Karen Springen

Stories by Karen Springen

  • Product Recalls: What You Should Do

    All the recent headlines about 'toxic' or dangerous household products are enough to make anyone want to go off the grid. Here's how to get past the hysteria and shop smart.
  • New Findings on Alzheimer's

    The author of a new study says conscientious people may have less risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
  • The Birds, The Bees and Britney’s Undies

    A new book helps adults talk to kids about the birds, the bees and Britney's underwear in an age when sexual innuendo and provocative images seem to be everywhere.
  • Kitchen Kids

    If you're tired of cooking, here's an idea: teach your children to do it. Sisters Isabella and Olivia Gerasole, 11 and 9, authors of "The Spatulatta Cookbook" (Scholastic. $16.99), give some tips on how parents can encourage their kids in the kitchen. ...
  • Save Energy—And Money

    By now, most consumers know the basics of saving energy at home: install fluorescent light bulbs, buy appliances with the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star label and seal air leaks around doors, windows and pipes (see energystar.gov for more tips). But it can be surprisingly easy and affordable to take some extra steps toward a greener home. A few ideas: ...
  • Could Owen Wilson Case Inspire Copycats?

    An expert on celebrity suicide copycats discusses the potentially devastating mistakes the media can make when covering the issue, and what families can do to protect those at risk.
  • Study: A Moldy Home May Make You Sad

    A new study says that mold isn't just a costly and unsightly blight on homes, it may also be linked to higher rates of depression.
  • Pregnant Women: Eat More Fish or Not?

    Pregnant women may want to put fish back on their grocery lists. According to a study in the latest issue of The Lancet, the British medical journal, the nutritional benefits of seafood outweigh any toxic effects of trace contaminants like mercury. That's big news because many pregnant women are still following a 2004 advisory from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which warned them to avoid high-mercury fish (shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish) and to eat no more than 12 ounces of low-mercury seafood (shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, catfish) each week because of potentially harmful effects on the developing brain of the fetus. The new Lancet study suggests that advising pregnant women to limit their consumption of seafood could actually be detrimental to their children.The study's authors looked at the behavior, fine motor skills and IQ's of the offspring of 11,875 British women who had earlier assessed their...
  • Beyond Cardio: What You Need

    How little exercise can you do and still be healthy? This month the American College of Sports Medicine (acsm.org)—along with the American Heart Association (americanheart.org)—updated its physical-activity guidelines for the first time in 12 years. They recommend:The bottom line: get moving. Even some activity is better than none. "Walk during TV commercials if nothing else," says Steven Blair, a coauthor of the report. Finally, set a schedule, write it down—and do it.
  • Be Good To Your Bones

    To judge by those ubiquitous ads, just about every adult woman in America should be worried about osteoporosis, a skeletal disorder characterized by thinning bones. And since the ads are paid for by pharmaceutical companies, it's not surprising that the suggested remedy is medication. Is that the right approach for you?The first thing you need to know is that not everyone is at risk for osteoporosis. About 8 million U.S. women and 2 million men have the disorder. Women over 50 are the most vulnerable because they can lose as much as 20 percent of their bone mass in the years around menopause. They're also more likely to have it if they're Asian or Caucasian, have a family history of osteoporosis or weigh less than 127 pounds. Some other risk factors: anorexia, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and excessive alcohol use. Men get osteoporosis at a much lower rate—probably because they have bigger bones.Osteoporosis can be devastating. "It can cause loss of mobility and independence and...
  • Autism: Earliest Diagnosis Ever

    A new study finds that autism can be identified at around 14 months, much earlier than previously thought. How early diagnosis can improve outcomes.
  • Rachel Hunter's Strange Diet Campaign

    Rachel Hunter is promoting a diet company's 'Find Your Slim' campaign. The problem(s): she's already slim—and she hasn't tried the weight-reducing drink.
  • Toys: Thomas Derailed

    For the past 61 years, Thomas the Tank Engine has been chugging along as a favorite book character, written by a minister for his son. But he was suddenly derailed this month when RC2, a company that licenses Thomas, recalled 1.5 million toys due to lead in paint from a manufacturer in China. In total, there were 22 products, from January 2005 to April 2007, that could potentially be dangerous. (High levels of lead exposure can damage the brain.) Parents scrambled to send back the runaway trains, as they were offered free postage, replacement models and an $11 wooden choo-choo.Still, many were unhappy and confused about the extent of the recall. Beverly Beck, from Highland Park, Ill., gathered and hid six boxes' worth of Thomas toys that belonged to her five kids over the years. She's worried that any wooden Thomas toys with red paint, even those not on the recall list, could be dangerous. "I'm trying to redirect my son to be interested in other toys," she says.For now, RC2 isn't...
  • New Laws to Protect Public Breast Feeding

