion. We       chromatography mass spectrometry
 An Unwanted Christmas                          immediately telephoned the Los              (HRGC/MS) was used to qualitatively
Surprise: Report of a Field                     Angeles County Health Department,           identify the extractable chemical com-
                                                and received a copy of their preliminary    ponents from the stuffing material ob-
 Investigation on Possible                      report on the presence of chemical con-     tained from six dolls.
 Chemical Contamination                         taminants in the dolls. During the week-         Results-No pesticides (i.e., mal-
    of a Children's Toy                         end of December 29, 1985, the national      athion and DDE) were detected in any
                                                news media reported that Los Angeles        of the dolls tested at our laboratory.
     A stuffed doll, manufactured               County Health Department had found          Chemical analyses conducted at our
abroad, was sold by its distributor via         that the dolls were contaminated with       laboratory showed presence of traces of
mail orders in the United States during         phenol, naphthalene, and traces of          aliphatic hydrocarbons (C- 17 to C-32),
the Christmas season of 1985. Over a            malathion; this created concern among       butyric acid, low molecular weight
million dolls were sold nationwide.             citizens about the doll which CPSC had      carboxylic acids, palmitic acid, naph-
     Concerns about the safety of this          determined to be safe.                      thalene, methyl naphthalene, dibutyl
doll were first brought to the attention             On December 30, 1985, MPHD             phthalate (3-20 ppb), bis(2-ethylhexyl)
of the Michigan Public Health Depart-           received 41 telephone calls about the       phthalate (5-166 ppb), and various iso-
ment (MPHD) by residents on Novem-              safety of the doll. We contacted Los        mers of alkyl-substituted benzenes. On
ber 26, 1985. Inquiry of the US Con-            Angeles County Health Department            the basis of our results, which were
sumer Product Safety Commission                 and CPSC. Based on its findings, Los        comparable to the findings by Mary-
(CPSC) revealed that the Commission             Angeles County Health Department            land, Kentucky, South Carolina, and
had, in early November 1985, tested a           had ruled against the safety of the doll.   CPSC laboratories, we concluded that
few samples of the dolls for possible           However, CPSC still reported the doll       the dolls were safe. The presence of
chemical contamination. According to            as safe.                                    trace amounts of chemicals in these
the CPSC statement, the dolls were not               In view of the conflicting reports     dolls was not considered to present a
hazardously flammable. Chemical anal-           from Los Angeles, and Washington,           significant health hazard. This conclu-
yses of these dolls showed trace                DC, we decided to conduct our own           sion was in agreement with the conclu-
amounts of kerosene, an unknown es-             chemical analysis on the dolls. It was      sions drawn by health scientists from
ter, and a phenolic compound. The               learned later that some other states        several state health departments and
health sciences staff of the CPSC did                                                       the US CPSC. Airing out the dolls for 48
                                                (Maryland, Kentucky, and South Caro-        hours eliminated the unusual odor im-
not consider the trace amounts of these         lina) and also CPSC laboratories initi-
chemicals to present a significant health                                                   parted by traces of chemical contami-
                                                ated similar investigations and chemical    nants.
hazard.                                         analyses of the dolls for possible con-
     We received two dolls from one                                                              To allay public fears about the
concerned citizen who alleged they had
                                                taminants. We cooperated with all           safety of the doll, a statement was
an unusual kerosene-like odor. We kept
                                                these laboratories by sharing the data      issued on January 14, 1986 by State
the dolls in a fume hood for 48 hours to        and the conclusions. Dr. Gloria R.          Health Director Dr. Gloria R. Smith.
eliminate the unusual odor and returned         Smith, Director of the Michigan De-         Parents were advised to air out the dolls
them to the owner along with a copy of          partment of Public Health, issued a         for two to three days, as this would rid
the statement issued by CPSC.                    statement on these dolls on December       most of the trace amounts of chemical
     Based on the CPSC statement and             30, 1985, advising parents not to let      contaminants and the unusual odor.
our own experience, on December 5,               children play with the doll until the      The salient features of the statement
 1985 we advised the various county              department has completed its investi-      were publicized statewide through the

