Mom credits car booster seat with protecting 9-year-old son in accident, shares warning to other families

(Courtesy Jen McLellan) First responders speak with Braeden McLellan, 9, after he was involved in a Sept. 15 car crash in New Mexico.(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) —  Jen McLellan wants something good to come from a recent car crash that seriously injured her husband and left their 9-year-old son with mainly bumps and bruises, injuries that could have been much worse.

McLellan’s son, Braeden, was wearing a seat belt and was in a booster seat on Sept. 15 when an SUV ran a red light and the family’s car, with Braeden and his dad inside, T-boned the SUV.

McLellan said doctors and first responders told her the booster seat possibly saved her son’s life. Braeden’s main injuries from the crash are deep bruises, including a large one from his neck down across his chest, right where the seat belt protected him.

“The booster seat put him at the right height to save him from way worse injuries,” McLellan, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, told ABC’s Good Morning America. “If he had been sitting lower, he would have hit his neck and face and possibly got a spinal injury or so much worse.”

McLellan, founder of PlusMommy.com and host of a podcast, decided to share her family’s experience on Facebook as a reminder to other parents about the importance of booster seats.

The post, which has been shared nearly 3,000 times, describes how McLellan had to hold her ground over the past two years as Braeden told his mom he was the only one of his friends still in a booster seat.

“My husband and I just have not budged on it,” she said. “My new message to my son is ‘cool kids are safe kids.'”

Booster seats are what kids graduate to after they grow out of car seats. Some kids, depending on their height and weight, may need to remain in a booster seat until they are nearly teenagers, according to Lorrie Walker, technical adviser for Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit child safety organization.

“It’s a long initiative to keep your child safe in the car,” said Walker, noting that McLellan should be “commended” for keeping her son in a booster seat. “It is probably going to take three different types of car seats [rear-facing and forward-facing car seats and a booster seat] before a child is ready for the seat belt.”

Car safety guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics say children should “stay in a booster seat until adult seat belts fit correctly, typically when children reach about 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 through 12 years of age.”

Walker advises parents to use visual checkpoints to help determine if their child is ready to move out of a booster seat.

The first step is to see if the child can comfortably bend their leg at the knee with their back and bottom firmly against the back of the seat in the car. If they cannot, it is back to the booster seat.

If they can comfortably bend their knee, the parent needs to evaluate where the seat belt falls on their body. If the seat belt falls on the bony part of their hips and their shoulder, they are safe.

If the seat belt falls low on the hips or on the stomach, or is resting on the child’s neck or face, then they need to be in a booster seat, according to Walker.

Parents also need to keep in mind that seat belt styles vary by car so they need to do a visual check on their child in each car in which they travel, according to Walker.

“We like to include kids [in learning the visual checkpoints],” she said. “Because they’re many times riding in cars with their friends and their parents may not be there and we want kids to know to protect themselves.”

Walker also advises parents — long before they think about seat belts — to remember the safest thing for kids is for them to be in car seats as long as possible.

“Car seats today have weight limits that can go up to kids who are 6, 7 or 8 years old,” she said. “Keep the child in the car seat until they outgrow it by height or weight, and that could be as many as 70 pounds.”

When it comes to McLellan and her family’s car crash, Walker said the mom did another thing right by serving as a good example for her son in making car safety a priority.

“As soon as your child is driver facing, that is when you begin driver’s education,” she said. “Parents are role models for their kids. You can’t do things wrong [i.e., texting while driving, not wearing a seat belt, driving aggressively] in the small interior of your car and then expect to tell your teenage driver not to.”

McLellan said she has heard from dozens of parents who have shown her post to their own kids who complained about booster seats and from parents who have gone out and bought booster seats for their kids.

She also wants parents to know that the car crash happened less than one mile from her family’s home, saying, “People think, ‘Oh, I’m just going down the street,’ but this can happen.”

“I realize that this is an inconvenience and it can be an extra thing to lug around, but that extra thing very likely saved my son’s life and I’m forever grateful to that piece of plastic,” said McLellan. “We have to make sure our kids are protected and safe even if it’s an inconvenience.”

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Hot car safety tips to remember on National Heatstroke Prevention Day

kurmyshov/iStock(NEW YORK) — Wednesday is National Heatstroke Prevention Day — an important reminder that as the temperature climbs in the summer, so does the danger for children left in hot vehicles.

