Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Could Listening to Media Be Harmful to Your Baby?

Media May Have Gotten Alcohol Study Wrong
Claim that pregnant women can drink safely is erroneous, researchers say

December 22, 2008

Pregnancy women shouldn't drink alcohol, health researchers say, despite what may have recently been reported on the effects of moderate drinking and a developing fetus......More

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Concerned for Your Child's Asthma? Pollution Near Schools May Be the Problem

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The nation's focus has returned to the safety of our schools with the second article by USA TODAY in a series on school siting. Working closely with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), USA TODAY examined the environmental danger of a school located in the shadow of one of our nation's largest oil refineries. Wyandotte Early Education Center serves local 4 year-olds, whose developing lungs are particularly susceptible to the sulfuric acid, naphthalene, ammonia and benzene that the ExxonMobil plant belches into the surrounding air.

The refinery has already been fined by the EPA for failing to monitor and control sulfur gasses that can cause respiratory illness as part of $6.1 million dollars in penalties levied against ExxonMobil last week. Meanwhile, local doctors take note of unusually high rates of asthma and respiratory illness among students.

"Asthma is a direct result of air pollution and asthma is the number one reason for school absences," said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of CHEJ. "Industries that are permitted to release toxics into the air must be monitored very carefully and, if in violation, brought into compliance immediately. Too often the industry gets away with violations over and over again without serious penalties. We protect our children by law with seat belts, car seats, bike helmets, and from negligent and abusive parents - toxic pollution should be no different." CHEJ recommends adopting the following model laws for states and as guidelines for the EPA http://www.childproofing.org/school_siting_model_legislation.htm

In December 2007, President Bush signed Subtitle E of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, instructing the EPA to develop the nation's first-ever school siting guidelines to give state legislatures direction in where schools may be physically located in relationship to toxic contamination sites. The EPA has been given a deadline of June, 2009. Nothing has been done since congress passed this directive. No one has even been given the responsibility for this task.

Meanwhile, communities struggle to relocate schools away from industrial plants emitting toxic levels of air pollutants. USA Today had identified over 20,000 of these schools located within a half mile of a major industrial plant.

"No one should have to file a lawsuit to ensure that their kids go to school on sites that are weren't used for the disposal of hazardous waste," says Steve Fischbach of Rhode Island Legal Services who has fought legal battles to pass rudimentary school siting guidelines in Rhode Island.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

A Marketplace Free From Government Interference

(NAPSI)-While the U.S. must fight any number of battles in order to protect its people and its shores, the nation is currently involved in one where the two sides can't even agree on the rules.

It's all part of competing in a free marketplace. On a world stage, countries develop products for export, and other countries shop around and find the best price and supply to fit their national needs. And if one producing country can find a way to lower its prices, it can gain an important advantage.

That's the way it should work. But when it comes to steel-which the U.S. imports and exports-America is presently locking horns with China. That's because the Chinese government subsidizes the nation's steel companies, creating unfair advantage in an otherwise free marketplace. By covering some of the manufacturing costs, the Chinese government enables its stainless steel producers to charge less for its products.

What does this mean for American manufacturers? Consider that the total U.S. consumption of specialty steel decreased 11.5 percent between June 2007 and June 2008, but the percentage of foreign steel-known as the import penetration-actually increased from 35.6 percent to 39.9 percent. At the same time, U.S. steel exports dropped.

The primary increase stems from the importation of stainless steel sheet/strip, which has jumped 13.4 percent despite the fact that the nation's total consumption went down.

"Stainless steel imports of sheet and strip products continue to surge, even in the midst of a 10 percent decline in U.S. consumption," said Doug Kittenbrink, chairman of the Specialty Steel Industry of North America. "Currency manipulation and other subsidies are enabling Asian competitors to unfairly target our markets. We strongly believe it is time for the U.S. Congress to address the issue of China currency manipulation."

Many Americans concerned about the country's economy-as well as their own-are calling on the new Congress to enact legislation to help level the playing field for the nation's steel manufacturers. You can reach your senators at www.senate.gov and your representatives at www.house.gov. For additional information, visit www.ssina.com.