1 472                                                                                            AJPH November 1987, Vol 77, No. 11
                                                                                                             NOTES FROM THE FIELD

news media. Copies of Lhe statement           ple, the phthalates (plasticizers) are        dard procedures. Sharing information
were mailed to all county health depart-      used in the manufacture of toys. The          and data between different state and
ments and many concerned parents.             insignificant amounts of fatty acids are      national laboratories may hasten the
Information about the safety of the doll      used as textile lubricants. Substituted       decision-making process regarding the
was also provided to citizens by tele-        phenols may possibly have originated          safety of consumer products.
phone contacts.                               from the dye. It is possible that traces of
     Discussion-Some of the variation         these and some other compounds con-
in data obtained by the Los Angeles           taminated the dolls during the manufac-                       REFERENCE
County Health Department and other            turing process.                               1. Watts WE: Manual of Analytical Methods for
laboratories (states and CPSC) may be              Usually, the CPSC in response to            the Analysis of Pesticides in Human and Envi-
due to the differences in batches and the     inquiries from consumers or news me-             ronmental Samples. Research Triangle Park,
                                                                                               NC: US Environmental Protection Agency,
conditions of storing dolls in different      dia conducts investigations and tests on         1980.
warehouses. The State of Maryland re-         toys for evaluation of complaints re-
ported a finding of a trace amount of the     garding safety and possible chemical          Prepared by: Kirpal S. Sidhu, PhD, with co-
pesticide malathion in one of the four        contamination. However, in situations             authors: Richard H. Scheel, PhD, Edwin
dolls tested; however, the quantity was       like those described in this report, it           Perry, BS, Robert L. Welch, MS, and Law-
too small to present a health hazard.         may be useful, cost efficient, and good           rence Chadzynski, MPH, all of the Center
     The presence of some trace               public health practice for multiple lab-          for Env,ironmental Health Sciences, Michi-
                                                                                                gan Department of Public Health, 3500
amounts of chemical contaminants in           oratories to conduct investigations and           North Logan, P.O. Box 3003S, Lansing, Ml
the dolls can be explained. For exam-         chemical analyses by following stan-              48909 Tel: 5171335-8362.

            I                    1985       Natality Report Available from USPHS
                 Births to unmarried women totaled 828,174 in 1985, accounting for 22 per cent of all live births,
            according to a recent report released by the US Public Health Service. This represented an 8 per cent
            increase in the number of births to unmarried women over 1984 and a 24 per cent increase over 1980.
                 Thirty per cent of the births to unmarried women in 1985 occurred to mothers aged 25 and older,
            compared with 24 per cent in 1980. The birth rate for unmarried women was 32.8 live births per 1,000
            unmarried women, an increase of 6 per cent over 1984. The rate for White women increased 8 per cent
            compared with a 3 per cent increase for Black women. Increases were also noted in the number of live
            births and the fertility rate for women aged 15-44 years. Mothers aged 30 years and older accounted for
            one in four births in 1985; teenage mothers accounted for 13 per cent of live births in 1985. The final
            natality data also described health-related characteristics of newborns and their mothers in 1985:
                 * Preterm births (under 37 weeks' gestation) accounted for 9.8% of births in 1985, compared with
                    9.4% in 1984.
                 * Midwives delivered 2.7% of infants born in 1985, compared to 2.6% the previous year;
                    midwife-attended deliveries in hospitals accounted for the increase.
                 * The incidence of low birthweight was unchanged for 1985, but racial differences remained
                    substantial: 5.6% White infants weighed less than 2500 grams at birth, compared with 12.4% of
                    Black infants.
                 * Seventy-six per cent of mothers who gave birth in 1985 sought prenatal care in the first trimester;
                    79 per cent of White mothers and 62 per cent of Black mothers received early care.
                 Copies of the report, "Advance Report of Final Natality, 1985" are available from: Scientific and
            Technical Information Branch, National Center for Health Statistics, 3700 East West Highway,
            Hyattsville, MD 20782. Tel: (301) 436-8500.

AJPH November 1987, Vol 77, No. 11                                                                                                     1473

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