Recent Developments

Apparel and Textiles

Dryel: fact or fiction

How effective are the products that dry clean fabrics in your dryer?

Initially, Proctor and Gamble and the International Fabricare Institute (IFI) partnered on a research fellowship to test one of the new products, Dryel. IFI’s test results determined that the product was successful in removing some stains and “freshened” dry-cleanable clothing but does not replace dry cleaning. IFI signed off on a limited endorsement. Since that time, Proctor and Gamble has been promoting Dryel as a replacement rather than an adjunct to dry-cleaning. In response, IFI has launched a comprehensive educational campaign to help consumers make informed decisions and to accurately portray what Dryel can and cannot do. The campaign includes scorecards, hangtags, videotapes, and materials that help the dry-cleaning industry set the record straight. While debates continue, ultimately the consumer must decide whether the product is useful and effective.

Source: Clothes Care Gazette, Sept. 99, p. 4

Submitted by: Ellen T. Miller, Associate Extension Specialist, Apparel and Textitles.

Family Resource Management and Legal Issues

High Court rules that policy permitting student-led, student initiated prayer at football games violates the Establishment Clause

The U.S. Supreme Court recently examined the issue of student prayer delivered before football games. Santa Fe High School had a policy that authorized two student elections, the first to determine whether “invocations” should be delivered at football games, and the second to select the spokesperson to deliver them. This policy was challenged as violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Establishment Clause guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way that establishes a state religion or religious faith, or tends to do so. The Court stated, “The Constitution demands that schools not force on students the difficult choice between whether to attend these games or to risk facing a personally offensive religious ritual.” The Court also objected strenuously to the election process that established a governmental mechanism that turns the school into a forum for religious debate and empowers the student body majority to subject students of minority views to constitutionally improper messages.

Source: Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (99-62)

Contributed by: Carol A. Schwab, Family Resource Management Specialist.

(Editor’s note: The Court’s opinion is a strong statement for freedom from religion. Personally, I would prefer the Constitution be interpreted to promote freedom of religion, where people are free to express their religious beliefs in all public places without fear of ostracism, criticism, and public scorn, not to mention lawsuits. While many may applaud the Court’s decision as protecting the Constitution, I fear it does little more than promote intolerance.

I do agree with the Court that the election scheme in this case is flawed because it does not give religious minorities an opportunity to participate. A process that rotated the duty among representatives from different religions would appease the Court’s concern that the school was attempting to establish a state religion. Exposing students to expressions of belief different from their own would have the added bonus of promoting tolerance.)

Violence Against Women Act held unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal statute that created civil-rights remedy for gender-motivated violence, such as rape. The Court held that the Act exceeded the authority of Congress because violence against women, such as rape, did not rise to the level of an “economic endeavor” under the Commerce Clause. It also could not be upheld under the Fourteenth Amendment because it was aimed at private conduct, not state action.

Source: U.S. v. Morrison, No. 99-5.

Contributed by: Carol A. Schwab, Family Resource Management Specialist.

Police can’t routinely squeeze bus passengers’ luggage to check for contraband

Border Patrol agents squeezed a canvas bag in an overhead compartment and felt a brick-like object that turned out to be illegal drugs. The U. S. Supreme Court overturned the passenger’s conviction holding that the passenger had a privacy interest in the bag because he didn’t expect it to be manipulated “in an exploratory manner.”

Source: Bond v. U.S., No. 98-9349.

Contributed by: Carol A. Schwab, Family Resource Management Specialist.

North Carolina limits scope of public duty doctrine

In two cases, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the public duty doctrine does not bar citizens from suing local governments and their agents, ignoring a long line of cases from the N. C. Courts of Appeals that reached an opposite conclusion. In Thomas v. Waters, the Court held that the public duty doctrine did not bar homeowners from suing Lee County over shoddy building inspections. In Lovelace v. City of Shelby, the Court held that the public duty doctrine did not bar claims that arose after a girl died in a house fire. The plaintiffs alleged that the city’s 911 operator was slow in dispatching firefighters.

Source: Thompson v. Waters, and Lovelace v. City of Shelby.

Contributed by: Carol A. Schwab, Family Resource Management Specialist.

Police stop and frisk cannot be based upon anonymous tip

The U.S. Supreme Court held that police cannot stop and frisk a person based upon an anonymous tip that he or she is carrying a gun. After receiving an anonymous tip, the police stopped and frisked a youth who met the tipster’s description and found a gun. The Court said that this was not enough to justify a stop and frisk because the suspect did not behave suspiciously and the tipster did not predict his future movements or provide any other indications of reliability.

