No matter the trip, always buckle up


On this morning I did it again. And I did it even after talking with Kelly Thomas Boyers the day before.

Old habits die hard. Because they do, I have a better chance of kissing this world goodbye.

I rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m., hit the road in darkness by 5 a.m. Four minutes later I was buying coffee to drink on my way to work.

Then I buckled up for the 20-minute drive to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But using a seat belt wasn’t something I did for the 4-minute drive to the coffee shop. My reasoning, if I thought about it at all, was that it was almost next door and, at that early hour, there was hardly any traffic.

Dumb. Particularly when you consider that safety officials report that wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent.

Boyers had reminded me of what I already knew, yet ignored — that too many of us get in a comfort zone when we’re close to home, a big part of the reason the majority of auto accidents happen within 5 miles of where we live. She pointed out that her 21-year-old son Adam wasn’t belted for a 5-minute ride to a movie six years ago, and he was ejected from the sport utility vehicle in which he was a passenger.

Adam’s friend, the driver, swerved to miss a pedestrian who was running across the interstate and their SUV overturned. Adam died from his injuries. His friend hardly had a scratch.

“You must always be aware of what can happen,” Boyers said, crying as she recalled her son’s death.

That tragedy, which caused Boyers to seek help to learn how to cope with grief, spurred her into reaching out to others without resources for counseling. She created Adam’s Place, a center at 601 S. Rancho Drive, which offers support group and education for children, teens and families coping with grief and loss.

At 7 a.m. Saturday, Adam’s Place holds its sixth annual Step Out for Safety, Step Up for Health, 5K Fun Run and 1M Fun Walk at Valley Hospital Medical Center, 620 Shadow Lane. The registration fee, $15 for individuals and $30 for families, goes to benefit the center that has helped hundreds of Las Vegans.

At the event there will also be health screenings and activities focusing on car occupant and pedestrian safety.

“Dealing with prevention is a lot better than dealing with grief,” Boyers noted.

IMPORTED CANDY ALERT

With prevention in mind, Dr. Claudine Aguilar Mendoza of Good Night Pediatrics in Henderson — an all-night urgent care for kids — called me.

The pediatrician is concerned that imported Halloween candies she and her staff have seen at local ethnic markets may contain unacceptable levels of lead for children. It wouldn’t be the first time. Work by UNLV researchers and the Southern Nevada Health District led to the removal of imported candies from store shelves in 2006.

In 2010, the FDA issued an alert for 39 types of candies from China, Mexico and the Philippines.

Candies produced domestically are subject to FDA inspections. Though the agency informs other countries of U.S. specifications, not all foreign manufacturers follow them. The FDA considers candies with lead in excess of 0.1 parts per million to be contaminated. Only a lab can analyze the level.

Lead can harm children’s central nervous systems as they develop, making it difficult to learn. Kidney damage, anemia and even death is also possible. If you’re concerned about lead exposure in your child, a blood test can determine whether medical attention is needed.

Researchers say candy products containing tamarind, chili powder or salt mined in less developed parts of the world have a higher likelihood of containing elevated lead levels. Improper drying and storage also introduces lead.

Mendoza said bags of candies in small area stores appear to be pictured on the California Department of Public Health’s website, http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Pages/FDB%20Lead%20In%20Candy%20Program...., which carries alerts for tainted candy. (I didn’t find the candies locally but I didn’t canvass all the stores Mendoza mentioned.)

Shawn Gerstenberger, interim dean of UNLV’s School of Community Health Sciences, said California has the nation’s most active public health testing program aimed at tainted candy.

In 2012 and 2013, California inspectors warned consumers not to eat certain brands of candies imported from Vietnam, India, Turkey, Pakistan and Mexico and also forced “voluntary” recalls of the products.

Mendoza and Gerstenberger say it makes sense for Nevadans to monitor California’s website on candy.

“Candy sold there is probably going to come here,” Gerstenberger said.

Mendoza added, “To be safe, you’re better off buying American-brand candy you’re familiar with.”

Paul Harasim is the medical writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His column appears Mondays. Harasim can be reached at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.