Health and Wellness Archive

Bicycle Helmet Ratings: Giro, Bell, Schwinn and Scott

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Comparison of Safe Bike Helmets for Older Kids and Adults: Bell Piston Review, Giro Revel Review, Schwinn Merge Review, Scott ARX Plus Review

In our previous blog on bicycle helmets, we covered some of the statistics involving brain injuries to cyclists.  While serious injuries are not uncommon for adults or kids, fatal injuries tend to be much more likely with increasing age.  That’s not only a big deal for tweens and teens, but especially for parents!  But how do you pick a helmet?  Here are a few tips:

  • Select one with a CPSC certified label.  This means it passed basic requirements and testing.
  • Make sure it fits correctly.  If it is too hard to adjust or doesn’t stay in place correctly, it may not be in the right spot to protect well after shifting around during a long ride.  Most helmets should fit snugly and should not move much front-to-back, side-to-side or twisting.  Have a question?  Try shopping at a local bike store and have an expert help you!
  • Select one for comfort.  If it is too hot, or pokes you or gives you a headache, you won’t wear it and it won’t protect you.  Ventilation and padding differ greatly and it’s not always the priciest models that are the best ones for you, because everyone has a different head and preference.
  • Choose a helmet for cycling or one labeled for dual or multi-sport use. Models specifically for other sports like skateboarding may not be as suitable for cycling use.
  • Select one you like.  Fashion may seem irrelevant for safety, but if you aren’t going to wear it, it won’t protect you.  Styles vary a lot, from motorcycle style with drab colors  to ultralight racing models with fancy designs.

Much like carseats, independent testing is difficult to find.  To my knowledge, only Consumer Reports® has done additional safety testing of select models in the USA.  Their ratings of 22 models are available to subscribers online and can be found in the June, 2015 issue of the magazine.  I don’t know if their testing is consistent with industry expert analysis, but much like carseats, it appears to be the only independent testing out there.

Consumer Reports also tested youth helmets.  Their top choice was the Bontrager Solstice Youth at $40, available online and at local bike stores and Trek stores.  For tweens, teens and adults, you probably need an adult sized helmet. Below, I have quick reviews on a few budget models that were recommended in CR’s ratings.  In addition to being best buys, all three received very good impact absorption scores.  All three have dial adjustments that ratchet to tighten and loosen the helmet.

Quick Reviews:

Giro Revel (Left), Schwinn Merge (Center) and Bell Piston (Right):

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I recently tested four helmets, ranging from $15 to $150.  Do you need to spend a fortune to protect your head, or does a bargain model work just as well?

Bicycle Helmets: They’re Not Just for Littles

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SchwinnMergeWearing a helmet is a lot like wearing a seatbelt.  It can be inconvenient and even uncomfortable, especially to adults.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 800 cyclists were killed and half a million had injuries severe enough to go to the emergency room in 2010.  Fortunately, according to the IIHS, helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent, but Safe Kids USA estimates that less than half of children 14 and under even wear a helmet.

Bicycle related head injuries send more people to the emergency room than any other sport, more than football, baseball and softball combined!  And it’s not just kids being injured.  The IIHS states, “Eighty-four percent of bicycle deaths are persons 20 and older. During the past few years, no more than 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.”

So, yes, make sure your kids wear a good helmet and make sure it fits them.  And the same goes for football, baseball, softball and skateboards.  The NHTSA has a great page on bicycle safety education with tips and facts. Safe Kids USA has an excellent video on helmet fit for kids, but it applies to adults as well:

 

Take it from me, the cost of NOT wearing a helmet can be unimaginable.  Based on the statistics, it is just as important to wear one yourself!  This not only sets a good example, but adults in their 40s and 50s are most at risk of dying from head injuries sustained in a bicycle crash.

I’m a survivor of a life threatening sports-related head injury.  When I was 10 years old, I was struck by a thrown baseball that hit me above the eye while running to first base in a back yard game. There was literally a big dent in my head, and the depressed skull fracture required immediate surgery.  I was told that had it struck me an inch in any other direction, I’d probably have died.  A batting helmet would have prevented the injury and the long scar that remains on my forehead, too.  So, it’s not too hard for me to imagine what could happen to my 10-year old son or to me if we don’t wear our bike helmets.

