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Toyota Issues Major Recall of Prius Models for Safety Risk

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Toyota announced a massive recall of more than 752,000 models worldwide for a safety risk. In the US, over 250,000 models are affected by the recall notice.

Prius Recall

The models being recalled include the 2013 to 2015 Prius and the Prius V for 2014 to 2017. The hybrid models could stall out on the road if there is an issue with the system. Normally, when the hybrid system has a problem, the driver can still get the vehicle back home. If this mode doesn’t activate, the car might lose power and stall in place. The result is a higher risk for a crash, especially on roads with high speed limits.

Other systems would still work on the Prius models, including brakes and power steering. Toyota will be sending out notices to car owners affected in August. The company will update the hybrid system to prevent the issue. It will ensure the failsafe mode becomes active when it is needed. Owners of the impacted vehicles can take their cars to a dealership for the repair. If there is an inverter failure from the problem, that component will also be replaced at that time. Everything is done with no charge to the customer.

The issue doesn’t appear to be urgent since the manufacturer didn’t tell owners to park their vehicles immediately. However, it is a big deal for a leader in hybrid technology. Toyota has put extensive resources towards developing more hybrid models, including the first RAV4 plug-in hybrid coming later in 2020.

Stalling out on the highway is a serious safety concern. In areas where cars are going at higher speeds, above 40 MPH, crash injuries are often more serious and even deadly. A vehicle can be hit from behind and pushed into another obstacle. If this situation happens at an intersection where it is common, the accident can create a chain reaction with other vehicles getting involved.

Injuries from a Rear-End Collision

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries with rear-end collisions. It happens when the body is thrown forward suddenly, causing pain in the neck and upper back, which can also impact the arms. At higher speeds, the injury can be even more serious with a broken neck or back as the result. There may be damage to the nerves, problems with the spinal column or disks as well as broken bones. A person could hit their head and suffer a concussion, which could be life-altering or fatal.

Many times, people fail to take the threat of a rear-end collision seriously. However, it can have major impact, especially if you are on a main highway. It is important to wear a seat belt and pay attention to the surroundings to avoid such collisions. However, in the case of a vehicle recall, you may not be prepared for such a situation.
If you want to know more about whether a vehicle you own is impacted by a recall, you can contact the local dealership for information.

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Defective Products

FDA Sets Limit for Acceptable Amount of Arsenic in Baby Cereal

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Cereal can contain arsenic from the grains it uses, but rice cereals are often higher in this toxic substance. The FDA has issued a limit for the amount of arsenic that can be found in rice cereal for infants. It is the first limit the agency has set up for arsenic in any food.

Arsenic in Baby Cereal

Rice is a grain with a high absorption rate for arsenic. It can end up with 10 times more of the metal than other grains. Because rice cereal is usually one of the first solid foods given to babies, it can have a significant impact on development.

Babies may eat multiple servings of rice cereal in a day, which can lead to exposure to inorganic arsenic, which is toxic. It can damage the neurodevelopmental system and harm their IQ.

Arsenic in rice cereal isn’t a new issue. Testing revealed that over 60 percent of rice cereals and other products have arsenic in them back in 2012. Since then, agencies have called for limits on the amount found in these products. Now, eight years later, the FDA has determined a limit of 100 parts per billion for arsenic in infant rice cereal. Other agencies have called for a lower limit.

While this limit is important news to manufacturers of baby cereal, it’s not enforceable. It is voluntary for manufacturers to follow these guidelines. The FDA conducted tests in 2018 on baby rice cereals, looking at the amount of arsenic present. About three-fourths of the products were at or below the new 100 ppb limit.

While critics believe this is an important first step to controlling the amount of arsenic that enters an infant’s system, they say more still needs to be done. Other products should be included, according to consumers advocates. Apple Juice is another product of concern. Experts believe it should be treated the same as drinking water with a limit of 10 ppb.

The Dangers of Arsenic

According to consumer advocates, limits should be given for all heavy metals, including lead and cadmium. The goal should be lower to reduce risk for children.

Arsenic is a natural element, which means it occurs in nature. It can get into the food supply through the soil as well as in the water and air. Contamination can happen with mining or fracking. Volcanoes that erupt can create an increase in arsenic at the surface of the earth.

Long-term exposure of arsenic has been linked to certain types of cancer and skin disorders. Even short-term exposure can lead to nausea and vomiting and other side effects. Young children have a higher risk for learning and development issues, which is why the FDA monitors products for infants and younger people at a higher rate than with other products.

It is important for parents to be aware of these risks and to determine which products are safest for their children. The effects from exposure to arsenic may not be seen right away, but they may be serious.