Hot car deaths reached a record level in the U.S. last year with at least 52 children killed, from California to Tennessee to Mississippi, according to national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org.

At least 24 children have died in hot cars in the U.S. so far this year, the nonprofit said.

Just this week, a 2-year-old boy died after he was left in a scorching hot van outside a Florida day care.

Last week, 1-year-old twins died in New York City after their father said he accidentally left them in his car all day while he was at work.

“This is my absolute worst nightmare,” the twin’s mother said in a statement.

The science behind hot cars
Children’s bodies heat up much faster than adults do, according to the National Safety Council.

Children’s internal organs begin to shut down once their core body temperature reaches 104 degrees — and it takes very little time for a car to get too hot for children, according to a report published by the council last year.

On an 86-degree day, for example, it would take only about 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach a dangerous 105 degrees, researchers said.

KidsAndCars.org director Amber Rollins offers these tips for drivers:

Always keep cars locked even if you don’t have children.

Always keep keys out of children’s reach.

Place an item you can’t start the day without in the backseat.

If a child goes missing, check the inside and trunk of all cars in the area immediately.

Teach children to honk the horn if they get stuck.

“If you see a child or animal alone in a car, do something,” Rollins said. “If they are in distress, you need to get them out immediately and begin to cool them.”

KidsAndCars.org is advocating for Congress to require rear occupant alarm technology in cars.

“The only thing more tragic than a child or animal dying in a hot car is knowing that there are solutions that exist that could prevent this,” Janette Fennell, president of KidsAndCars.org, said in a statement on Wednesday. “By not utilizing available technology to sense a child or pet alone inside a vehicle, we are shamefully allowing this to happen over and over again.”

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EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked to developmental issues in children

iStock(NEW YORK) — The Environmental Protection Agency is not banning a pesticide linked to developmental issues in children, the agency announced this week despite years of calls to pull it from use, saying further study of its effects is needed.

Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide used mostly on fruit and other produce. California and some other states have moved to ban the chemical from agricultural use because of the health risks, but the federal government has denied longstanding petitions from environmental groups.

This is despite a finding from the EPA under the Obama administration that the pesticide should be completely banned, and a previous court order telling the agency to act on it.

Environmental health experts say there’s evidence that exposure to even low levels of chlorpyrifos through conventional produce can lead to developmental and cognitive problems in infants and children and that they haven’t found a safe level for children or pregnant women.

Catherine Karr, a pediatric environmental medicine specialist at the University of Washington, said doctors are concerned about what happens when the vulnerable, developing brain is exposed to chemicals like chlorpyrifos. She said studies have documented issues with learning and cognition, inattention or behavioral issues, and even behavior similar to what is seen with children on the autism spectrum.

“These are outcomes that as a pediatrician these are major problems in childhood, issues with learning, issues with ADHD or autism. So here we have evidence that this chemical, this pesticide used in the food supply, and exposures in our population that really have effects on kids,” Karr said.

Karr and environmental advocates like the Environmental Working Group say buying organic produce can reduce exposure to pesticides for pregnant women and children, but that higher prices for organic products can be a problem for many households.

Chlorpyrifos currently isn’t allowed for residential use, but can be used on a commercial scale using guidelines intended to prevent exposure and spray from drifting out of the intended area. In late 2016, the EPA found that the level of chlorpyrifos residue on produce was above what the government considered safe and would likely restrict or ban it completely, but in 2017 the Trump administration reversed that decision and said they needed to look into the issue further.

Karr said there’s even more concern for populations that work in or live near agriculture, saying there’s evidence that low income farm-working communities are exposed to even higher levels in addition to the food they eat.

“This is sort of an environmental justice issue I think because we do see that they [the local residents] have the burden from the food supply that anyone in our country might experience but also living near agricultural production,” she said.

The EPA says it denied a petition to ban chlorpyrifos again saying it needs further review. The agency says it will continue to study chlorpyrifos but says it has concerns with some of the outside studies used in EPA’s previous risk assessments.

“EPA has determined that their objections must be denied because the data available are not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable to meet petitioners’ burden to present evidence demonstrating that the tolerances are not safe.”

The company that manufactures chlorpyrifos, Corteva Agriscience, said in a statement they support the EPA’s decision and the ongoing review of potential risks from the chemical, adding that they will work with EPA if it determines some uses of the pesticide need to be more limited.

