Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

May 2011 Archives

Pediatricians are now warning about the dangers of mixing energy drinks and kids. Energy drinks and kids' health is now a growing concern, especially as drinks such as Gatorade, Monster, and others are now replacing sodas at many schools, according to Time.

The concerned pediatricians have put together a report in the journal Pediatrics, advising teens and kids not to drink too many sports drinks and energy drinks.

For many parents, a sports drink such as Gatorade might seem a lot healthier than a high-sugar soda. But, according to the pediatricians, drinking too many sports drinks or energy drinks can lead to the some of the same concerns with kids drinking too much soda, according to Time.

For example, sports drinks still contain sugar and carbohydrates, and can be acidic. The extra carbohydrates will just add to a teen's calorie intake, and the acidity can wear down on kids' and teens' teeth, according to Time.

Energy drinks, such as Red Bull or Monster, seem to be even worse for kids and teens because of the addition of stimulants like caffeine. The stimulants are something that most teens do not need, according to the report. Children who drink too much caffeine can become more prone to anxiety, reports Time.

So, what should parents be giving their teens and kids? Water and milk. Water will provide teens with lots of great hydration, without the extra calories and stimulants. Milk can provide protein, vitamin D, and calcium, reports NPR.

But, according to Dr. Holly Benjamin, co-author of the new report, sports drinks could be appropriate for teens and kids who are athletes or are exercising at a high-level on a consistent basis. When a teen exercises, they need to be able to replenish sugar, sodium and potassium, which a sports drink could supply. But, most teens won't need this unless they've been exercising for at least an hour, reports NPR.

Energy drinks and kids seem like they should not be mixing - especially when pediatricians are concerned about the impact of energy drinks on kids' health. At the very least, parents should monitor their children's intake of these sugary beverages and make sure they do not fully replace water with Gatorade.

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The family of Brianna Maya, 13, has prevailed against the makers of Children's Motrin in a lawsuit, receiving a $10 million judgment in Philadelphia. For most users of Children's Motrin, side effects are fairly uncommon. But for Maya, they have caused a lifetime's worth of pain.

Maya was only 3 years old when her parents gave her Children's Motrin to help combat a fever, according to the  Philadelphia Inquirer. She soon began to suffer serious side effects. Blisters formed in her mouth, she lost 84% of her skin, was blinded, and her reproductive organs were destroyed. She also suffered from brain damage and only has a 50% lung capacity.

According to her attorney, Keith Jensen, Maya had suffered from a rare but deadly reaction to the Children's Motrin called toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). TEN attacks the body's mucus membranes.

Maya almost died 3 times. She had to be treated at a burn unit for several weeks while her body recovered, after she received several grafts of skin from cadavers and pigs, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

By prevailing in the Children's Motrin lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson, the parent company, may now be forced to put more detailed warning labels on its products. Maya's family alleged that there needed to be more warnings on the bottles of Children's Motrin.

For parents concerned about the possible side effects of TEN, Children's Motrin is not the only drug that can cause the rare reaction. Penicillin, found in many types of medication, can cause TEN.

Parents concerned about the possible side effects of over the counter medicine: be sure to monitor your children's OTC medicine intake, especially when you are giving the medicine to your children the first time.

For Maya's family, the end of the Children Motrin's lawsuit does not necessarily mean that her battle has ended. She is still blind in one eye, even after she underwent 16 eye surgeries, and still suffers from her other injuries a decade later, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. For parents, being informed about Children's Motrin's side effects - or the side effects of any medicine, over the counter or not, can help avoid injury.

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The Bank of America overdraft lawsuit has been settled. Your account will be debited $410 million, reports The New York Times.

Bank of America announced this week it has obtained a Miami federal court's preliminary approval of a settlement, in which the bank will pay debit card customers and their attorneys a total of $410 million.

The settlement buys Bank of America out of a class action lawsuit, in which about 30 banks face charges of excessive overdraft fees on debit cards, reports the Times.

Banks remaining as defendants in the lawsuit include JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo U.S. Bank and Citibank.

The plaintiffs' claims arose from banks' practice of deducting debit charges not chronologically, but in descending order, largest to smallest. Thus, where each NSF item incurs a separate $35 charge, the descending order technique maximized NSF fees charged by the banks, reports the Times.

Bank of America no longer charges overdraft fees for debit purchases--it simply declines the charge item at the point of sale instead, reports the Times.

The Bank of America overdraft lawsuit awaits a court hearing on final approval in November, reports the Boston Globe.