    A few weeks ago, the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal visited a public park in New York—and breast-fed her 8-month-old daughter, Ramona. Kudos, right? After all, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms nurse for at least a year. Nope. Gawker.com posted a picture of a partially exposed breast and called it a "momtroversy." The photo is now on a "nude" Web site.What gives? Even formula makers say "breast is best." Nursing reduces a baby's risk of diarrhea, ear infections, urinary-tract infections and bacterial infections (and perhaps food allergies, obesity and diabetes). It also lowers a mom's risk of breast and ovarian cancer—and, since it burns 500 calories a day, helps her lose weight. And it's free, while formula costs about $1,500 a year. Yet new evidence shows that there has been a decline in the number of women breast-feeding, reversing a steady increase over the past three decades. "The culture does very little to support mothers in what they need—information,...
  • How Nursing Moms Find Support at Work

    When it comes to feeding babies, the consensus is unanimous: breast milk is best. And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers nurse for at least a year. The problem: in the United States, more than half of moms with kids under the age of one return to the workforce. For many women, that means they need to use a breast pump to "express" their milk so that their babies can drink it from a bottle. Easier said than done. No federal law says that employers must let moms pump at work. So far just a dozen U.S. states already have laws addressing women's right to do so. (The governors of two more states—New Mexico and Oregon—recently signed legislation that will give moms (unpaid) lactation breaks and a clean and private area to pump (not just a bathroom stall). In an International Formula Council survey of moms with kids under 12 months, 62 percent said going back to work was a reason they would choose not to breastfeed or continue to breastfeed.In their new book, "The...
  • Fads: A Look at America's Wackiest Dieting Plans

    In her quest to shed pounds, Amy Jamieson-Petonic tried the cabbage-soup diet, a hot-dog and peanut-butter diet, and just about everything in between. Then, after an "aha" moment as she tried on a size 22 coat, she said, "No more." She started eating smaller portions and healthier foods, and took up running. Lo and behold, she slowly lost 100 pounds. Fifteen years later, Jamieson-Petonic, now a 38-year-old registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, has kept off all the weight. "Real people can do this," she says.Easier said than done. A remarkable 41 percent of U.S. adults are trying to lose weight—and their average goal is 37 pounds, according to a Consumer Reports survey published this month. (Two thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.) Small wonder they're tempted to try such, um, unusual regimens as Beyoncé's maple-syrup, lemon-juice and cayenne-pepper diet. Or the grapefruit diet. Or the blood-type diet. But experts say they should try...
  • Kids' Book Clubs Boom

    Twelve-year-old Joanna Krupp loves her monthly book-club meetings. She and her fellow bookworms tackle titles like Gloria Whelan's National Book Award winner “Homeless Bird,” about a 13-year-old girl in India whose parents arrange a marriage to a boy who is gravely ill. To go with the stories, they eat matching snacks, such as Indian food. Joanna's brother, Ben, 13, likes his father-son group, too. “It's just good to talk about the books, and I really understand them better,” he says.A generation ago, there were few, if any, organized reading groups for kids. Today, hundreds of thousands of kids belong to them, says Vicki Levy Krupp, coauthor of “The Kids' Book Club Book” (and Joanna and Ben's mom). Popular authors like Lisa Yee and Tamora Pierce include book-club information on their Web sites and even solicit e-mail exchanges with kids. And publishers like Scholastic are offering online discussion groups such as Flashlight Readers (www.scholastic.com/flashlightreaders). Last month...
  • Diets: Gina Kolata on 'Rethinking Thin'

    In a new book, journalist Gina Kolata looks at America's obsession with dieting and the science behind our frequent weight-loss failures.
  • Architecture: Restoring Wright

    A once-endangered home by Fallingwater architect Frank Lloyd Wright is set to undergo a massive restoration. NEWSWEEK gets a house tour.
  • Environment: For a Greener Garden

    All gardens may look green, but some are greener than others. Truly green, or organic, gardens are free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and filled with native plants that need minimal amounts of extra water. They're good for the environment, and they're safe for kids and pets to play in. Planting one is simpler—and cheaper—than you might think. Some earth-friendly tips: ...
  • Medicine: Two Shots for Chicken Pox Now