Source: Florida v. J.L., No. 98-1993.

Contributed by: Carol A. Schwab, Family Resource Management Specialist.

Grandparents’ visitation rights statute held unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Washington state statute that permitted any person to petition for visitation rights at any time when it served the child’s best interest. In this case, the grandparents petitioned the court for the right to visit their deceased son’s daughters. The girls’ mother did not object to all visitation, but opposed the amount requested by the grandparents. The lower court granted the grandparents the amount of visitation they requested, and the girls’ mother appealed. The appellate and supreme courts in Washington held that the statute was unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The Court held that the statute, as applied to the mother, violated her due process right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of her daughters.

Source: Troxel v. Granville, No. 99-138.

Contributed by: Carol A. Schwab, Family Resource Management Specialist.

Supreme Court Highlights

For highlights of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions for the 1999-2000 term, click here.

Food and Nutrition

Surprising findings on diet and colon cancer

The findings from two large clinical trials published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine have called into question the long-held belief that high fiber diets can reduce the risk for colon cancer.

Both studies recruited participants who had already had at least one colorectal adenoma, or polyp, removed in the previous three to six months. People who have had a polyp have an increased risk for developing another one within three years. Although only 5-10 percent of polyps becomes cancerous, they are the precursors to most colon cancers.

In the Polyp Prevention Trial, participants in the experimental group were given intensive instruction on how to follow a diet that provided 18 g of fiber per 1,000 calories. The diet was also low in fat (<20 percent of total calories) and high in fruits and vegetables (3.5 servings per 1,000 calories). The control group was given information on healthy eating and told to follow their usual diet. After four years, the researchers found no difference in the polyp recurrence rate between the two groups.

In the Wheat Bran Fiber Study, the experimental group was given a supplement of 13.5 g of fiber day while the control group received 2 g per day. After 3 years there was no difference in the polyp recurrence rate.

The studies’ findings came as a surprise to investigators because much previous research, especially epidemiological studies and work in laboratory animals, had yielded positive results. Although clinical trials such as these are often considered the true test of a diet-disease relationship, there still are several limitations to this study design. For example, colon cancer takes many years to develop. These studies may not have looked at the critical period when fiber exerts its protective effect, such as before polyp development. Or it may be that fiber only helps later on by preventing polyps from becoming cancerous.

There are still plenty of reasons to promote diets high in fiber, however. Research suggests that fiber can reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. In fact, in a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in May, researchers found that a very high fiber diet (25 g of soluble and 25 g of insoluble) improved glucose control and serum lipids levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes without affecting body weight. And fiber can certainly play a role in the prevention of constipation, a condition that contributes to other gastrointestinal tract disorders such as diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.


Alberts, D.; M. Martinez; D. Roe, et al. 2000. Lack of effect of a high fiber cereal supplement on the recurrence of colorectal aAdenomas. New England Journal of Medicine. 342:1156-62.

Schatzkin, A.; E. Lanza; D. Corle, et al. 2000. Lack of effect of a low-fat high fiber diet on the recurrence of colorectal adenomas. New England Journal of Medicine. 342:1149-55.

Chandalia, M.; A. Garg; D. Lutjohann, et al. 2000. Beneficial effects of high dietary fiber intake in patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus. New England Journal of Medicine. 342:1392-8.

Contributed by: Sarah Ash, Food and Nutrition Specialist.

National Academy of Science issues new recommendations for antioxidant nutrients

After extensive review, The National Academy of Sciences has issued its long-awaited guidelines for the antioxidant nutrients vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and the mineral selenium. Antioxidants are a group of diverse compounds capable of neutralizing free radicals that are theorized to play a role in the development of cancer and heart disease and in the aging process. Interest in antioxidants grew as research, particularly from epidemiological studies, suggested an association between their intake, particularly in the form of fruit and vegetable consumption, and disease prevention.

But according to Norman I. Krinsky, chair of the Academy’s study panel, “(A) direct connection between the intake of antioxidants and the prevention of chronic disease has yet to be adequately established. We do know, however, that dietary antioxidants can in some cases prevent or counteract cell damage that stems from exposure to oxidants, which are agents that affect a cell’s molecular composition. But much more research is needed to determine whether dietary antioxidants can actually stave off chronic disease.”

Therefore, the Academy panel decided not to make specific recommendations regarding beta-carotene intake. It did however make changes to the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for vitamins C and E and selenium and added a new recommendation category called Tolerable Upper Intake. This level represents “the maximum intake of a nutrient that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects in almost all individuals in the population.