The Federal Reserve announced new rules concerning overdraft protection charges in 2009. The rules went into effect on July 1, 2010. Overdraft fees now require consent from accountholders, and new accounting rules apply to processing order.

In the Bank of America overdraft lawsuit, plaintiff class members will not receive notice of the settlement until after it receives final court approval. Objections could still surface, requiring resolution by the Miami court.

If court-aproved, plaintiffs' attorney fees will run about 30% of the $410 settlement.

The Bank of America overdraft lawsuit settled this week included claims arising from charge processing order. The settlement has no effect on other lawsuits pending against Bank of America in New Jersey, California, Washington and elsewhere around the country, reports the Times.

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Stihl Recall: 2.3M Law Power Tools for Fire Hazard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a Stihl recall. The recall applies to Stihl yard power tools for fuel cap problems, reports Reuters.

This recall includes Stihl gas-powered trimmers, brushcutters, hedge trimmers, hedgers, clearing saws, pole pruners, backpack blowers and KombiMotors.

CPSS has received 81 reports of gas-powered tools spilling fuel after being filled with ethanol and other fuel additives, CPSC's announcement says.

The safety issue arises when the fuel cap on the power tools gets distorted. Filling the tool with ethanol blends can result in fuel cap distortion. Once distorted, the fuel cap allows fuel to spill from the tool, presenting a fire hazard. Risk increases when gas engine surfaces have become hot to the touch.

None of the 81 filed complaints with the CPSC involved injury, reports Reuters.

This recall applies to models sold at authorized Stihl dealers nationwide from July 2002 through May 2011. The covered models range in retail price from $190 to $650, and were manufactured in the United States.

This is the third, and largest recall of Stihl products within the last six months. Stihl, a German company, has U.S. headquarters in Virginia Beach, VA, reports The Virginian-Pilot.

Consumers responding to this Stihl recall should stop using the products immediately, and return them to any Stihl dealer for a free replacement fuel cap.

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NY Man Sues Apple Over Tracking His Location

A New York man has sued Apple Computer, alleging Apple invaded his privacy by tracking his location through his iPhone, then selling the information to advertisers, reports the Times Herald-Record.

Jarret Ammer, of Orange County, NY, has filed a class action lawsuit against Apple in U.S. District Court in New York City. The suit seeks monetary damages, costs and a court order stopping Apple's alleged selling of Ammer's location information to advertisers, reports the Times Herald-Record.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of all Apple iPhone users, alleges applications by Pandora Media and Backflip Studios use the Unique Device IDs (UDID) in iPhones and iPads to record the user's physical location, then sell the information to third-party advertisers, which can then target ads at users based on the time, location and user preferences.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple aids and abets the tracking by not providing users any way to delete or restrict access to the UDIDs, reports Fox New York.

Ammer's lawsuit alleges violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the New York Computer Crime Law, the Unfair Trade Practices Act, trespass to personal property, conversion and unjust enrichment, reports Fox New York.

None of the defendant companies has commented on Jarret Ammer's lawsuit.

"Apple does not track users' locations--Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so," Apple VP/software technology Guy Tribble testified to the U.S. Senate earlier this month. Customers must consent to allowing location-based services to run on their phones, Tribble said, as reported by PC Magazine.

Apple will have an opportunity to prove their executives' testimony to the U.S. Senate in open court, if Jarret Ammer's lawsuit goes forward.

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Are you neurotically checking your IRS refund status? Thanks to a snafu by the agency, many Americans are experiencing a tax refund delay.

The reason for the sudden delay is that the IRS has gotten in over its head in processing financial transactions. Several years ago, the IRS began giving out no-interest loans to first-time homebuyers. Essentially, the agency is now being forced to collect loan payments and issue refunds.

The mix of financial transactions the IRS now has to process is what is causing the delay to an unspecified number of taxpayers, reports MSNBC.

Taxpayers across the nation have been experiencing the delays. Some were given IRS refund status dates in March, and still have not received their refunds yet, according to MSNBC.

Usually, IRS refunds requested as direct deposits for taxpayers that e-file only take 7 to 10 days. Those who e-file and request paper checks usually receive the checks in 3 weeks. Those who file a paper return and want a paper check will receive their checks usually within 6 weeks.

If you are curious about the status of your refund, the IRS does offer a website where you can check your refund status. Alternatively, taxpayers can call the IRS Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954. There's also a smartphone app for iPhone and Android users to check their status, called IRS2Go.

However, be aware that many of the taxpayers that have been affected by the delays were given dates that their refund would be issued, but the dates have rolled by without any refunds given. Furthermore, sometimes the IRS refund status will be in "error" meaning that you are likely being affected by the tax refund delay.