“Completion of Registration Review will provide needed certainty to growers who rely on chlorpyrifos and needed reassurance for the public that labelled uses will not pose unacceptable risk to public health or the environment,” the company said in a statement.

Environmental and health groups critical of what they say is the EPA’s inaction say the decision shows the Trump administration is choosing the side of chemical companies over children’s health.

“Every day we go without a ban, children and farmworkers are eating, drinking and breathing a pesticide linked to intellectual and learning disabilities and poisonings,” said the 12 plaintiff organizations challenging EPA’s previous decision to deny a ban. “We will continue to fight until chlorpyrifos is banned and children and farmworkers are safe from this dangerous chemical.”

The EPA says it is expediting its review of the risks associated with chlorpyrifos, which it expects will be complete in 2022. That assessment will be used to determine if the agency will revoke the registration for the pesticide, effectively banning it, or if there should be new restrictions imposed on how it can be used.

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With Temple University mumps outbreak expected to continue for ‘weeks,’ thousands receive vaccinations

Manjurul/iStock(PHILADELPHIA) — An ongoing outbreak of mumps at Temple University in Philadelphia has prompted more than 2,000 students to receive vaccinations or booster shots.

Philadelphia health officials told ABC News that there are a total of 108 cases of mumps associated with the Temple University outbreak so far, with 18 confirmed cases and 90 probable cases. The school did not previously require students to get vaccinated.

“These happen at universities across the country — not frequently — but it’s not unusual,” said James Garrow, the spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Mumps is commonly spread through “close personal contact” and “sharing things that have saliva on them,” Garrow said, noting that situations where large groups of students are living, eating and drinking together make them prime for an outbreak.

Garrow said that the department sent its first health alert about the outbreak to the medical community in Philadelphia on March 1.

Mumps is one of the three diseases that the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends each person receive two doses: the first when a child is between 12 and 15 months old and the second dose between 4 and 6 years old. Students at post-high school educational institutions who have not been immunized should get two doses of the MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days, and adults who have not been immunized should get at least one MMR shot, according to the CDC.

Garrow said that even after completing those doses, it’s still possible to get infected by the mumps virus because the MMR vaccine is “excellent” for protecting against measles and rubella but only “really good” for protecting against the mumps, with a slightly lower immunity rate.

As such, the CDC recommends that anyone who is at risk of being exposed to mumps get a third booster vaccine. Temple University has been facilitating these boosters this week through vaccine drives on Wednesday and Friday.

The school released a statement calling Wednesday’s vaccine clinic “a tremendous success, with 2,285 vaccines administered.”

Many colleges and universities have long required incoming freshman to provide records showing that they had received two doses of the MMR vaccine — this was not the policy at Temple until this outbreak began, Garrow said. The school released a statement announcing its updated vaccination requirements on March 22, though it noted that they were not finalized.

“The policy is still under development. The goal is to draft the policy over the summer for rollout next academic year. The university fully expects the policy to be in accordance with best practices and applicable law. And accordingly, the university expects avenues for appropriate opt-out that will be spelled out when the policy is final,” the statement read.

As for the remainder of the outbreak, Garrow said that officials are “expecting it to continue,” due in part to mumps’ taking as many as three weeks to become symptomatic.

“The best way to stop the spread of mumps is for people who have those symptoms and feel sick to stay away from other people,” Garrow said, urging students to “wipe down surfaces” and “don’t share cups.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Using standing desks only burns 10 calories an hour, study shows

DNY59/iStock(NEW YORK) — Sitting all day has been proven to be detrimental to one’s health — so if you’ve got one of those standing desks, great.

However, if you think standing up at the old grind is going to get you shredded, you may want to sit down for this: A new U.K. study shows you’ll burn fewer than 10 calories an hour.

So standing for an entire eight-hour day will offset your morning coffee — provide you take it with no cream or sugar.

“The very small increase in energy cost of standing compared to sitting that we observed suggests that replacing time spent sitting with time spent standing is unlikely to influence our waistlines in any meaningful way,” says study co-author Dr. Javier Gonzalez, a senior lecturer with Bath’s Department of Health.

Scientists tested dozens of men and women, checking how many calories they burned sitting, laying down, or standing during an average day. The difference between sitting and standing only worked out to be around a 12 percent difference.