Steel may be considered the fabric of America, but much of it is coming from overseas.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Economic Crisis Impacting Foreign Workers And Their Home Countries

The ongoing financial crisis could easily turn into a global humanitarian crisis, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, the worldwide recession means that developed countries will buy fewer products from the developing world, build fewer factories there and even give fewer dollars’ worth of aid. But a potentially bigger threat to the well-being of developing countries is that remittances -- the cash that migrant workers send to the loved ones they leave behind -- appear to be falling, for the first time in decades.

Millions of people around the world leave their home countries to find work in foreign lands. They are an incredibly diverse group that includes cab drivers and construction workers, engineers and accountants. The one thing they have in common is they scrimp and save in order to send a few hundred dollars whenever they can to their families back home. These remittances are a lifeline for those who receive them -- research shows the vast majority of remittances are spent on food, medicine, shelter and other necessities.

Although each remittance is small, together they are huge, especially in comparison to the size of the economies that receive them. The latest estimate from the World Bank puts their magnitude at roughly $283 billion this year, and for many countries remittances are larger than the foreign aid or private investments they receive. Some of the largest recipients of remittances are people in the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Brazil and Egypt. In Mexico, families receive more than $26 billion in remittances each year, primarily from people working in the U.S.

Remittances’ most important economic and social effect is they directly alleviate poverty by providing significant income to some of the poorest members of society. This makes remittances very different from foreign aid or trade, which at best trickle down to the poor. And remittances have been a remarkably stable source of income, serving as a buffer against bad times. When a developing economy suffers a downturn, more people migrate and the migrants send more remittances to their loved ones. This process has made remittances a tremendous stabilizing factor in many developing nations.

Until now, that is. There are already signs that the global slowdown is affecting the demand for migrant labor in both the industrialized and the Persian Gulf countries, the main sources of remittance income. In fact, the most recent numbers show that remittances to Mexico, the Middle East and Africa have dropped considerably. If this trend continues, which is likely given the depth of the impending recession, the impact on the recipient countries could be severe.

For countries like Lebanon, for example, where remittances account for more than 21 percent of GDP, a drop in these flows could send the government budget and the economy into a tailspin. The same could be said for other remittance-dependent countries such as Pakistan, which is already suffering from social and political unrest. Even the Philippines, thought to have escaped the brunt of the crisis so far, may feel its impact if remittances fall from their current level of more than $13 billion per year.

What will happen when the safety net that hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on fails? At the very least, we will see an increase in the number of people suffering from hunger and disease. Unemployment will rise to even higher levels as migrants who lose their jobs are forced to return home. Social unrest will likely follow, and as we have seen too many times already, it will not be limited by national boundaries.

The upshot is there is far more at stake than we realize in getting our own financial and economic problems sorted out, and quickly. The fates of millions of people who are directly linked to our economy through remittances also depend on our decisions.

By Connel Fullenkamp
Duke University

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Report Shows Lawsuit Abuse Still Widespread

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following statement from Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), is a response to the Judicial Hellholes 2008/2009 report released today by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA):

"While the majority of Americans understand there are too many frivolous and unfair lawsuits in our country, the Judicial Hellholes report reveals that lawsuit abuse remains alive and well in many jackpot jurisdictions.

"States with jackpot jurisdictions are branded as having unfriendly environments in which to work and do business, as confirmed by the low scores they received in ILR's report, Lawsuit Climate 2008. During this global economic downturn, we encourage state leaders to commit to reforming these trial lawyer-dominated jurisdictions that are driving away local jobs, revenue and opportunity.

"We commend ATRA for helping shine a spotlight on efforts by the trial bar to slip liability expanding measures in bills before Congress and state legislatures. During a 2008 election night poll, voters overwhelmingly opposed these trial lawyer earmarks, saying that giving lawyers more opportunity to sue would only hurt our already struggling economy."

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is the Media to Blame for Making Economic Crisis Worse?

/PRNewswire/ -- An overwhelming 77 percent of Americans believe that the US media is making the economic situation worse by projecting fear into people's minds. The majority of those surveyed feel that the financial press, by focusing on and embellishing negative news, is damaging consumer confidence and damping investment, making a difficult situation much worse.

Richard L. Scheff, a national expert on corporate liability and white collar crime issues, warns media that they could potentially be exposed to liability despite apparent constitutional protections:

"Although statements by the media are protected by the First Amendment, the survey results demonstrate that the public believes that the press bears some responsibility for the lack of confidence in the economy. One would hope that these media would act less out of self-interest in these times of national crisis. I could see creative lawyers attempting to pierce constitutional protections by constructing theories of liability for losses they may allege were driven by irresponsible news releases," said Mr. Scheff, vice chairman and partner with Philadelphia-based law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads.