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Trampolines provide great exercise. But since competitive trampoline joined the Summer Olympics in 2000, broken bones and head injuries nationwide have increased, reports the Consumer Products Safety Commission in a recently re-issued warning notice on trampoline safety.

And with a recent increase in commercial trampoline parks, especially in the Chicago area, injuries and hospitalizations continue to spike, reports Fox Chicago News.

Since Xtreme Trampolines opened in Carol Stream, Ill., in November 2010, 16 ambulances have been dispatched to the park, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Emergency call records show that people were treated for everything from broken ankles, to dislocated shoulders, to a head injury, reports Fox Chicago News.

And CPSC is not alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also cautioned on trampoline safety, recommending against the use of trampolines other than in a supervised setting, such as in a gymnastics facility, reports WGN-TV.

The physicians' group also warns against using trampolines as toys in the backyard and allowing children younger than six-years-old to participate.

The CPSC says follow these safety tips for safe at-home trampoline use:

  • Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
  • Do not attempt or allow somersaults because landing on the head or neck can cause paralysis.
  • Do not use the trampoline without shock-absorbing pads that completely cover its springs, hooks, and frame.
  • Place the trampoline away from structures, trees, and other play areas.
  • No child under 6 years of age should use a full-size trampoline. Do not use a ladder with the trampoline because it provides unsupervised access by small children.
  • Always supervise children who use a trampoline.
  • Trampoline enclosures can help prevent injuries from falls off trampolines.

According to the CPSC, these trampoline safety tips can minimize the threat of jumpers colliding with one another, or other injuries including head injuries, broken bones, or even paralysis.

The trampoline safety message is clear: be careful with your back yard trampoline. Be even more careful if you go to a trampoline park.

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A panel convened by the Food and Drug Administration to discuss over the counter medications voted unanimously last week to mandate the placement of infant Tylenol dosage information on the label for the manufacturer's children's products.

The recommendation, which applies to all medications that contain acetaminophen--the active drug in Tylenol--is aimed at reducing the number of acetaminophen-related overdoses in infants, reports the Associated Press.

As of this moment, federal regulations do not mandate that manufacturers list the infant Tylenol dosage on children's formulas, instead only requiring that they list dosing information for children over 2 years of age.

Parents are instead instructed to discuss dosing information with their infant's doctor.

Though this was originally done as a means to urge parents to seek medical attention for an infant who may be suffering from a serious illness, the Associated Press reports that parents often skip that step and guess about correct dosing.

This has made acetaminophen-related overdoses most common amongst children under 2 years old.

Though the panel recommended providing infant dosage information on medication labels, the fact is that the agency does not have to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels. However, there is some indication that they will follow this advice given the overdose problem.

In addition to infant Tylenol dosage labels, the advisory panel also agreed that products should move towards weight-based dosing, a single-dose acetaminophen formula for children, and that there should be a universal standard for the way the drug is administered, reports MedPage Today.

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In response to the news that both Apple and Google were recording the locations of smart phone users, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and Law held a hearing last week to consider the privacy implications of cell phone tracking.

Executives from both companies answered questions, explaining how their mobile software collects and uses location data, reports PC Magazine. They also discussed some of the phone settings that users can activate to protect their data.

According to the magazine, Google insists that the data it collects is anonymous and only kept for about a week. Apple reiterated that its cell phone tracking does not collect locations, but instead tracks nearby cell towers and hotspots so that software can choose an appropriate ad.

Unfortunately, the cell phone tracking debate is far from over.

Also chiming in on the issue are representatives from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

During the hearing, the FTC agreed with the Senators, and proposed restricting the use of location data to situations where it is absolutely necessary for a service to function, reports PC World.

On the other hand, in January, the Department of Justice told Congress that it considers the data a useful crime-fighting tool, and wants carriers to maintain records for 2 years.

Until regulatory officials decide how to proceed, the only recourse for users affected by cell phone tracking is to file private lawsuits under invasion of privacy laws at both the state and federal levels.

And even that can take awhile.

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Bicycle Safety: New Law Helps Protect Cyclist

A new Maryland legislation that would impose stiffer fines and penalties on negligent drivers in bicycle accidents has once again highlighted the importance of bicycle safety.

The recently-passed statute would impose a fine of up to $5,000 and three years in jail. Prior to this new legislation, drivers only faced a fine of up to $300 and some points on their license.

Around 20 other states have already adopted similar punishments and fees as the new Maryland legislation.

However, legislation or not, bicyclists should try to take some simple safety tips to heart. When sharing the road, it is all too easy for accidents to occur, even if both the bicyclist and the driver are being cautious.

