One attorney on a child safety crusade

first_imgOne attorney on a child safety crusade Three-year-old Adam was playing with his grandfather’s heart medication and the bottle was open. His mother, Debra Smiley Holtzman, called the poison-control center and was told to rush him to the emergency room. Hooked up to a heart monitor, little Adam was given ipecac syrup to induce vomiting. Six hours later, doctors confirmed he had not swallowed any of grandpa’s pills. If he had, Holtzman was shaken to learn, he could have died. That life-changing close call propelled Hollywood lawyer Holtzman into her role of child safety crusader. She volunteers as a poison prevention specialist with the Broward County chapter of the National Safe Kids Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based safety advocacy group, as well as the Florida Poison Control Center and the Sierra Club. Holtzman, who holds a master’s degree in occupational safety from New York University and a law degree from St. Johns University, is married to Robert, a trauma surgeon, and they have two children Adam, now 13, and Laura, 9. Her latest achievement is writing “The Panic-Proof Parent: Creating a Safe Lifestyle for Your Family,” (a 299-page paperback, $12.95, published in August by Contemporary Books), that Publishers Weekly called “a book no parent should be without.” Holtzman said her stint as Mrs. Florida 1995 helped spark her success at being invited to speak at schools to teach children about environmental issues. She brings her eyecatching prop, the “Safe House,” constructed like a doll house, where each door opens to reveal common poisons in each room. The door to the bedroom, for example, listed cosmetics and jewelry cleaner. “Although my title as a former Mrs. Florida opened many doors for me, I believe my role as a poison and injury specialist with the Broward Safe Kids Coalition has been much more rewarding,” Holtzman said. She takes her show on the road to fifth-graders, demonstrating how much alike Pine-Sol and apple juice look in identical glasses, how Sweet-Tarts look like Tums, how Tic Tacs look like Motrin tablets and how Hershey’s chocolate looks like Ex-Lax. “While volunteering, however, I noticed a huge gap when it came to finding one book that was couched in phrases all parents could understand and that covered everything. It took me three years to remedy that situation.” The September 2000 edition of Reader’s Digest named Holtzman an “Everyday Hero,” for her contributions in the field of child safety. And singer Olivia Newton-John, national spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, has heartily endorsed Holtzman’s book. “It’s common sense to avoid exposing children to pesticides and other toxins found in the home environment,” Newton-John said. “‘The Panic-Proof Parent’ provides many preventive steps every parent can take to safeguard children’s health.” In her book, Holtzman exhaustively covers it all in detail — from good habits that protect the unborn to 10 ways to calm a crying baby to insisting your child’s school be tested for radon. She begins each chapter with a homespun quote from her mother. The chapter on “Taking Care with Pesticides” begins: “Mother used to say, `If it can kill a bug, it can make you sick.’” This mother sees the world from a child’s perspective, curious and down on her knees. Holtzman’s advice includes: “Install a toilet lid lock on all toilets.” “Magnetic fields can penetrate walls, so don’t, for example, place your television set against a wall that backs to where your child’s bed is located.” “Guns kept in the home for self-protection are 22 times more likely to be used to kill a family member or friend than to kill in self-defense.” Holtzman likes to say that she didn’t find this line of work — it found her. And if it seems that she finds a hidden danger lurking in every corner like a poisonous philodendron plant, her philosophy on child-rearing is more word-to-the-wise than worrywart. “You can’t be so crazy that you would never let any of your kids out,” she said. “Things are going to happen. But what you have control over, you can do something about.” Holtzman can be contacted at One attorney on a child safety crusade October 15, 2000 Regular Newslast_img