In our next segment, I’ll review a few reasonably priced bike helmets that provide good protection for adults and older kids.  There are also some new options in helmets that may help prevent concussions as well as other traumatic brain injuries.

Should You Toss Your Toxic Car Seat?

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coccoroEvery few years, HealthyStuff.org evaluates car seats based on the presence of flame retardants and certain heavy metals. They just came out with a new report, and you might be concerned about the findings. Let’s talk about what this all means.

First, let me say that I’m concerned about flame retardants, too. Some people brush it off as hippie-helicopter-parents-flipping-out-over-something-harmless. But some of the chemicals found in car seats have known detrimental effects, some have suspected detrimental effects, and at least one is slated to be phased out of use under the Stockholm Convention (a global treaty signed by over 150 countries who have vowed to reduce persistent organic pollutants).

I’ve written other posts about flame retardants for CarseatBlog, and I’m concerned about my own children’s exposure, so I’m not here to tell you the study doesn’t matter or should be ignored. But I’m not going to tell you to panic and throw away your seats, either.

This current study from HealthyStuff appears to be more thorough in some ways than past ones. This study looked for the presence of brominated, chlorinated, and phosphate-based flame retardants. They show which retardants were present in which seats, and they show the potential hazards of each of those compounds.

They do a much better job than in the past of explaining how these chemicals can enter a child’s body: through dermal (skin) contact, inhalation, or ingestion. The organization also provides a better explanation of their methodology and how they weighted the results to come up with their rankings.

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at the rankings.

  • All car seats must meet federal flammability standards. The flammability standard is harsh, and there’s no way to meet the standard without the use of some kind of chemical flame retardant.
  • We don’t know the risks of all chemicals. We know that some are worse than others, but because fire retardants are largely unregulated, it often takes years before they’re fully tested and their impacts fully understood. A chemical that seems great now might turn out to be hazardous later. That means that we don’t necessarily know how “good” a seat with a “good” ranking really is. We also don’t know if a seat with a “bad” rating is really any worse. Especially because:
  • There’s no way to know how “safe” or how “dangerous” a car seat is. Even the FAQs on HealthyStuff.org’s report states:

    HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical. HealthyStuff.org ratings provide only a relative measure of high, medium, and low levels of concern for several hazardous chemicals or chemical elements in an individual product in comparison to criteria established by our research team and informed by published research studies.

    We don’t know how—or even if—these car seats’ chemicals are having an actual impact on kids.

  • Not all seats were tested. HealthyStuff.org only tested 15 seats. There are a lot of seats that weren’t tested at all. Of the ones that were, we only have data for those particular samples. It’s possible that a company could switch vendors for certain components, meaning that foam that tested poorly (or well) might not even be used in other, seemingly identical seats manufactured at a different time. Basically: there’s just a lot we don’t know.
  • Car seats save lives. It’s okay to be concerned about chemicals in your children’s car seats, but it doesn’t mean the car seat itself is a bad thing. Just the opposite: It’s absolutely necessary and crucial. The chemicals in flame retardants pose a potential risk. Car crashes are a known, real, happening-everyday risk, and are a leading cause of death in children. Properly using an appropriate car seat is one of the best defenses against injury and death. Hands down.

With all that said, what can you do if you’re still concerned about potentially dangerous chemicals in your seats?

  • Don’t leave children in seats longer than necessary. For many reasons, car seats should be for the car, not for lounging or sleeping outside the car for long periods of time. Children left in car seats outside the car are at greater risk for other hazards, too, such as airway obstruction, falls, and strangulation.
  • Clean the cover. The cover isn’t the only part of the seat that contains fire retardants, but it’s the part in most direct contact with your child. Wash it (according to manufacturer instructions) to remove any excess chemicals. Remember that aftermarket covers and products are not recommended because they can interfere with the straps and with the ability to properly tighten the harness.
  • Avoid excess heat. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially during hot summer months, but heat can cause a greater dissipation of flame retardant chemicals. Park your car in the shade, crack windows, use sun shades, and air out the car before you get in it.
  • Vacuum regularly. Flame retardants can gather in dust, so vacuum out your car and your child’s car seat regularly.
  • Contact car seat manufacturers to express your concerns. Public pressure leads to results. Some companies have already abandoned the more-concerning chlorinated and brominated fire retardants in favor of the (seemingly and hopefully) less-concerning halogen-free phosphates. If some companies have done it, all of them can.