Tip #1: Some jurisdictions actually allow bicyclists to cycle on sidewalks. Of course, you should check your city's ordinances first to be absolutely sure. Cycling on the sidewalk can help you avoid any unnecessary run-ins with unruly drivers, though it also creates the possibility that you might hit pedestrians, so continue to take extra care.

Tip #2: Be informed about dangerous intersections. Some streets are just more dangerous than others due to general traffic conditions, or due to blind spots. Ask friends who cycle regularly, or do an internet search. San Francisco has a Bike Accident Tracker that gives information on collisions and where they often take place.

Tip #3: Wear the appropriate gear. Helmets won't necessary prevent fatal accidents, but they can offer some element of protection. Wearing bright colors at night can help distinguish you against the darkness. Invest in a headlight or some other light to attach on your bike so that cars can actually see you.

Tip #4: Keep track of where your bike is - and where cars are. All too often, drivers may be looking one way to look out for car traffic, but then pull out and hit a bike. Some simple tips about what to do in various situations and different intersections can help save you from injury. Such as, did you know that a common bike accident occurs when a driver opens their door - and the bicyclist runs into it? Being aware of your surroundings can definitely go a long way.

While this is in no ways a complete list of bicycle safety tips, it's a start to help you get biking in the right direction.

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Safety Tips for Children Flying Alone

While thousands of children flying alone are making their way across the country in the next few months, somewhere on the ground they will be matched by thousands of fretting parents.

Every summer there's at least one story about an unaccompanied minor wandering off of an airplane or exploring an unknown airport, but the fact is that the number of incidents concerning children flying alone is minimal.

Even so, for peace of mind and safety, there are a few things you can do to make a solo flight go smoother--for both you and your child.

First, prepare your child. Talk him through the expected day, including what might happen on the flight. Also be sure to explain that he must listen to the flight attendants, and that if he has any questions or needs something, to ask one for help.

Second, book earlier, non-stop flights. While earlier flights tend to suffer from less delays, non-stop flights are key to your child's safety. Plane changes and airports can be tricky, so it's best to avoid them altogether.

And thirdly, make sure to occupy your child. Airline employees won't watch your child's every move, so be sure to pack enough books, games, toys and snacks to keep him occupied before and during the flight. Hopefully if he has everything he needs, he won't wander off or cause problems.

In the end, there's only so much you can do to ensure the safety of children flying alone. But if you properly prepare your child and believe that he is mature enough to fly solo, then the chances of a safe flight are pretty good.

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Infant Slipper Socks Recall: Possible Choking Hazard

Retailer Meijer, Inc., has announced an infant slipper socks recall. The recall applies to about 17,400 pairs of slipper socks, sized 0-12 months, and goes into effect immediately, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The recall affects slipper socks sold under the Falls Creek brand. Styles affected carry the names Bumble Bee and Lady Bug, reports the Bee.

Meijer, Inc., a retailer headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., described the defect as involving the balls at the end of the bug antennae mounted on each slipper. If the antenna balls detach, infants or young children could choke on them.

Meijer imported the affected slippers from a manufacturer located in China, reports About.com.

Meijer sold the recalled slipper socks to consumers at Meijer stores in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. The slipper socks sold for about $4 per pair. The affected slipper socks included yellow and black Bumble Bee slipper socks, UPC 80640907401, and red and black Lady Bug slipper socks, UPC 80640907402.

The recalled slippers may be returned to any Meijer store for a full refund, reports About.com.

No injuries have been reported from the recalled slipper socks. But Meijer has received at least one report of a ball detaching from the end of an antenna, which was later found in a baby's crib, reports Forbes.

The recalled infant slipper socks were sold in Meijer stores from June 2009 through March 2011, reports the Sacramento Bee.

This is not Meijer's first infant shoe recall. In late 2010, the company announced a recall of 2,300 boys' shoes for choking hazards resulting from metal clips on the ends of shoelaces. That recall also involved shoes manufactured in China, and sold under the Falls Creek brand.

Consumers should take notice of this infant slipper socks recall, and take action immediately.

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Distributor UJ Trading, of Houston, Texas, has announced a toy helicopter recall. UJ Trading has recalled about 18,500 Danbar Knight Hawk Toy Helicopters. This model was previously recalled in January 2010, reports Toyxplosion.com.

The affected remote control toy helicopter has a tendency to overheat when the battery is charging. This overheating poses a fire hazard.

The battery compartment of the toy, mounted just below the rotors at the top of the helicopter cockpit, can overheat when plugged into the wall to recharge, says UJ Trading.

