GUEST POST: Parents and Grandparents Alert!

I don’t have children, but if I did, I can’t even begin to imagine the sleepless nights—and days—I would undeniably experience, anxiety slowly gnawing at me and eventually developing to a fever pitch as I confront the seemingly never-ending reports of products potentially dangerous to my child.

Some may read that last sentence and knee-jerk straight to a discussion about manufacturing and the global economy, free trade, outsourcing of related jobs—for good or ill, and the global rise of cheap and poorly made products as a result of eye-popping growth in India and China.

Sorry, dear reader, that’s not where I’m headed, at least not this time. My concerns are more immediate, although, no doubt, tied to some of the above: When will the manufacturers of products such as high chairs, strollers, kids’ medications, and more, wake up and smell the danger? Placing kids in harm’s way as a result of faulty manufacturing, design defects, or a failure to provide proper safety instructions and adequate use warnings is flatly unacceptable.

Recent news stories highlight numerous accounts of lapses in practices that would otherwise ensure a safer experience for our nation’s children—whether related to the treatment of an illness with certain prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medical scans such as CTs and xrays, strollers, or toys.

For example, according the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), many, if not most, medications used to treat illnesses in children have not been tested with these littlest patients in mind.

As such, dangers attendant to the use of adult drugs in pint-sized bodies, even after adjusting dosage, abound: physicians and “Big Pharma,” in the absence of targeted research, simply can’t predict how the bodies of children will metabolize drugs intended for and designed with adult use in mind.

Now, a new report from the FDA warns of the dangers related to the use of teething gels, or oral anesthetics. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t keep a tube or bottle of Anbesol, Orajel, or Baby Orajel in their medicine cabinet for those moments when their child is experiencing pain.

While these soothing gels and drops diminish the pain associated with teething, they do so with a drug called benzocaine. And, as it turns out, benzocaine can cause a blood condition known as methemoglobinemia, which, in some cases, can prove fatal by causing a severe drop in the oxygen carried throughout the body via the bloodstream and compromising delicate body tissue.

As I rush to alert my friends who DO have kids, just go ahead and add this to my long list of worries and concerns related to child safety, and to the equally lengthy list of product liability lawsuits that need to be filed.

*Author PHIL BALBO is a law clerk at Price Benowitz LLP, a law firm with offices in Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland.


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