The US survey of 1000 adults was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, on behalf of Park Lane Communications, and is statistically representative of the total U.S. population. The survey question asked was: "Do you think the financial press is making the economic crisis worse by projecting fear into people's minds?" While the overall response indicated that 77% of Americans answered YES, here are some highlights of note:

Household Incomes:
$25k - $35k - 79% answered YES
$35k - $50k - 88% answered YES
$50k - $75k - 76% answered YES
$75k - more - 78% answered YES

85% of young adults (18-24 yrs old) answered YES
77% of males and females alike answered YES
65% of blacks answered YES

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Friday, December 12, 2008

One in Every 31 U.S. Adults Were in Prison or Jail or on Probation or Parole in 2007

TT Note: So who do you know? These numbers are just downright scary.

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 7.3 million men and women were under correctional supervision in the nation's prisons or jails or on probation or parole at yearend 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. About 3.2 percent of the U.S. adult population, or one in every 31 adults, was incarcerated or under community supervision at the end of 2007. This percentage has remained stable since reaching more than 3 percent in 1999.

About 70 percent (5.1 million) of the adults under correctional supervision at yearend 2007 were supervised in the community (either on probation or parole), and 30 percent (2.3 million) were incarcerated in the nation's prisons or jails. Offenders held in custody in state or federal prisons or local jails increased by 1.5 percent since yearend 2006. The population under community supervision (either on probation or parole) increased 2.1 percent.

State and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction or legal authority over nearly 1.6 million prisoners, an increase of 1.8 percent since yearend 2006. Though the number of prisoners increased, the rate of growth, compared to the average annual growth from 2000 to 2006, slowed by 0.2 percent. The imprisonment rate continued to increase, reaching 506 persons per 100,000 U.S. residents.

During 2007, the federal prison population experienced the largest absolute increase of 6,572 prisoners, followed by Florida (5,250), Kentucky (2,457), and Arizona (1,945). Combined, these increases resulted in 59 percent of the overall change in the U.S. prison population.

Federal prisons operated at 136 percent of capacity in 2007. State prisons operated between 96 percent of highest capacity and 113 percent of lowest capacity, compared to between 100 percent and 115 percent in 2000. This trend indicates that prison populations are increasing at the same rate of capacity.

More than eight in 10 offenders supervised in the community at yearend 2007 were on probation (4,293,163), while less than two in 10 offenders were on parole (824,365). About one in every 45 adults in the U.S. was on probation or parole at the end of the year.

The total community supervision population grew by 103,100 offenders during 2007. While the parole population (up 3.2 percent) increased at a faster pace than probation (up 1.8 percent) in 2007, probation accounted for three-quarters (77,800) of the growth in offenders under community supervision.

Entries to probation supervision (2.4 million) exceeded exits from supervision (2.3 million) in 2007. Similarly, entries to parole supervision (555,900) also exceeded exits from parole (531,400) during 2007. A total of 1,180,469 parolees were at risk of being re-incarcerated in 2007, which included those under parole supervision on January 1 or who entered parole during the year. Of these parolees, about 16 percent were re-incarcerated in 2007.

The report, Prisoners in 2007 (NCJ-224280), was written by BJS statisticians Heather C. West and William J. Sabol, Ph.D., and Probation and Parole in the United States, 2007 - Statistical Tables (NCJ- 224707) was prepared by BJS statisticians Lauren E. Glaze and Thomas P. Bonczar.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Staph Infections Hit Professional Football Hard

/PRNewswire/ -- Joe Jurevicius, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kellen Winslow. Unfortunately, during the past few months the list of top professional football players affected by Staphylococcus Aureus, commonly called staph, seems to read as a who's who of the National Football League (NFL). Whether the source of these infections is healthcare facilities where athletes are undergoing surgeries, locker rooms, or turf on the playing fields, staph and its close relative Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA, have reared their ugly heads in the NFL again.

Although not a new trend, it is an alarming one as more and more athletes miss multiple games due to these infections. As the number of cases of MRSA, a type of staph infection that is resistant to many common antibiotics, has increased in the community versus hospital settings, so have contact sports-related infections. This is mostly due to how the infection is spread.