Affected models can be identified by model number 006047 marked on the back of the controller, and the Knight Hawk logo on the front of the controller. The body of the helicopter also contains the markings "AH-64" and "helicopter," reports toyxplosion.com.

This product recall goes into effect immediately, reports UPI.com.

The recall affects helicopters sold in toy, hobby and other stories, including mall kiosks, and online at www.UJToys.com from April 2010 through April 2011. The toy helicopter sold for about $36.

The January 2010 recall affected about 20,800 toy helicopters from the same manufacturer in China. Those toy helicopters had been sold through Radio Shack from October 2009 through November 2009, for about $60, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission 01/26/2010 announcement.

UJ Trading has reported no injuries from the product overheating.

UJ Trading may be reached at (800) 536-2691, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday, or at www.UHToys.com. The Consumer Products Safety Commission Recall Hotline can be reached at (800) 843-7422.

Consumers should take notice of this toy helicopter recall, and take action immediately.

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Does Chuck E. Cheese’s Promote Kid Gambling?

If as a child you frequented Chuck E. Cheese's, gambling problems might be in your future. At least, that's what Denise Keller, a San Diego mother of two, has alleged in her recent lawsuit against the family restaurant chain.

According to Keller and her attorney, some of the arcade games provided at the family establishment are too similar to casino games. Keller pointed out that one of the games in question utilizes a roulette wheel, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Plus, according to Keller, the games do not require any skill - instead they rely on flashy colors, sounds, and an addictive game model which encourages kids to feed the machine tokens so that they can get prize tickets.

Sound familiar? Keller's lawsuit makes it seem like a fun night out at Chuck E. Cheese's for your kids is the equivalent of a fun night out in Vegas for you.

Will exposing your children to potentially addicting gambling-like games mean that they will develop gambling problems in the future? Despite Keller's claims, the roots of gambling addiction are still mostly unexplained.

According to the Mayo Clinic, though many people will occasionally play cards or other gambling games, only some will become compulsive gamblers. Risk factors can include behavior or mood disorders like ADHD or alcohol abuse, age, sex, family influence, medications to treat Parkinson's disease, and certain personality characteristics, such as being easily bored or restless.

So, some children may be more prone to develop compulsive gambling problems, but others may be able to play a lifetime of gambling games without becoming addicted. Even if you do not take your child out to Chuck E. Cheese's for addictive games, games that require more luck than skill tend to be everywhere these days - like on the internet or even on your smartphone.

Each child is different. Parents should supervise their children when they play games if they are concerned, even at family-friendly venues like Chuck E. Cheese's. Gambling-related problems, if they arise, can then be promptly dealt with.

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How to Avoid Pink Eye: Infection Cases Popping Up

Pink eye--remember when you first heard about it in elementary school? Then you asked your mom, and she said "When was the last time you washed your hands?"

As it turns out, Mom had it right. Pink eye is contagious. To avoid pink eye, you can do two things right away: (1) avoid sharing towels and washcloths; and (2) wash your hands. Frequently.

So what is pink eye, really? Isn't it just a disease of kids? Where does it come from? How can we avoid it?

Pink eye, formally conjunctivitis, is an infection of the tissue of the surface of the eye, reports babble.com in its strollerderby blog. It can include the inner eyelid too. You know you have it when your eyes get "goopy, then itchy." And then they get red. Usually kids and adults get it from a viral infection, but it can also result from bacterial infections or even allergies, reports the Advance-Titan at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

And it's spiking in pediatricians' offices, college health centers, and even in the adult population, reports the Daily Stamford.

Here are some tips to avoiding pink eye:

1. Don't share towels or washcloths in the bathroom or kitchen.

2. If you notice symptoms, avoid touching your eyes.

3. If you do touch the areas around your eyes, wash your hands with soap and water immediately.

4. If your child gets it, keep them home from school to avoid spreading the infection to other children.

And here's a kicker: if your kid brings it home from school or the playground, you could easily get it also. Adults have no immunity, reports babble.com

Medical science has no particular cure, beyond prescription antibiotic eye drops, reports the Advance-Titan. You can also treat symptoms with cool compresses and artificial tears.

And the single best thing to do to avoid pink eye: wash your hands. Frequently. Did we say wash your hands frequently?

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reissued a baby stroller recall. This reissued recall applies to Maclaren single and double umbrella model baby strollers. The strollers were originally recalled in November 2009. Since that recall went out, the CPSC reports it has received notice of 37 injuries, reports MSNBC.