Gregg Afman, a professor of kinesiology, noted that, “current interventions to reduce prolonged sitting like standing desks or wearable technologies only increase standing by a maximum of two hours per day…” — which works out to be around 20 calories in a given day.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

How DNA, genetic genealogy made 2018 the year to crack cold cases

ktsimage/iStock(NEW YORK) — Christine Franke was a 25-year-old college student when she was shot dead in her Orlando apartment on Oct. 21, 2001.

Though DNA was left behind at the crime scene, years went by without an arrest.

The killing and the wait for justice devastated her mother and relatives.

“It’s a terrible thing not knowing,” said her mother, Tina Franke. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

But all that changed in November when a suspect was arrested after police say he was identified through genetic genealogy.

“After all this time, I wasn’t sure we would ever find out,” Tina Franke told ABC News weeks after the arrest. “They had DNA all along and just nobody ever matched up. I thought, you know, possibly he would be dead. How can you live 17 years under the radar?”

A new law enforcement tool arrives on the scene

Genetic genealogy only got on the public radar in April after the first public arrest through this DNA-and-family-tracing technique.

Since then, genetic genealogy has helped lead to 24 other suspect identification, according to genetic genealogy expert CeCe Moore.

Moore is a chief genetic genealogist with Parabon NanoLabs, the company that’s worked on the majority of the cold cases cracked through genetic genealogy this year.

Parabon has made 23 successful DNA identifications this year — including in the Christine Franke killing. Two other cases not connected to Parabon were also publicly solved this year through genetic genealogy, Moore said.

Through genetic genealogy, an unknown killer’s DNA from a crime scene can be identified through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to a genealogy database. This allows police to create a much larger family tree than using law enforcement databases like the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, in which an exact match is needed in most states, CeCe Moore said.

“In a genetic genealogy database we can reverse engineer the [suspect’s family] tree from their distant” relatives who have submitted DNA, Moore told ABC News. “So it doesn’t matter that they haven’t had their DNA tested through another arrest or crime scene, we don’t need their DNA. We need somebody from their family to have tested in order to resolve these cases.”

Parabon’s cracked cases range from the 1986 rape and murder of a 12-year-old Washington state girl to the 1988 killing of an 8-year-old girl in Indiana, where the unsolved slaying had “haunted the community” for 30 years, according to the prosecutor.

But Moore called solving Christine Franke’s 2001 killing the longest genetic genealogy case she has worked on, citing the suspect’s large family and difficult-to-trace family tree.

Michael Fields, a detective with the Orlando Police Department who worked the Franke case, partnered with Moore this summer.

Fields said they began with two relatives of Christine Franke’s unknown killer who had voluntarily submitted their DNA to GEDmatch — a third-party genealogy database that permits people to upload their DNA — to find other family members.

From there, tracing the massive family tree began, Fields told ABC News.

Eventually, Fields said he interviewed family members of the unknown suspect and zeroed in on one woman who had two sons in Orlando.

The woman voluntarily gave her DNA to police — and that sample confirmed she was the mother of Franke’s suspected killer, Fields said.

Investigators then narrowed the search down to one of the two sons — Benjamin Holmes.

Police placed Holmes under surveillance and took a sample of his DNA from a discarded cigar butt, Fields said. The DNA on that cigar matched the DNA left behind by the suspected killer at the Christine Franke scene, Fields said.

The moment Fields learned of the match “was a feeling that I thought I would never have,” he said.

And sharing the news with Christine Franke’s mother was “more emotional than learning for myself,” Fields added.

For Tina Franke, the news brought an overwhelming wave of relief.

“I couldn’t believe it finally happened,” she said.

When Holmes was taken into custody in November, he “denied having any knowledge or being near the crime scene,” Orlando police said.

Holmes entered a plea of not guilty. His public defender, Robert Wesley, told ABC News, “We don’t discuss clients or their cases without explicit consent and directions to do so from the client.”

‘Golden State Killer’ opens the floodgates

The moment Fields realized genetic genealogy was the potential key to solving the Christine Franke killing was when he saw the April arrest of the suspected “Golden State Killer,” he said.

The “Golden State Killer” case was the first public arrest this year linked to genetic genealogy, Moore said, though Parabon was not involved in the investigation.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the “Golden State Killer” was believed to have committed over a dozen murders and multiple rapes in Northern and Southern California, instilling fear in families, young women and suburban neighborhoods.

As the years went by, his crimes seemingly stopped — but police kept investigating.

In the early 2000s, authorities obtained the unknown killer’s DNA at one crime scene: the 1980 double murder of Lyman and Charlene Smith, who were bludgeoned to death at their Ventura County home.

