How Scary This Year Was for Parents:

1 Got milk? The recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), used in cows to produce 5 percent to 20 percent more milk, plays a significant role in the progression of childhood cancers, according to the National Institutes of Health. While hormone-infused milk is banned in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, the FDA doesn’t even allow it to be labeled as such in the U.S.

2 President Bush’s “Leave No Child Behind” promise falls $6.15 billion short. More than one-third of states are cutting school aid by millions — California by billions.

3 Unveiling his budget proposal for 2003, President Bush declared $135 million for education on sexual abstinence. None of those millions are available to teach children how to avoid STDs or pregnancy.

4 Thirty and three-tenths percent of children and 30.4 percent of adolescents are overweight; 15.3 percent are obese. Ninety percent of U.S. middle and high schools operate soda machines during school hours; 13 percent of the nation’s schools house fast-food franchises.

5 One in 10 children and adolescents in the U.S. suffers from mental illnesses severe enough to impair daily life, but fewer than one in five receive treatment, according to the Office of the Surgeon General. More than 6 percent of children have taken Prozac, Ritalin or Risperdal. If the sugar doesn’t get them going, the speed will.

6 The Bush administration has dramatically weakened clean-air safeguards by proposing “Clear Skies” legislation, which will allow more power-plant pollution than under current law. Despite the president’s pledge in 2000 to do so, he refuses to curb carbon emissions that cause global warming. Childhood asthma afflicted 3.8 million children in 2003, and the numbers are climbing.

7 A government report from February 19, 2003, raises new questions about the hazards of mercury, which is linked to developmental IQ deficits, motor-skill dysfunction, ADD and autism, and is released when power plants burn coal. The report brought together data about the increasing amount of mercury in food and water but cautioned that it was too early to draw causal conclusions. Nevertheless, President Bush has proposed lowering current standards, increasing the amount of mercury that industry can legally dump into water systems.

8 Childhood cancer deaths continue to decline — by about 50 percent since 1975 — but incidence of the disease for those 19 or younger increased by 37 percent during the same period.

9 A 1-year-old boy in Rijeka, Croatia, was bitten 30 times or more by a group of other babies. Investigating police say they have no idea why the babies attacked.

—Monah Li


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