The recall affects single and double umbrella strollers, made before November 2009. CPSC announced those strollers had a hinge mechanism that could cut or even amputate a child's fingers, when the stroller was being unfolded or opened. The CPSC recall reports five children have suffered finger amputations. Sixteen lacerations and 16 fingertip entrapments were also reported since the November 2009 recall, reports WalletPop.com

The recall includes all Maclaren strollers sold before November 2009. Consumers may contact Maclaren at (877) 688-2326 for a repair kit. Maclaren can also be contacted at hingecovers@maclaren-usa.com.

The recall applies to approximately one million Maclaren strollers sold prior to November 2009. Maclaren has received a total of 149 reports of incidents. Maclaren strollers sold after May 2010 have a different hinge design, and are not affected by this announcement.

Consumers should take notice of this baby stroller recall, and take action immediately.

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Bed Bugs and MRSA Make for Nasty Bedfellows

Bedbugs. The very word can make any person feel itchy, and now it might start sending chills down your spine too. Researchers in Canada have recently found bedbugs that had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA.

MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. Symptoms of MRSA include skin abscesses. The illness can also spread into the blood, causing life-threatening illnesses.

There is no need to panic yet, however. The researchers found that MRSA was present on the bacteria, but have not shown that the bugs are actually transmitting the disease. Furthermore, the study took place in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, a poor neighborhood where MRSA cases have been plentiful.

Plus, MRSA is actually found on many common objects. Airplane tray tables are one example, reports Time Magazine. If bedbugs are shown to be simply "carrying" them like any other object, the health risks are less severe. But, if bedbugs are found to actually have strains of MRSA growing inside of them, the risks are higher.

The study was also focused in nature, and requires more refinement. So far there have been no reported cases showing that someone actually contracted MRSA bacteria from the bedbugs, reports Time Magazine.

For some, the notion that insects, and bedbugs, are potential disease transmitters is not exactly novel. "Bedbugs have long been suspected to have the ability to mechanically transmit bacteria from one host to another. The results of this study shed more light on this being a possibility, but additional research needs to be conducted to understand the true impact of these findings," says Jeffrey White, a research entomologist with BedBug Central, and Dr. David Goldberg, a specialist in infectious diseases at White Plains Hospital, according to Fox New York.

To protect against potential disease and bedbug infestations, being cautious is key. Checking the Bedbug Registry can alert you to public places that have had reported bedbug infestations. Also, it wouldn't hurt to check mattresses before you lay down to see if there are any visible vermin.

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There has been troubling trends in the internet world. Cyber bullying, sexual predators and computer viruses are only some of the dangers that lurk behind the computer monitor. And disturbingly, there's also a growing number of users on Facebook - children.

Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years of age, according to their terms of service. However, despite this policy, an estimated 7.5 million Facebook users are children under the age of 13, out of the 20 million or so minors who use Facebook each year, according to Consumer Reports. Many of these children are unsupervised.

Facebook warns children under the age 13 against registration. Unfortunately, it is all too easy for kids to create a Facebook account simply by entering in a fake birthday - it's the site's only screening process to check a user's age. Facebook does not require any formal identification to sign up.

Acknowledging the dangers of Facebook is the first step toward protecting children. A widespread problem is that many parents do not consider Facebook a problem at all.

"... [A] majority of parents of kids 10 and under seemed largely unconcerned by their children's use of the site," said Jeff Fox, Technology Editor for Consumer Reports to ConsumerAffairs.com.

At the same time, Consumer Reports estimated that computer viruses cost around $2.3 billion a year and forced households to replace 1.3 million PCs. Surveys have also shown that Facebook exposes 5 million U.S. households to other problems, such as identity theft and bullying.

While it is difficult to get your kids to follow the rules, helping them navigate the internet could be a crucial step toward making sure they are safe. Having a conversation with your child about the use of Facebook could be one way to help monitor their internet usage.

Another option might be for parents to sign up for a Facebook profile themselves, and "friend" their kids. This way, you can monitor some of their usage by seeing who posts on their Facebook. Children might not enjoy being your "Facebook friend" - but you're the one who pays for the internet bill.

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A generic Adderall shortage, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has left patients either going from drugstore to drugstore or opting for more expensive name brands.

Patients who are on ADHD medication say they need the drugs to help them function. Drugs like Adderall helps patients concentrate and perform daily activities.

In many locales, the generic drug is still available, though it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find, reports ABC News. The brand name drug is not reporting any shortages.

Not having their usual Adderall XR prescription refilled can be a headache for consumers on multiple fronts. Some patients will need to try to get their health insurance to cover the cost of the brand name product and some pharmacies do not even carry the brand name product.

