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Eleven national organizations representing education, parent, union, and religious groups are sponsoring one-day seminars this fall in six cities to alert parents and educators to the hazards posed by asbestos, radon, and lead in school drinking water.

Officials of the 11 groups, which include the two national teachers' unions, the National pta, the National School Boards Association, and the American Association of School Administrators, said this was the first cooperative effort of its kind undertaken by the organizations.

Seminars will be held in Washington, Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, Boston, and Chicago, and will feature speakers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's water, lead, and asbestos programs. For more information, contact Carolyn Henrich of the National pta at (202) 822-7878.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have been awarded $100,000 planning grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to devise programs to improve services for children with mental-health disorders.

The states will use the money to plan programs that improve the coordination of community- and home-based services for children with illnesses that result in long-term disability.

The foundation will choose from among the programs a maximum of eight projects to receive four-year grants of up to $2.4 million.

Birth defects are the leading cause of death among infants, the federal Centers for Disease Control reports.

Because little is known about how to prevent many birth defects, the cdc predicts that the federal health objective for 1990 of nine infant deaths per 1,000 live births will not be met. About one in four of the nearly 39,000 infant deaths in 1986 were directly or indirectly caused by birth defects, the federal agency reported.

Most of the gains made in reducing the infant-mortality rate during the 1970's can be attributed to the better medical technology available for treating premature and critically ill infants, the cdc said.

About 18 percent of the infant deaths in 1986 were attributed to low birth weights, premature births, and respiratory problems not associated with birth defects. Another 14 percent came as a result of sudden infant death syndrome.

Although most teenagers know that condoms can prevent sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, that knowledge alone does not motivate many to use them, a new study has found.

The study, published in the August issue of the American Journal of Diseases of Children, found that immediate, short-term reasons, such as comfort and ease of use, played a larger role in a teenager's decision to use condoms than did concerns for health or contraception.

Yet, most health-education messages aimed at youths, the study noted, urge them to use condoms for health reasons. More effective messages and programs, the report said, would emphasize that condoms are easy to use and allow for spontaneous sex.

Teenagers, the survey of more than 500 youths found, are also more likely to use condoms if they believe their peers use them.

Females were also motivated to have their partners use condoms because they considered condom use "clean" and because it requires the male to take an active role in contraception.

Because about one-third of the males surveyed said they did not use condoms because they believed they are painful, physicians should encourage their patients to try different brands that vary in fit, the study concluded.

The cities with the greatest number of pediatric aids cases do not have adequate services available for these children and their families, according to a report by the U.S. General Accounting Office.

The report, which was presented to the Congress this summer, found that there were 1,440 cases of aids in children under 13 years of age as of February. While adults primarily contract aids through sexual contact or intravenous drug use, nearly 80 percent of the children with the disease got it from their infected mother.

The study also found that detection of the human immunodeficiency virus which causes aids is more difficult in newborns than in adults, and that research on drug therapy for infected children lags behind that for adults.

Because most hiv-infected children come from poor families with inadequate access to health care, many must rely on an already overburdened public-health system for their needs, the report said.

A second gao report to the Congress suggests that a higher federal excise tax on cigarettes might reduce smoking among teenagers.

It notes that if excise taxes were raised by 21 cents per pack, the likely result would be 500,000 fewer teenage smokers, which could lead to about 125,000 fewer premature deaths.

More than 15 percent of all teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 smoke. About 8 out of 10 adult smokers began their habit before the age of 21, and many began by age 16, the report says.

The current federal excise tax is 16 cents per pack. Raising it to 21 cents would boost prices by 15 percent, the report concludes.--ef

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