    Like 100 of their peers at Orchard Park Elementary in Ft. Mill, S.C., Emily Rivers, 9, and her sister, Olivia, 6, contracted chicken pox this year—despite getting immunized when they were a year old. The girls got sick because a single shot—the old recommendation—protects only 85 percent of kids. As a result, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that kids get a second shot between the ages of 4 and 6.Ironically, says Dr. Robert Frenck of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious diseases, "the vaccine program has worked so well that people just don't see the benefits anymore." Many Americans no longer view the disease as a health threat. But chicken-pox outbreaks tend to start with unvaccinated kids, says the AAP's Dr. David Kimberlin.Pam Rivers praises the vaccine for reducing the severity of her girls' outbreak. They got just a few dozen bug-bite-like "pocks." By contrast, her husband, 48, who'd never had the disease or the vaccine,...
  • Protecting Your Home From Fire

    Tragedy struck the Bronx Wednesday night, as a house fire in a neighborhood near Yankee Stadium claimed the lives of eight children and one adult. The blaze, the deadliest fire in New York City since 9/11, started in the cord attached to a space heater on the ground floor of a building without fire escapes--a place where there were smoke detectors, but no batteries in them to sound the alarm. The nine dead, immigrants from Mali, join a sad roll call of Americans felled by fire: in 2005, 1,602,000 fires killed 3,675 civilians and 87 firefighters, according to the National Fire Protection Association. What can be done to help protect people from the flames?  Patrick Morrison, health and safety director of the International Association of Fire ...
  • Health: Battle Of The Binge

    Ron Saxen's problem with binge eating started when he was 11. He hid the disorder well enough--through exercise and yo-yo dieting--to sign a modeling contract at the age of 21, when he was 6 feet 1 and weighed 179 pounds. But the pressure to remain thin proved to be too much. He quit the catwalk and eventually ballooned to 295 pounds. "In the darkest days, I would get two Big Macs, a large order of fries and a chocolate shake, then pull into Taco Bell before finishing my McDonald's," says Saxen, author of "The Good Eater: The True Story of One Man's Struggle With Binge Eating Disorder" due out next month.But Saxen, now 44 and recovering, is one of the lucky ones. This month Harvard researchers found that binge-eating disorder, or BED, is the most common eating disorder in the United States--more prevalent than anorexia and bulimia nervosa combined. Its definition: single bursts of uncontrolled eating that last less than two hours and occur at least twice a week. Because of the...
  • Toy Business: American Girl, On The March

    Beth Miller--an Atlanta mother with daughters 5, 7 and 12 years old--will visit the new American Girl doll store when it opens in her city this fall. "I'm sure I will have to," she says. AG owner Mattel is counting on moms like Miller to boost its $440 million in revenue last year--up just 1 percent from $436 million in 2005. "We wanted to bring the success of our flagships to smaller markets where we know we have customers," says AG president Ellen Brothers. Last year 3 million people made pilgrimages to the three existing AG stores in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles to ogle the $87 dolls and their pricey accessories. This fall Mattel is opening AG "boutiques" in Atlanta and Dallas. The new stores will be smaller, without live theater. "The big, big stores are a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many girls," says Brothers. "We didn't want to have too many of those around the country." Is bigger better? Next year AG is moving its 40,600-square-foot Chicago stand-alone store to a...
  • Fourth-Grade Slump

    Terri Bollinger, principal at the Ridge Central elementary school, has noticed a troubling trend. Her third graders are doing incredibly well. Most of them meet or exceed Illinois state reading standards. But her fifth graders aren't showing the same kind of improvement--and in 2005, their reading scores even dropped a little. Bollinger thinks she knows why. For complicated reasons, some kids lose their mojo when they get to fourth grade.Principals and teachers around the country are growing increasingly concerned with what they call the fourth-grade slump. The malaise, which can strike children any time between the end of the second and the middle of fifth grade, is marked by a declining interest in reading and a gradual disengagement from school. What's causing it? Some say fourth graders get distracted by videogames, organized sports and after-school activities. Others worry that kids are burning out. No Child Left Behind has created an intense push to teach kids the fundamentals...
  • New Sensible Eating Rules for Kids

    Every day at 6:15 p.m., 4-year-old Payton and 7-year-old Avery Lumeng sit down for dinner with their parents, who let them eat as much or as little as they'd like. They're free to be excused when they're finished—even if it's after only 15 minutes. If they're hungry when it's not mealtime, they eat snacks—including occasional cookies and candies. "If you have all these hard and fast rules—'My children are never going to eat candy'—it makes it all the more tempting," explains their mom, Dr. Julie Lumeng of the University of Michigan's department of pediatrics and Center for Human Growth and Development. She should know: she worked on "Healthy From the Start," a new booklet on healthy eating just out from the nonprofit group Zero to Three (zerotothree.org) and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.In the booklet, Lumeng and her colleagues redefine the rules of healthy eating for kids. Faced with a childhood-obesity epidemic (about one in six U.S. kids is fat), experts are...