Adding to the complications, for some patients the dosage for alternative medications may not be correct and might need to be adjusted. Or, patients simply might not respond as well to them, Erin Fox, manager of the Drug Information Service at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, told ABC News Radio.

The shortage has caused plenty of finger-pointing. Shire Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer, has blamed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for its limits on the number of products that Shire can manufacture. The DEA deflects all responsibility and states that they approved enough of the drug ingredients that there should not have been a shortage.

Amphetamine, one of the components of Adderall XR, is on the list of DEA controlled substances because of its potential to be abused illegally.

During this Adderall shortage, consumers who turn to online pharmacies should be cautious. Make sure that the online pharmacy is in good standing with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy by checking their site at www.nabp.net or by calling 847-698-6227. Pharmacies should not be able to dole out prescription medication without a prescription.

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Refillable Soap Containers Could Spread Bacteria

Mom taught us to wash our hands after using the bathroom, or before handling food, right? But what if refillable soap containers spread more bacteria than the soap kills? What is soap bacteria, anyway?

Recent research has revealed that as many as one in four refillable soap dispensers in public bathrooms contain bacteria that can cause illness, reports Medcape.com.

And a new study found one Ohio elementary school where every soap dispenser contained bacteria known to cause illness, reports msnbc.com.

But nobody is suggesting to stop washing your hands.

"There is no need to panic. I want people to wash their hands because hand washing is proven to be effective at preventing sickness. We don't know what the true risk level is in the community," Carrie Zapka, a microbiologist at Gojo Industries, told MSNBC.com.

Zapka's researchers went to a nearby elementary school, where they found all 14 of the school's dispensers had never been cleaned or sanitized. All were contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria. They replaced the dispensers with sealed versions, and a year later the dispensers were still contamination-free, reports MSNBC.com.

In one experiment, subjects washed their hands for 10 seconds using liquid soap. When students and staff washed their hands from dispensers with sealed refills, the researchers noted a two-fold reduction in bacteria on hands, reports Medscape.com.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that soap dispensers should not be "topped off" by adding additional soap to a partially filled container, reports Medscape.com. Such topping off increases the risk of spreading bacteria through using the soap to wash one's hands.

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Turning and shifting. Basic functions for any vehicle, large or small.

General Motors has announced a recall of 154,112 Chevrolet Cruz automobiles to inspect for two different defects, reports the Associated Press.

The first recall involves steering. Last month, GM recalled 2,100 Cruzes to inspect for an improperly-fastened for problems steering column. Now, GM has discovered a steering column defect on all Cruz compacts manufactured from last summer until April 21st in GM's Lordstown, Ohio factory. The vehicles were sold in the U.S. and Canada.

GM decided to recall all 154,112 Cruzes to inspect for the "very few" vehicles with steering shaft issues, reports Reuters.

The second part of the recall addresses problems with automatic transmissions. Of the 154,112 vehicles recalled, about 120,000 might have problems with installation of the automatic transmission linkage, resulting in the transmission remaining engaged when in the "Park" position, reports Associated Press. Faulty linkage installation on the recalled models could allow a vehicle to move forward with the gears engaged, even though the driver has shifted to "Park."

GM reports no accidents or injuries have resulted from either of the two defects addressed in the current recall, and has reported the recall to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Reuters reports.

Not surprisingly at a time of high fuel prices, the Cruze, GM's headliner high-mileage compact, was the company's top-selling car in April. Only the Chevrolet Silverado sold more units for GM last month.

If you want to turn or shift your Cruz, please take notice.

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Honda Expands Air Bag Recall

Love that early 2000's Honda? You might need to take it back to the dealership, as Honda has expanded an air bag recall.

Honda has expanded a previous recall to check driver's air bags to include another 833,000 vehicles. The added vehicles include 2001 and 2002 Accord and Civic, 2002 Odyssey, 2002 and 2003 CR-V, 2002 and 2003 Acura 3.2 TL and 2003 Acura 3.2 CL models.

Honda announced that 2,430 faulty air bags were installed after crashes, but it doesn't know which vehicles got them. So the recall is being expanded to include 833,000 vehicles that might need inspection, reports the Associated Press.

The air bags can inflate too forcefully, causing the air bag inflator casing to break, according to Honda. Injury or death can result.

The expanded recall adds 833,000 vehicles to a recall of 437,763 vehicles Honda announced last year. That recall also focused on inspecting air bag modules for defective deployment, as reported by Bloomberg News.