Staph and MRSA are usually spread from person-to-person through direct skin contact or contact with shared items or surfaces such as towels, used bandages, hot and cold tubs, or weight-training equipment surfaces that have touched a person's infection. MRSA infections in the community are usually manifested as skin infections, such as pimples and boils that are red, swollen and painful. MRSA can be life threatening when it enters the body through scrapes and scratches, potentially leading to blood and joint infections, and pneumonia. In hospital-acquired MRSA, the infection usually enters the body during a surgery or other open-wound procedure.

"All of us in the sports medicine profession know that protecting our players from infections such as staph or MRSA are priorities," said Dean Kleinschmidt, coordinator of athletic medicine/athletic trainer for the Detroit Lions. "To do this, many of us have started very strict facility cleaning procedures and provided our players with educational materials and workshops that show them how they can also prevent it."

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) recently posted information to its web site about staph infections and MRSA provided by NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer. This includes how players can lower their chances of contracting staph such as:

-- Players need to have effective hygiene with equipment, which means wiping down a training bench or table.

-- Make sure the trainer uses a germicidal foam and wipes down the table between players.

-- Showering following whirlpool treatments.

-- The single most important thing for prevention is hand-washing with soap and water, or if MRSA is known to be present, with chlorhexidene (Hibiclens).

In addition to several other measures aimed at reducing the risk of infection, cleansers with chlorhexidene gluconate (CHG) have been recommended by medical organizations to be used prior to surgeries as a bathing agent, specifically 4 percent CHG since it is more effective than iodine or plain soap. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends that hospitals require patients to shower or bathe with an antiseptic agent at least the night before the operative day.

"Cleansers with 4 percent CHG cleanse the skin, but also add a barrier for hours of protection," said Jack Doornbos, executive director, Molnlycke Health Care, maker of Hibiclens(R) skin cleanser. "CHG has been used in hospitals and operating rooms for decades to prevent the spread of infection. But now, with MRSA and other resistant infections becoming more common in the community and sports, it's been even more important to add protection, while not leaving a residue that affects sports performance."

Infection risk can be even higher among amateur and recreation-level athletes. This is due to the fact that many athletes at an amateur level don't shower immediately after activities. For them, washing with a CHG product such as Hibiclens, especially the hands and arms, before an activity can dramatically reduce the risk of infection.

Hibiclens is an antimicrobial/antiseptic cleanser that kills germs on contact and bonds with the skin to keep killing microorganisms for up to six hours without leaving a residue. The same cleanser with alcohol is available in convenient towelettes called Hibistat(R). Both are available at drug stores and pharmacies in the first aid section. For more information about Hibiclens, Hibistat or CHG, visit www.hibigeebies.com.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

FDA Announces Permanent Injunction Against Wilderness Family Naturals LLC

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced that Wilderness Family Naturals LLC of Silver Bay, Minn., and its owners have signed a consent decree that prohibits them from manufacturing and distributing any products with unapproved claims that the products cure, treat, mitigate or prevent diseases.

Wilderness Family is a manufacturer and distributor of conventional foods, dietary supplements and various salves, all branded under the Wilderness Family name. The company promoted several of its products for the treatment, cure, mitigation or prevention of disease by making claims on their products' labels, their Web site, and on other Web sites accessed by links found on their Web site.

“The FDA is acting to protect the American public from companies making unapproved disease treatment claims for their products,” said Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “Claims made by Wilderness Family might distract consumers from seeking products that have been shown to be safe and effective in treating disease.”

Wilderness Family has a history of promoting its products for the treatment of diseases, and recently referred customers to seemingly independent Web sites that were actually controlled by Wilderness Family. The Web sites claimed benefits for its products against diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV and AIDS, and arthritis.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the company and its owners, Kenneth H. Fischer and Annette C. Fischer, cannot promote claims related to their products’ ability to fight diseases unless the products receive FDA approval as new drugs or satisfy FDA’s investigational new drug requirements.

Wilderness Family and its owners also have agreed to remove disease claims from their products’ labels, labeling and Web sites, as well as references to other Web sites that contain such claims. The company and its owners have also agreed to hire an independent expert to review the claims they make for all of their products and to certify to the FDA that they are not making any illegal claims.