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Car Accidents

New Report Shows Automated Driving Systems Not Equal to Human Drivers

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Automated systems have progressed quickly in the automotive industry. Vehicles can park and even drive without the assistance of drivers in some cases. However, a new study by AAA indicates that these systems still aren’t as reliable and safe as human drivers.

Flawed Systems

According to the report by AAA, the current automation systems are limited. They still require drivers to pay attention and not rely on them completely as they drive to prevent accidents. Researchers conducted tests of vehicle automation systems, including Ford CoPilot 360 and GM Super Cruise. These systems help the driver by performing steering, braking and acceleration at least partially without human intervention.

Research indicates that the systems aren’t always consistent in their performance. Some vehicles failed to stay within the designated lane and would occasionally steer too close to traffic coming from the other direction. Many of these systems have lane monitoring to keep vehicles in the correct lane.

The systems also come with automatic braking for emergencies or stopped traffic. AAA found that sometimes the vehicles may brake abruptly, not giving the vehicle behind them enough time to stop, resulting in a rear-end collision. These systems are also supposed to recognize obstacles to avoid accidents. However, some tests showed that they didn’t adjust direction to avoid a disabled vehicle that was in the roadway.

The manufacturers don’t claim perfection when it comes to the systems. In fact, they often include the shortcomings of the vehicle in the owners’ manuals. However, drivers often expect perfect performance when they drive. They rely solely on the automated systems rather than paying attention to the situation.

Based partly on the results of the study, AAA is asking manufacturers to improve these systems, often known as Level 2 systems, before they add them to new models. This isn’t the first test done of automated systems. The results are similar to other studies done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Consumer Reports has also seen similar results in evaluations of systems.

The Testing

AAA used five vehicles for testing:

  • 2019 Ford Edge
  • 2019 BMW X7
  • 2019 Cadillac XT6
  • 2020 Subaru Outback
  • 2020 Kia Telluride

All models feature active driving assistance. All but the Cadillac and Ford models were tested on the AAA closed test track. Those two models had limitations on location and speed. All five models were tested on a round trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which totaled 800 miles. They were driven on interstates as well as local highways.

All five models have problems with being able to stay in the correct lane. They fared well on the closed track, except for some left bias, which would put them closer to oncoming traffic. All five had issues on curving roads and hills.

While AAA admitted that some models worked better in various situations than others, none could be completely relied upon. The researchers recommend that drivers continue to pay attention and use the systems as assistance, but not to rely on them to do the job alone.

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Defective Products

Gas Fireplaces Recalled Due to Safety Hazards

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A specific brand of gas fireplace has been recalled due to the risk for burns and lacerations, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website. The fireplace is manufactured by Miles Industries of Canada.

The specific name of the product is Valor H5 Gas Fireplace. It has been sold at Specialty Hearth stores, Abercrombie & Co, and Southern Fireplaces & More, as well as Custom Hearth and Southern Hearth & Patio. These units cost between $3700 and $5500 for the product alone, not including installation expenses. The recalled product was sold between July 2014 and March 2020.

The recall notice is for two models of the Valor H5, which were manufactured in seven trim options. They came with a mesh barrier screen and a log set. They are fully enclosed with a sheet metal box and a glass front. The fireplaces have an exhaust which is vented outside.

The issue with these fireplaces, which caused a recall notice was for a delayed ignition. The pilot degrades which would allow the gas to accumulate before it lights. Once the ignition happens, it can make the glass window shatter. A person nearby could be hit by the glass, causing lacerations. It can also lead to severe burns.

As the glass shatters, it can send the shards flying and embedding into a person who is in the vicinity. Flying glass can be more dangerous than a regular cut because of the power behind the impact. The risk for burns is significant as well if the glass shatters because it is like an explosion, which can cause the fire to travel further.

What Consumers Should Do

Consumers who own one of these products should stop using them immediately. They can contact the retailer where they bought the fireplace for a free repair. Miles Industries is also contacting any purchasers known. Consumers can also contact Miles Industries directly at 866-420-3360 or through email at H5@valorfireplaces.com.

Information about which models are part of the recall can be found on the right side of the box which holds the unit. The model number is listed on the top left with the serial number just below. The model number is 1150ILP with a serial number between 20001 through 20365. The other model number is 1150JLP with serial numbers between 20366 and 21502.

Do not continue using the fireplace until it has been checked out by a professional. A delayed ignition allows gas to build up, which can create a dangerous effect once it is lit. While only a small number of these products have been sold in the US, there have been reports of malfunction without injury. Consumers should take the recall seriously because these injuries can cause serious damage, depending on the area of impact on the person. Burns and lacerations from flying glass can be painful and even cause permanent damage.

Any recall notice should be heeded as evidence exists that it can be dangerous and even life-threatening in certain situations.

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