Owners of the affected models will get notices from Honda by mail in late May. An owner who knows the air bag hasn't been replaced can notify Honda. All other owners should have their vehicle checked by a dealer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) allows owners to search vehicle recalls, including manufacturers' voluntary recalls, to see if their make, model and year are affected by a recall. The original Honda air bag recall appears on in NHTSA's database.

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Exaggerated claims about medical products date from the days of snake oil. But the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new crackdown on unproven over-the-counter treatments for STDs carries a particularly urgent thrust.

The FDA and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have announced a joint effort to ban non-prescription products purporting to treat, cure and prevent STDs. That means companies selling such products have 15 days to respond to the agencies' written allegations that specific products are drugs subject to FDA regulation.

If the FDA determines any product is a drug and not a dietary supplement, the drug must be subject to rigorous scientific testing before it can be sold in the U.S.

And if the FTC determines that advertising contains false claims, the agency can order products off the market.

Here's a list of the products FDA has targeted.

The FDA warns the listed products are dangerous, since "they are targeted to patients with serious conditions, where treatment options proven to be safe and effective are available," said Deborah M. Autor of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

And the FDA warns such products are simply ineffective. "Consumers should be aware that there are no over-the-counter or online drugs or dietary supplements available to treat or prevent STDs."

The FTC has focused on the illegality of making false claims in product advertising. “Advertising health benefits that are not supported by rigorous scientific evidence violates the FTC Act,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The companies' failure to respond to the FDA's 15-day deadline can result in legal action, product seizures, or even criminal prosecutions. FDA's complaint line can be reached at 800-FDA-1088.

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Grape Tomato Recall: Salmonella Risk Discovered

If you recently purchased a product that has raw grape tomatoes, you may want to check the packaging as your produce may be affected by a nationwide grape tomato recall.

A possible salmonella contamination has spurred Six L's Packing Company, a Florida tomato grower, to voluntarily issue a recall this past Monday.

The grape tomatoes in question were processed and grown in Florida by Six L's, reports AP. The grape tomato recall affects grapes that were packaged on April 11, 2011. Both trays of raw grape tomatoes as well as pre-packaged deli salads from California-based Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc., are affected by the recall. The recalled product was packed under the Cherry Berry lot code DW-H in clam shells or 20-pound cardboard containers.

The recall includes grape tomatoes distributed to California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, and also includes grape tomatoes sold in Canada. The recall specifically impacts Arizona, Oregon, California, Nevada, Washington, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

Retailers in the West and Midwest, including Albertsons, Raley's, Safeway, Savemart, Sam's Club and Walmart, distributed potentially contaminated deli salads.

Six L's, based in Immokalee, Florida, started the recall after a sample of grape tomatoes tested positive for salmonella, according to AP reports. The contamination was found by a USDA inspector at a New York distributor, though the sample originated from Florida.

You should take possible salmonella contamination seriously, as salmonella infections can be deadly towards people who have weaker immune systems, including children and the elderly. Symptoms of salmonella contamination include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

While there have been no reported illnesses as of April 29, consumers are being asked by the company to return the recalled products to the store of purchase for a refund. You can find out if the grape tomato recall affects you, as a list of product names and UPC codes for impacted deli salad products and information about the lot code of affected packaged grape tomatoes can be found on the FDA website.

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Armadillos Linked to Leprosy in Southern US

You can bake them or barbecue them, but most of us think of armadillos as road kill.

But it turns out that they're also good for something else: armadillos spread leprosy.

Until recently, researchers believed that leprosy could only spread via human to human contact, though they were also aware that armadillos are the only nonhuman animal susceptible to the bacterial infection.

Curious about whether armadillos spread leprosy to humans, a research team in Louisiana compared the DNA of leprosy bacteria from armadillos to that which has infected a group of patients in the southern United States.

The bacteria matched.

While armadillos spread leprosy to humans, it's unlikely that you will be infected.

The U.S. sees about 150 cases of leprosy a year, reports Bloomberg. But the majority of those can be traced to overseas travel in regions where the disease is more prevalent.

As for the hard-backed carriers, about 20% of the armadillo population in the South carries leprosy, but according to the Los Angeles Times, only 5% of the human population is even susceptible. Plus, the disease is easily treatable via antibiotics.

Even so, it's important to understand how you can contact leprosy from armadillos.

People who work with, hunt, or play with wild armadillos are at a higher risk for contracting leprosy. The bacteria can be transmitted through contact with blood and tissue, so it's necessary to take remedial precautions.

Also keep in mind that leprosy often takes years to fully manifest, allowing it to wreak unknown havoc on your body for quite some time.

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