06/14/15 5:59am
(Credit: Caroline, Flickr)

(Credit: Caroline, Flickr)

A new bill passed unanimously last week by the Suffolk County Legislature will help keep kids healthy by blocking the sale of toys containing potentially unsafe levels of lead and other chemicals linked to serious health conditions.

The Toxin Free Toys Act aims to protect children from toys that contain “potentially unsafe levels of six hazardous chemicals” and known carcinogens, according to a press release. If the proposal is signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the county Department of Health will begin notifying retailers in January. Beginning December 2016, inspectors would conduct random checks for unsafe toys at stores using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer, which evaluates the items’ chemical composition.

“As a mother, I am outraged that children’s toys contain these toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, learning and developmental disabilities and respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders,” said county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who sponsored the bill.

Similar anti-toxin measures were recently signed into law in Albany and Westchester counties.

Under the proposal, toys sold in Suffolk County would only be allowed to contain strictly regulated amounts of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, lead and mercury.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to give anything bad or toxic to a child,” said Kathy Halliwell, owner of Goldsmith’s Toys and Electronics in Greenport. “We carry all quality toys here.”

Suffolk County’s initiative was introduced in response to a report issued by the New York League of Conservation Voters and Clean & Healthy New York that found “several products” containing toxic components on Long Island store shelves.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead paint was banned by the United States in 1978 but is still widely used by other countries in manufacturing toys. Because lead is odorless and invisible to the naked eye, young children can inadvertently expose themselves to it when they put toys that contain lead in their mouths.

While the use of lead paint is prohibited, the use of lead in plastic toys hasn’t been banned in the U.S. According to the CDC, lead softens plastic and makes it more flexible.

Only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead, the CDC said, and a blood test is the only way a child’s lead levels can be measured.

For a list of recalled toys, visit cpsc.gov.

Have a health column idea or question for Rachel Young? Email her at ryoung@timesreview.com

06/13/15 2:30pm
A 1964 photo depicting the grand opening of the former Montgomery Ward Catalog Store in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: Suffolk County Historical Society)

A 1964 photo depicting the grand opening of the former Montgomery Ward Catalog Store in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: Suffolk County Historical Society)

Vines & Hops occupies the space today, but more than 50 years ago, 127 East Main St. in Riverhead became home to Montgomery Ward’s Catalog Store, which opened in 1964 to a “huge crowd of local shoppers,” the Suffolk County Historical Society said this week. (more…)

06/07/15 5:58am
Aside from being delicious, strawberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. What's not to love? (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Aside from being delicious, strawberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. What’s not to love? (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

“Popeye” character J. Wellington Wimpy famously promised that he’d “gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” but I’d rather have a cup of fresh strawberries. And, like Wimpy, I want them right now.

Aside from being delicious, strawberries are fat-free, rich in dietary fiber and packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Combined, these attributes make my favorite fruit “nutritional jewels,” said dietitian Lara McNeil of East End Nutrition in Riverhead.  (more…)

05/18/15 2:30pm
A view of Flanders Bay Saturday afternoon. (Credit: Rachel Young)

A view of Flanders Bay Saturday afternoon. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Update Monday 2:30 p.m.: A state pathology lab investigating the die-off of dozens of turtles in Peconic Bay has found marine biotoxins are likely the cause.

Though findings from a necropsy were “nonspecific” — meaning the turtle’s death could not be directly cited to the presence of the red tide byproduct saxitoxin — testing on the contents of the turtle’s intestines was inconclusive but revealed that saxitoxin may have been present, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.

“Circumstantial evidence is consistent with the terrapins being poisoned with saxitoxin,” said state spokesperson Lori Severino. “If additional terrapin carcasses are found, [the] DEC will test them as well in an effort to confirm the cause of deaths in this terrapin die-off.”

Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons executive director Karen Testa had told the News-Review the group was hoping the turtles had been killed because of the harsh winter and not the toxin. She said the poisoned turtles may have been just coming out of hibernation when they ate the toxic shellfish.

“What that does is it paralyzes them and they would just drown. It’s a horrible death, “she said. “They get their first meal and its poison. It’s horrible.”

Original story: Flanders Bay and western Shinnecock Bay have been added to the list of local waterbodies where the harvesting of shellfish is temporarily prohibited due to unusually high toxin levels, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced Saturday.

Three area creeks were also shut down by the state in the last two weeks.  (more…)

05/17/15 8:00am

Anyone who builds a home addition or installs a swimming pool can reasonably expect their property assessment, which measures how much a house is worth and then taxes accordingly, to increase. But homeowners who think they’ve been unfairly charged have the option of filing a grievance with their town’s tax assessor’s office.

Just be sure to act quickly, because the deadline to file a grievance in New York State this year is Tuesday, May 19.

“Generally speaking, a lot of people don’t have a good impression of what their house is worth,” said Paul Henry, who has owned Tax Reduction Services in Greenport since 1990. In 2014, he said, the company helped more than 10,000 clients in Suffolk and Nassau counties file grievances in an effort to reduce their bills.

“What we do is find inequities,” Mr. Henry continued. “We look for properties that are being overvalued for the purpose of property taxes and then establish a value we think is more correct.”


05/17/15 7:00am

Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Don’t sit too close to the TV or you’ll need glasses. Put down that spicy chili dog or you’ll give yourself an ulcer. These are health claims so pervasive that it can be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. What should you believe? We asked local medical professionals to weigh in on some of the most popular myths.