Vitamin C: The RDA was increased from 60 mg for both men and women to 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. These levels are easily obtained from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The panel recommends that smokers increase their intake by an additional 35 mg. The Tolerable Upper Intake from both food and supplements was set at 2,000 mg.

Vitamin E: The RDA was increased from 8 and 10 mg for women and men respectively, to 15 mg, or 22 IU, for both. The tolerable Upper Intake was set at 1,000 mg or 1,500 IU of natural (d-alpha-tocopherol) or 1,100 IU of synthetic (dl-alpha-tocopherol) vitamin E.

Selenium: The RDA changed from 55 mcg and 70 mcg for women and men, respectively, to 55 mcg for both. The Tolerable Upper Intake was set at 400 mcg.

Source: Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds,

Contributed by: Sarah Ash, Food and Nutrition Specialist.

All herbals are not safe for everyone

Ephedra, also called ma huang and epitonin, is found in many medicinal products. It causes increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as heart rate. It also can cause headache, insomnia, nerve damage, muscle injury, psychosis, heart attack, stroke, and memory loss. These side effects indicate the severity of the problems possible from using ephedra, especially for persons suffering from heart condition, hypertension, diabetes, or thyroid disease.

In April 2000, Dateline NBC aired the show “How Safe is Ephedrine?” which told of a 21-year-old whose untimely death has been linked to taking half the regular dose of an ephedrine product. They also reported that since 1994 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received reports of 60 deaths linked to ephedrine.

This points out the importance of researching and seeking credible advice before taking herbs or other supplements.

Tyler, Varro E. 1994 Herbs of ChoiceThe Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. The Haworth Press, NY.
MSNBC Coverage, Herbal Supplement Under Attack.

Submitted by: Jackie McClelland, Food and Nutrition Specialist.


Centers for Disease Control issues new guidelines for childhood growth

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released new guidelines for childhood growth that for the first time include recommendations to assess overweight using body mass index (BMI). The BMI (wt/ht2) is predictive of body fat in older children and adolescents. According to the CDC, “(t)he new BMI growth charts will allow health care providers to detect, at early ages, children who are showing signs of being at risk for overweight/obesity.” Although not intended to be used by themselves, the guidelines will be a significant tool in efforts aimed at stemming the increasing prevalence of obesity among American youth.

Assessment will be based on the following guidelines:

  • Underweight — BMI for age < 5th percentile
  • Overweight — BMI for age 85th percentile
  • Obese — BMI for age 95th percentile

The charts themselves, along with an easy on-line BMI calculator, can be found at Body Mass Index-for-Age,

Contributed by: Sarah Ash, Food and Nutrition Specialist.

Housing and House Furnishings

CPSC may propose upholstery flammability regulations

The CPSC is considering requirements for flame retardant backings on upholstery fabric to lower fire risks from small open flames, such as those on candles, matches, and cigarette lighters. The requirement could be an inner barrier to prevent ignition or a fire-retardant, chemically treated backing for fabrics.

Questions concerning the regulations include the following:

  • Are the chemicals in the backing harmful?
    • The National Academy of Sciences is testing the toxicity, and results are expected soon.
  • How will the backing change the aesthetics/touch of the fabrics?
    • Consumers demand good looks and soft touch combined in upholstery fabric. Fire-retardant backings may change the hand of the fabric, leaving it less soft to the touch.
  • What will the regulation cost?
    • CPSC estimates the regulation would add $30 to the cost of a sofa, while the furniture industry predicts an increase of $100+.

Source: Global Textiles Today, March 20, 2000.

Submitted by: Wilma Hammett, Housing and House Furnishings Specialist.

Human Development

Quality child care pays off in the long run

When called upon to defend the importance of high quality early learning environments for children, educators should be familiar with the High/Scope Perry Preschool project that found those who had been enrolled in the active learning preschool program were able to earn more as adults, had fewer out-of-wedlock births, were more likely to own a home, were more likely to graduate from high school, were less likely to be on welfare, had fewer arrests, and were more likely to have good jobs.

A second study conducted at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center and reported in 1999 demonstrates long-lasting benefits for children enrolled in an experimental early education program. The longitudinal study recently compared the treated group with the control group and found significant differences in their abilities and achievements. At age 21, those who received early intervention were more likely to score higher on IQ, reading, and math tests; to be enrolled in or graduated from a four-year college; to delay parenthood; and to be gainfully employed.

To read these full reports, see the following:

HighScope Perry Preschool Project

The Carolina Abdecarian Project

Submitted by: Karen DeBord, Child Development Specialist.



Cite this article:

“Recent Developments.” The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues 5.2 (2000).


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