Investigators then started reviewing rape kits — which contained DNA samples from victims — in other counties, said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.

This year, investigators plugged the mystery killer’s DNA into the genealogy website GEDmatch.

Based on the pool of people on GEDmatch, investigators built a family tree of the unknown killer’s relatives who had submitted their DNA to the database on their own.

Authorities narrowed the search based on age, location and other characteristics, leading them to 72-year-old former police officer Joseph DeAngelo.

Investigators placed DeAngelo under surveillance and eventually collected his DNA from a tissue left in a trash. They then plugged his discarded DNA back into the genealogy database and found a match, linking DeAngelo’s DNA to the DNA gathered at multiple “Golden State Killer” crime scenes, Schubert said.

DeAngelo, accused of 13 murders and other charges, is awaiting trial in Sacramento County. He has yet to enter a plea.

His public defender declined to comment to ABC News about the genetic genealogy component of the case.

Privacy concerns

As genetic genealogy cracks more and more cases, its use is also drawing criticism from some civil liberties advocates who say it unfairly gives up the privacy of law-abiding people because of their family members.

“Our DNA is essentially like a blueprint to ourselves,” said Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “DNA can tell us about hereditary diseases potentially, our ancestry… there are already attempts to tie genetic information to personality traits, to mental health, to other predictors of life outcomes. So giving that deeply detailed information over to government investigators is troubling in that it just exposes so much information about ourselves.”

Eidelman said the use of genetic genealogy by law enforcement “compounds the privacy harms and concerns in terms of one person’s genetic material actually disclosing information about so many others — including people who are no longer alive, people who have yet to be alive.”

“It’s a frustrating position to be in, because we should be able to enjoy the benefits of technology … without having to fear that that information will then go into the hands of the government or others,” Eidelman said.

Eidelman said setting guidelines now for what is acceptable is imperative as the use of genetic genealogy by law enforcement increases.

“It may end up being the case when you’re thinking you’re sharing information for only one purpose, the reality may be that that information gets used for very different things than what you intended to share it for.”

But Moore stressed that direct-to-consumer DNA companies, including AncestryDNA and 23AndMe, do not allow their DNA samples to be searched by authorities.

Those companies, however, do allow users to download their raw data. And third-party genealogy databases like GEDmatch permit people to upload their DNA information, making the samples widely available for searches — and that’s how genetic genealogists have been cracking these cold cases.

“The only way your DNA can be used for our purposes is if you go through the steps of downloading it and uploading it to GED Match,” Moore stressed. “We’re not using your DNA unless you’ve gone through that process.”

“People give their permission when they go on our site,” added GEDmatch co-founder Curtis Rogers. “We make it very clear to them that law enforcement is involved and if you have any concerns, do not put your information on our site.”

“Privacy is not lost by anyone on GEDmatch. No DNA is visible on GEDmatch,” Rogers told ABC News. “The people who would have their privacy lost would be someone who is a direct family member.”

He said he’s received emails from family members of criminals — including the daughter of a serial killer — who want their DNA included on GEDmatch to potentially help solve cold cases.

Moore agreed.

“A lot of people are uploading to GEDmatch for the expressed purpose of helping us resolve more of these cold cases,” Moore said. “I understand the privacy concerns, but I think in this particular argument the good to society, to individuals, far outweighs the risks.”

“For me, it’s all about the families,” Moore said. “We can’t fix the damage … we can only help give some answers and peace.”

Tina Franke, the mother of slain Orlando student Christine Franke, said she’s “all for” law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy. “Maybe it’s not fair to invade privacy, but he invaded my whole life,” Tina Franke said of her daughter’s suspected killer. “He changed my life in the blink of an eye. And if it can help catch a criminal, that’s more important to me than anything.”

‘It’s going to be a game changer’

Now that genetic genealogy is in the hands of authorities, Fields, who called it “an unbelievable tool,” predicts “it’s going to be a game changer in how we do business.”

But the Orlando detective added, “Not everyone is going to have the opportunity to use it, because it’s expensive, time-consuming and it can be really difficult.”

“I just hope that people use it and can solve as many cases as they can,” he said.

To Tina Franke, genetic genealogy’s biggest strength is its ability to give answers, and possibly closure.

“I hope it helps another family who is struggling with similar circumstances,” Franke said. “I would want the same relief for them as we felt.”

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