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WebMD's 10 Top Health Stories of 2007

Recalled Toys, Unsafe Food, Bad Bugs, New Stem Cell Source Top List
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 17, 2007 -- Every day, WebMD reports several important health news stories. Some of these stories have a single, immediate impact. Others unfold over weeks or months.

Each of these stories stands out from the hundreds of news leads WebMD receives each week. And some stand out from the rest.

Here are the 10 most important news stories we reported in 2007, as selected by the news editors at WebMD.

No. 1: Deadly Kid Stuff: Toy Recalls and More

WebMD's top story isn't just one story. In more than a baker's dozen of stories, month after month, WebMD reported an astonishing wave of unsafe-product recalls, most of them children's toys.

In May, parents were frightened to hear that 450,000 combination infant carrier/car seats were dumping babies on the ground due to a faulty handle.

The recall snowball began gathering speed in early August when nearly a million Fisher-Price toys -- including the trusted Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer characters -- turned out to be coated with lead paint. Signaling a trend, the toys were all made in China.

That was scary. But not two weeks later, Mattel recalled more than 18 million Mattel toys -- 9.5 million in the U.S. -- including nearly 700,000 Barbie play sets. Most of these toys had a defective design: They carried powerful magnets that could detach, posing a deadly hazard to children who swallowed them. (This same design flaw was responsible for Mattel's November 2006 recall of 4.4 million Polly Pocket dolls, including 2.4 million in the U.S.)

Some of those Mattel toys, however, didn't carry magnets. Their hazard: lead paint. And these lead-painted toys turned out to be the tip of an iceberg.

Within two weeks, Mattel announced further recalls of hundreds of thousands of lead-painted toys. Before another two weeks had passed, Mattel and Fisher-Price recalled 800,000 more lead-painted toys. An additional half-million lead-painted toys from other manufacturers joined the list, with yet another half million toys added in early October. All of the toys were made in China.

Lead paint wasn't the only hazardous substance coating kids' toys in 2007. In November, WebMD reported the incredible news that beads in 4 million Aqua Dots craft kits carried a chemical that, when swallowed, converts into the "date-rape" drug GHB. At least two U.S. kids slipped into comas after swallowing Aqua Dots. Fortunately, both recovered. The craft kits were made in China.

Meanwhile, other recalls seemed to come at a furious pace. September saw the recall of 1 million Simplicity cribs, which became death traps if their drop-side was assembled upside down. At least three babies died. In October, risk of serious head injury led to the recall of a million Bumbo Baby sitter seats.

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