The FDA can order Wilderness Family to stop manufacturing and distributing any product if they fail to comply with any provision of the consent decree, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDA regulations. Defendants are also required to pay $1,000 per violation per day if they fail to comply with the consent decree.

The decree was signed by Judge Donovan W. Frank on December 8, 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

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Report Finds Economic Crisis Hurting U.S. Preparedness for Health Emergencies

Report Finds Economic Crisis Hurting U.S. Preparedness for Health Emergencies; More Than Half of States Score 7 or Lower Out of 10 in Readiness Rankings

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today released the sixth annual Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism report, which finds that progress made to better protect the country from disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and bioterrorism is now at risk, due to budget cuts and the economic crisis. In addition, the report concludes that major gaps remain in many critical areas of preparedness, including surge capacity, rapid disease detection, and food safety.

The report contains state-by-state health preparedness scores based on 10 key indicators to assess health emergency preparedness capabilities. More than half of states and D.C. achieved a score of seven or less out of 10 key indicators. Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin scored the highest with 10 out of 10. Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Montana, and Nebraska tied for the lowest score with five out of 10.

Over the past six years, the Ready or Not? report has documented steady progress toward improved public health preparedness. This year however, TFAH found that cuts in federal funding for state and local preparedness since 2005, coupled with the cuts states are making to their budgets in response to the economic crisis, put that progress at risk.

"The economic crisis could result in a serious rollback of the progress we've made since September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina to better prepare the nation for emergencies," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "The 25 percent cut in federal support to protect Americans from diseases, disasters, and bioterrorism is already hurting state response capabilities. The cuts to state budgets in the next few years could lead to a disaster for the nation's disaster preparedness."

Some serious 2008 health emergencies include a Salmonella outbreak in jalapeno and Serrano peppers that sickened 1,442 people in 43 states, the largest beef recall in history in February, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, severe flooding in the Midwest, major wildfires in California in June and November, and a ricin scare in Las Vegas.

Among the key findings:

Budget Cuts: Federal funding for state and local preparedness has been cut more than 25 percent from fiscal year (FY) 2005, and states are no longer receiving any supplemental funding for pandemic flu preparedness, despite increased responsibilities.

-- In addition to the federal decreases, 11 states and D.C. cut their
public health budgets in the past year. In the coming year, according
to the Center on Budget and Policy and Priorities, 33 states are
facing shortfalls in their 2009 budgets and 16 states are already
projecting shortfalls to their 2010 budgets.

Rapid Disease Detection: Since September 11, 2001, the country has made significant progress in improving disease detection capabilities, but major gaps still remain.

-- Only six states do not have a disease surveillance system compatible
with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC)
National Electronic Disease Surveillance System.
-- Twenty-four states and D.C. lack the capacity to deliver and receive
lab specimens, such as suspected bioterror agents or new disease
outbreak samples, on a 24/7 basis.
-- Only three state public health laboratories are not able to meet the
expectations of their state's pandemic flu plans.

Food Safety: America's food safety system has not been fundamentally modernized in more than 100 years.

-- Twenty states and D.C. did not meet or exceed the national average
rate for being able to identify the pathogens responsible for food
borne disease outbreaks in their states.

Surge Capacity: Many states do not have mechanisms in place to support and protect the community assistance that is often required during a major emergency.

-- Twenty-six states do not have laws that reduce or limit liability for
businesses and non-profit organizations that help during a public
health emergency.
-- Only eight states do not have laws that limit or reduce liability
exposure for health care workers who volunteer during a public health
-- Seventeen states do not have State Medical Reserve Corps Coordinators.

Vaccine and Medication Supplies and Distribution: Ensuring the public can quickly and safely receive medications during a major health emergency is one of the most serious challenges facing public health officials.

-- Sixteen states have purchased less than half of their share of
federally-subsidized antivirals to use during a pandemic flu outbreak.
-- Every state now has an adequate plan for distributing emergency
vaccines, antidotes, and medical supplies from the Strategic National
Stockpile, according to the CDC. In 2005, only seven states had
adequate plans. The CDC changed to a different grading system in
2007. However, questions still remain about the contents of the
federal stockpile.

"States are being asked to do more with less, jeopardizing our safety, security, and health," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We all have a stake in strengthening America's public health system, because it is our first line of defense against health emergencies."

