The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to release its first-ever rules governing how pesticide makers can test their toxic products if the testing involves exposure to people, the Washington Post reported.
The newspaper said it had obtained the rules -- to be released to the public in a matter of weeks -- from an environmental advocacy group. Some lawmakers and medical experts are criticizing the proposals for the very idea that people are exposed to the tests at all, the Post said. Specifically, critics said the rules failed to adequately protect children and pregnant women.
The proposals, to take effect in six months after the public has a chance to comment, would include creation of an independent board to gauge whether each set of tests met established ethical standards. The rules wouldn't apply to testing conducted before the guidelines became law, the Post said.
An EPA spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said the agency was in favor of letting pesticide makers test products such as mosquito and tick repellants on pregnant women and children, the newspaper said.
For many years, the federal government allowed manufacturers to conduct pesticide studies on people. A moratorium on the practice was imposed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton, who said such studies could harm volunteers. The Bush administration, which initially supported the moratorium, abandoned it in 2003 to satisfy a court ruling in favor of pesticide makers, the Post said.
Counseling Doesn't Help Pregnant Smokers Quit: Study
Counseling provided to pregnant women encouraging them to quit smoking doesn't help a significant number kick the habit, a new study finds.
Researchers at Scotland's Glasgow University studied 762 pregnant women who were regular smokers. Half of them were given standard anti-smoking information, but the other half were also offered up to five motivational interviews at home with specially trained counselors, reported BBC News Online. Of those offered counseling, 4.8 percent stopped smoking, compared to 4.6 percent of quitters who hadn't had counseling.
To verify the results of people who said they had quit, the researchers measured levels of nicotine byproducts in the women's blood and saliva.
While nicotine replacement therapy can be effective in helping smokers quit, it generally is not recommended during pregnancy, the news service said.
Results of the study appear in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.
Pfizer Plans Drug Marketing Changes
Scrutiny by U.S. lawmakers and regulators has prompted drug company Pfizer to change the way it markets medicine to consumers, Bloomberg News reported.
The world's largest drug maker said Thursday that it's marketing will provide consumers with more information on drug risks. The company will also involve doctors at least half a year before marketing of a drug begins and, in some cases, will suggest alternative treatments, the news service said.
Pfizer also plans to submit consumer ads to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for comment before the ads are shown to the public.
In April, U.S. regulators warned Pfizer about problems in ads for its allergy drug Zyrtec. Members of Congress have threatened legislation to restrict drug advertising, Bloomberg News reported.
Last week, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced that at least 23 drug makers had agreed that drug risks must be clearly described in direct-to-consumer drug ads. The companies also agreed that drug ads on television should be age-appropriate for the time of day they're shown, the news service said.
Radioactive Sludge a Threat to Florida Community: Lawyer
Nuclear-waste handling mistakes made by Florida Power & Light -- one of the state's largest electric utilities -- may have put an entire community's health at risk, says a lawyer representing the families of two children who developed brain cancer.
Attorney Nancy La Vista contends that the two boys' brain cancer was caused by thousands of gallons of radioactive sludge from a nuclear power plant that were inadvertently dumped onto farmland in St. Lucie County, where both boys lived.
"Our cancer experts say these children were exposed to radiation. The community needs to be concerned," La Vista told the Associated Press.
One of the boys was diagnosed with brain cancer in March 2000 and the other boy had brain cancer when he died in May 2001.
Florida Power & Light (FPL) acknowledged the mistaken dumping of radioactive sludge onto farmland on two occasions in the early 1980s. However, when FPL discovered the problem, it immediately cleaned up the site by removing six inches of soil from a 600-square-foot contaminated area, FPL spokeswoman Rachel Scott told the AP.
State and federal authorities conducted tests that found no health threat at the site or in surrounding air, soil or water, Scott said.
U.S. Plans Review of Some Vets' PTSD Claims
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will conduct a year-long review of 72,000 insurance claims from veterans who now get disability payments for post-traumatic stress disorder, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
An internal VA review found inconsistencies in the way the claims were decided, the wire service said. Many cases reportedly were approved even with a lack of medical evidence.
The investigation will cover claims approved between 1999 and 2004 for veterans who now receive the full monthly disability benefit for PTSD of $2,299, a VA spokesman told the AP.
Last year, the VA spent about $4.3 billion on PTSD payments, not including medical care, the wire service said.
The mental illness, characterized by symptoms like flashbacks and nightmares, is subjective and can be difficult to quantify, the AP said.
Car Fire Deaths Outnumber Apartment Fire Fatalities: Study
Vehicle fires claimed more lives in the United States last year than did apartment fires, the National Fire Protection Association concluded from a new study.
Vehicle fires accounted for 19 percent of the 1.5 million fires reported in 2004, the fire safety group said. An estimated 550 people died and 1,500 were hurt in vehicle fires in 2004, at a cost of more than $1.3 billion in property damage.
Nearly half of all vehicle fires were caused by mechanical failure or malfunction, the NFPA said in a statement. And while crashes or overturns caused only 3 percent of last year's vehicle fires, they were associated with 57 percent of vehicle fire deaths.
Older teens and young adults were most likely to die in a vehicle fire, the group said. People ages 75 to 84 were considerably less likely than average to die in a car fire, while those 85 or older were at only slightly above average risk.
More vehicle fires occurred in July than in any other month, while the fewest vehicle fires occurred in November and December, the NFPA said.
Health Tip: Stay Safe in the Pool
Water workouts are great ways to improve your fitness. The body's natural buoyancy in water decreases the strain on joints and muscles, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.
But before you jump in, take note of these safety tips:
* If you're alone in a pool, make sure someone is nearby in case of an emergency. * Wait 45 minutes after eating before you enter the pool. * If the water is cool, walk several laps to warm up. * If you have diabetes or difficulty with your feet, wear an old pair of sneakers or special water shoes.
Health Tip: Reduce Your Child's Risk of Choking
Infants use their mouths to explore the world, which puts them at particular risk for choking on food or other small objects. And because young children may be unable to lift their heads or get out of tight places, they are also at increased risk of suffocation and strangulation.
Protect your child with these safety recommendations from St. Louis Children's Hospital:
* Make sure your baby's crib mattress is firm, flat, and meets national safety standards. * Don't put pillows, comforters, or soft toys in your infant's crib. * Don't allow your kids to run, play, or walk with food in their mouths. * Cut food into small pieces for young children and teach them to chew properly. * Remove drawstrings from their clothing. * Tie up or cut window blind and drapery cords. * Make sure spaces between guardrails and bed frames are less than 3.5 inches.
Food Fact: Tater gallery.
A surprisingly small serving of sweet potatoes meets your entire daily needs for vitamin E. Most vitamin E-rich foods, such as vegetable oils, nuts and avocados, contain a hefty dose of fat, but just 2/3 cup of sweet potatoes provides 100% of your daily vitamin E needs, and it's virtually fat-free. A medium sweet potato has just 118 calories, and its orange-hued flesh is rich in cancer-fighting beta carotene. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin B6, potassium, iron and fiber -- pop one in the microwave for a great late afternoon snack.
Fitness Tip of the day: Think ahead.
Going to the gym in the a.m.? It pays to pack your gym bag the night before. You'll be less likely to find excuses not to get up and work out if you've got everything ready ahead of time -- and less likely to forget something in haste as you're rushing out the door.
FAQ of the day: Why do food labels say "Less than" for some nutrients?
Eating too much of certain nutrients -- total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium -- may increase your risk of developing heart disease, so their Daily Value is given as an upper limit not to be exceeded, rather than an amount you should try to achieve. There's no problem if you exceed the Daily Value for fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron or calcium.