If, after all this, you’re still panicking over your particular seat, then by all means get a new one. I don’t think it’s necessary, though.

Remember, I don’t take this topic lightly at all, but guess what seat my youngest child is currently riding in? I won’t name names, but it’s among the seats listed as a “highest concern.” I’m not switching him out of it, though. For one, I have no way of knowing whether his particular seat has the same components as the one tested (nor do I know how any new seat I’d get him would compare to the samples they used). I do clean the seat regularly, and we try to keep windows cracked in the summer as long as there’s no threat of rain. I do my best to mitigate his exposure by avoiding flame retardants in other areas, especially in our mattresses and bedding, where my child currently spends about half his life.

I will definitely contact the manufacturer to encourage them to remove brominated fire retardants from all their products, but in the meantime I’m not going to sacrifice the seat in question, which fits well in my car, fits my child well, and is easy to use correctly each and every time.

The Not So Angry Vitamin

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Natrol offered CarSeatBlog a chance to review some vitamins, and given my kiddo is usually down to try just about anything, I took them up on the offer.

A few weeks later a package with two bottles arrived in the mail. Liam was jumping up and down because of course he loves playing Angry Birds on the iPad and these vitamins just so happen to be Angry Birds themed.

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I got two different bottles, one containing vitamin gummies and the other containing vitamin chews.
The gummies came in a red bottle with 60 gummies per bottle. It retails for about $5.99 at Amazon.com. Kids are to chew 2 gummies a day, which of course Liam had no problem with. They taste great (yes, I had to try them too!) and don’t stick to teeth as much as your run of the mill gummy treat so I like that aspect since anything gummy related usually makes me cringe. I typically avoid gummy vitamins altogether but these really weren’t bad as far as stickiness goes! They don’t contain as many minerals as the chews do, but have higher amounts of the ones they do contain. They are sweetened and colored with fruit juice extracts. They do contain tree nuts (from fractionated coconut oil) but are free of egg, fish, shellfish, wheat, peanuts, soy, yeast, and artificial colors or flavors.

The chews came in a big blue bottle with a count of 180. They retail for about $6.95 at Amazon.com. These are the more classic chewable vitamin, with a light berry flavor. They have more of the typical vitamin taste- I believe it’s probably the iron, which the gummies do not contain. Liam ate them no problem, and I didn’t find them offensive in the least. The instructions are to chew 3 tablets daily, which is quite a bit considering they are on the larger side in the first place. Plus 180 seems like a lot but you have to remember you’re taking 3 a day. However, it’s still about 60 days worth of vitamins for just over $20 so that’s still pretty darn good for a quality multivitamin! The chews contain additional B1, B2, B3, K, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, manganese, and molybdenum, all of which the gummies do not contain. They also contain beet root powder, artichoke extract, bilberry extract, carrot powder, and cranberry extract. They are free of milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, yeast, and any artificial colors or flavors. They do contain wheat, but are a good choice for those with peanut or tree nut allergies!

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All in all, we liked them. I do wish they contained more whole food additives since we try to avoid most synthetic vitamins but they were much better than typical mainstream vitamins you pick up at the drugstore. I also wish the B12 was methylcobalamin instead of synthetic cyanocobalamin, but to be fair, it is very difficult to find methylcobalamin in most supplements. They tasted great, are fun for the kids (who doesn’t like an Angry Bird?), won’t empty your wallet, and are easy to obtain. Plus they came with a fun little bird prize that unfortunately had to go live on top of the refrigerator so our vacuum, I mean baby, doesn’t suck it into his esophagus.

Thank you to Natrol for the sample bottles and the chance to review the vitamins! This review and all opinions are entirely my own and myself or CarSeatBlog were not provided any monetary compensation from Natrol.

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