The report also offers a series of recommendations for improving preparedness, including:

-- Restoring Full Funding. At a minimum, federal, state, and local
funding for public health emergency preparedness capabilities should
be restored to FY 2005 levels.
-- Strengthening Leadership and Accountability. The next administration
must clarify the public health emergency preparedness roles and
responsibilities at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
-- Enhancing Surge Capacity and the Public Health Workforce. Federal,
state, and local governments and health care providers must better
address altered standards of care, alternative care sites, legal
concerns to protect community assistance, and surge workforce issues.
-- Modernizing Technology and Equipment. Communications and surveillance
systems and laboratories need increased resources for modernization.
-- Improving Community Engagement. Additional measures must be taken to
engage communities in emergency planning and to improve protections
for at-risk communities.
-- Incorporating Preparedness into Health Care Reform and Creating an
Emergency Health Benefit. This is needed to contain the spread of
disease by providing care to the uninsured and underinsured Americans
during major disasters and disease outbreaks.

Score Summary:

For the state-by-state scoring, states received one point for achieving an indicator or zero points if they did not achieve the indicator. Zero is the lowest possible overall score, 10 is the highest. The data for the indicators are from publicly available sources or were provided from public officials. More information on each indicator is available in the full report on TFAH's Web site at www.healthyamericans.org and RWJF's Web site at www.rwjf.org. The report was supported by a grant from RWJF.

10 out of 10: Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin

9 out of 10: Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont,

8 out of 10: Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington

7 out of 10: California, Colorado, D.C., Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming

6 out of 10: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas

5 out of 10: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Montana

A five minute video about the report is available at: http://healthyamericans.org/reports/bioterror08/video/

Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. www.healthyamericans.org

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. Helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need -- the Foundation expects to make a difference in our lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

USA TODAY Special Report Investigates Impact of Industrial Pollution on America's Schools

TT Note: Sounds fascinating. With all the focus on keeping our children safe at school.......

/PRNewswire/ -- USA TODAY, the nation's top-selling newspaper, launches an investigative series today called "The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools." The special project looks at issues such as why children are vulnerable to toxic chemicals and, using the government's own data and modeling software, points to schools which appear to be in toxic hot spots. The series, which took eight months to produce and will run through the month, can be found at smokestack.usatoday.com.

An interactive database of nearly 128,000 schools featured online at smokestack.usatoday.com shows how emissions of toxic chemicals may affect the air at schools across the country. It also shows how schools rank in their exposure to cancer-causing and other toxic chemicals. The database is modeled on information reported to the government by 20,000 industrial plants. The series also offers information on how Americans can learn more about the air outside their schools and do something about it.

In Part I of the "The Smokestack Effect," which appears today in the newspaper and online, USA TODAY compares what the model shows to what the State of Ohio found after it monitored the air outside Meredith Hitchens Elementary School in Addyston, a Cincinnati suburb. In 2005, Hitchens was closed after the Ohio EPA found levels of carcinogens 50 times higher than what the state considers acceptable. The chemicals were emitted from a plastics plant across the street from the school. USA TODAY found that the air outside 435 schools nationwide may be even worse than the air was outside Hitchens when it closed. Those schools, identified by the government's own data and model, extended from East Coast to West, in 170 cities across 34 states.

USA TODAY also worked with the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health to take "snapshots" of the air at almost 95 schools in 30 states. The series will continue on Tuesday with a look at what USA TODAY discovered and what experts say needs to be done to help parents and school districts know for certain what's in the air outside schools.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Have a Happy Lead-Free Holiday

We often hear reports about lead in toys, electrical cords, holiday lights and artificial Christmas trees this time of year. Lead poisoning is very dangerous. Make every attempt to reduce exposure to lead hazards for you and your family.

Lead poisoning damages the brain and central nervous system, which can lead to learning disabilities, seizures or even death. Children are at greatest risk of exposure because they’re more likely to touch things and then put their contaminated hands into their mouths.

Lead may be found in the paint on some imported toys or in some plastics. Using lead in house paint, children’s products, dishes and cookware was banned in the United States in 1978. Lead is still used in other countries and may be found on some imported toys.

Lead may also be in certain plastics where it is used to soften it and make it more flexible. As the plastic is exposed to sunlight, air or detergents, the bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms harmful dust.

If you think your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately and ask your healthcare provider about getting your child tested for lead. There will be no visible symptoms of lead poisoning. For information on toy recalls, go to www.cpsc.gov or call (800) 638-2772.

