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Public briefing on phthalates petition may be Nov. 8.

The Greenpeace petition to ban phthalates in toys was first scheduled for a public briefing by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff on Oct. 24. But due to the illness of one of the Commissioners, that briefing was postponed and will most likely take place Friday, Nov. 8. As reported in the September Monitor, the CPSC staff has recommended denial of the petition. Staff told the Commissioners in its briefing package that a study of the time children actually spend mouthing polyvinyl toys showed they are exposed to the chemicals for much less time than what had originally been thought. Thus, staff says, there is no hazard.

Voting on the petition will most likely take place by ballot.

Markey Cites CPSC Data to Support His Bill; But CPSC Disagrees

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) who has annually sponsored legislation to give CPSC jurisdiction over fixed site amusement park rides charged that CPSC's newest data shows an "upward trend in injuries" on fixed site rides. (1)

Markey stated in a news release issued Oct. 15 that "[T]he injuries on theme park rides rose sharply from 1996-1999 and have stayed high ever since." He contended that an increase from 3419 injuries in 1996 to 6704 in 2001 was an increase of "96 percent in six years."

Markey has been a strong advocate for extending the agency's jurisdiction. CPSC currently has oversight over mobile rides only. Data from CPSC shows that injuries related to mobile site rides have declined. But data also shows that there is no statistical significance to recent statistics on fixed site rides when adjusted for increases in attendance numbers.

CPSC's August 2002 update on amusement park injuries in the U.S. states clearly in its executive summary that the so-called upward trend is not statistically significant "when adjusted for attendance." (2)

Moreover, Markey compares 1996 data with later numbers, which were based on new methods of data collection. In 1996, according to Markey, there were 3419 injuries but in 1997 the number increased to 5353. In 2001 the figure was 6704. CPSC Monitor looked at these numbers in earlier reports, and discovered that there was a shift in the number and type of hospital emergency rooms used to collect the data during that period. Between 1996 and 1997, CPSC altered its sample by eliminating more than 20 hospital emergency rooms and adding over 30 new ones to the system. Independent epidemiologist Ed Heiden noted at that time that "statistical concerns would be introduced if the hospitals added to the system were in closer proximity to large-size amusement parks than those deleted or if they disproportionately serve customers who are more likely to use amusement parks than their predecessors. This appears to be exactly what happened." (3)

Roller Coasters Don't Cause Brain Injuries, Say Neuroscientists

Rep. Markey had used questionable data before in his efforts to create support for his amusement park ride legislation. He cited an article in the January issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine warning of a suspected increase in head, neck and back trauma due to higher G-forces on some amusement park rides. He then called for an investigation by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIA). Markey and ten other Members of Congress signed a letter calling for a blue ribbon panel to study the issue. (4)

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), in a statement issued in August, called the study Markey relied upon "suspect." ATRA called the source of the study, Dr. Claus-Peter Speth, a "controversial pathologist" who was once convicted of witness tampering. (5)

Adding to Markey's problems is the release of a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report's bottom line was that even the newer, faster roller coasters do not cause brain injuries.

"Our findings do not support the contention that current roller coaster rides produce high enough forces to mechanically deform and injure the brain," the authors said. (6)

Dr. Douglas H. Smith, co-author of the study with colleague David F. Meaney, looked at data from three of the newer, faster rides--the Rock `n' Roller coaster at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Fla.; Speed, the Ride at the NASCAR Cafe in Las Vegas; and the Face/Off at Paramount's Kings Island near Cincinnati. Their report appeared in the Journal of Neurotrauma on October 16.

Smith and Meaney developed a model to predict the effect of amusement park rides on the head and neck. According to a report by the Associated Press, their research showed that the rides "produced accelerations to the head nine times less than what would be required to cause torn blood vessels in the brain, and 18 times less than the force required to cause brain swelling." (7)

Smith told the media that state legislation to limit G-forces on roller coasters is misguided, "since you can endure higher G-forces from daily activities such as sneezing, coughing, getting slapped on the back or plopping down on the couch" than are generated by roller coasters. (8)

According to Smith, "A lot more attention needs to be paid to those risks we can easily identify such as rollerblading, bicycling and driving cars. To reduce the risk of brain injury, [roller coaster riders] should make sure their seat belts are buckled on the way to the amusement park", he said. (9)

(1) News from Ed Markey, "Injuries Continue Upward on Amusement Park Rides Not Subject to Safety Regs," Oct. 15, 2002.

(2) Levenson, Mark S. Ph.D., "Amusement Ride-Related Injuries and Deaths in the United States, 2002 Update," Directorate for Epidemiology, Division of Hazard Analysis, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, August 2002.

(3) See CPSC Monitor, Vol. 5, Issue 9, September 2000, "Amusement Park Industry Issues Analysis Faulting CPSC Injury Report."

(4) See CPSC Monitor, Vol. 7, Issue 2, February 2002, "Markey, Other Legislators, Call on Expert Panel to Assess Amusement Park Rides' Hazards."

(5) See CPSC Monitor, Vol. 7, Issue 8, August 2002, "Group Questions `Link' Between Coasters and Brain Injuries."

(6) Fitzgerald, Susan, Knight Ridder Newspapers, "Roller Coaster Rides Don't Harm the Brain, Researchers Find," Oct. 15, 2002.

(7) Rubinkam, Michael, Associated Press, State and Local Wire, "Study: Amusement Park Rides Do Not Cause Brain Injuries," Oct. 16, 2002.

(8) United Press International, "Coasters Not Linked to Brain Injury," Oct. 16, 2002.

(9) Ibid.

(10) "New Law Makes Data Challenges Easier," Cox News Service, in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sept. 30, 2002.

(11) See CPSC Monitor, Vol.6, Issue 6-7, June-July, 2001, "CPSC, CFA Seek Product Registration Rule."
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Publication:CPSC Monitor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Previous Article:CPSC & EPA both consider issues related to CCA-treated wood.
Next Article:Stratton to give keynote address at conference on CPSC.

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