Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mom scientists in the news

Although the story itself (concerning possible carcinogens in unnamed baby products) is interesting -- albeit the usual promotion of a university of its status as a major research center -- what suddenly caught my eye was what was in the the background as the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences was interviewed about the results of this study.

Photos of her children (and a grandchild?) next to her two computer screens. [Guess confirmed via a bio turned up by Google.]

I thought "that was a hidden positive part of the story".

Then came the punch line, as we saw a second interview with the lead researcher. At home -- rather than in the classic p.r. laboratory shot used to lead the story -- with her new baby as she explained how she had made the decision to remove foam pads that she no longer trusted from her kid's room. Best of all, she discussed the trade off between fire safety and the risk of known carcinogens (in California, at least), suspected carcinogens, and other chemicals whose risk might not have been assessed because you don't have to prove something is safe vis-a-vis asthma or autism before using it in a product.

The sub text, successful women scientists with families, was there for some to see on the CBS Evening News. You can see the video here for yourself.

The safety issue remains an open one, as this was one of those classic preliminary studies. However, my comment would be that flame retardants are of greatest value if you have lit cigarettes, candles, or an open flame from a gas burner or fireplace near the child's bedding or car carrier. What are the odds of a fire starting in a crib if the parents and the baby don't smoke?

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