Manufacturers may use lead as part of the polyvinyl chloride insulation around the wiring on strings of lights or the branches of artificial trees. Lead helps stabilize PVC so it doesn’t crack or crumble with age. It also acts as a fire retardant.

To reduce the lead dangers in your home during the holidays, wash your hands after hanging lights and decorations. If you own an older artificial tree and lights, replace them. When shopping for a new tree and lights, be sure to read the warning labels to determine if the products contain lead.

To further reduce your family’s exposure to lead:

Place a doormat by all outside doors and remove shoes outside to prevent tracking in lead dust.
Keep areas where children play clean and dust-free.
Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition.
Use lead-safe practices when removing paint, or hire a professional.
Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and iron.
While there are many different sources of lead, the primary source of lead poisoning in children is still lead-based paint. There are do-it-yourself lead testing kits available, however, they aren’t very reliable and don’t indicate how much lead is present.

Contact your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 for more information on how to safely remove lead from your home.

By Pamela Turner
University of Georgia

Pamela Turner is an Extension housing specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Major Apparel Retailer To Pay a $60,000 Civil Penalty For Failure To Report Drawstrings In Children's Outerwear

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that Nordstrom Inc., of Seattle, Wash., has agreed to pay a $60,000 civil penalty. The penalty settles allegations that the firm knowingly failed to report to the CPSC immediately, as required by federal law, that its children's hooded jackets and sweaters were sold with drawstrings at the hood and neck. These products, which the firm eventually recalled, pose a strangulation hazard that can cause death to children. The settlement has been provisionally accepted by the Commission.

CPSC alleged that Nordstrom failed to report to the government in a timely manner that drawstring jackets and sweaters were sold by the firm. Nordstrom sold about 2,400 drawstring jackets and sweaters in the United States between November 2007 and December 2007. In February 2008 and March 2008, CPSC and Nordstrom announced the recall of the drawstring jackets and sweaters.

In February 1996, CPSC issued drawstring guidelines (pdf) to help prevent children from getting entangled and possibly strangling on hood and neck drawstrings in upper outerwear, such as jackets and sweatshirts. In May 2006, CPSC's Office of Compliance announced (pdf) that children's upper outerwear with drawstrings at the hood or neck would be regarded as defective and a substantial risk of injury to young children.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or violates any consumer product safety rule, or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by the CPSC.

In agreeing to settle the matter, Nordstrom Inc. denies CPSC's allegations that it knowingly violated the law.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

FDA, EPA and USDA Conclude That Accidental Release of Genetically Engineered Cotton Poses No Safety Risk to Humans or Animals

The U.S. government announced today that there is no food or feed safety concern from an incident in which a small portion of an unauthorized genetically engineered (GE) cotton variety was harvested along with commercially available GE cotton.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are working together following notification by the Monsanto Company that a small amount--less than an acre--of an unauthorized GE cotton variety was harvested along with 54 acres of a commercially available GE cotton variety. This unauthorized GE cotton variety produces a pesticide that is a plant-incorporated protectant (PIP) nearly identical to a registered product already in a marketed corn variety. EPA and FDA have concluded that there are no food or feed safety concerns related to this incident. Also, if animals had consumed meal made from the unauthorized GE cotton variety, there would be no residues in the meat, milk or eggs. Additionally, USDA has determined that the unauthorized GE cotton poses no plant pest concerns.

According to Monsanto, an estimated 60 tons of cottonseed was harvested, of which less than 0.5 percent was from the unauthorized GE cotton variety. Government policies for handling low-level presence (LLP) of unauthorized materials are applicable to incidents in which unauthorized materials become inadvertently mixed with commercial grain or seed. FDA, EPA and USDA are working together to investigate the matter.

The U.S. government is investigating whether a small amount of meal from the unauthorized GE cotton variety may have been inadvertently released into the animal feed supply. It is important to note that it has not been determined whether unauthorized cottonseed meal actually entered the feed supply. The processor is holding potentially affected material (both processed and unprocessed) pending further investigation.

Based on additional data provided by Monsanto on the protein produced in the GE cotton--a variant of Cry 1A 105 that acts as a pesticide against cotton insect pests--EPA has concluded that there would be no risk to animals consuming small amounts of feed from the unauthorized cotton, nor to humans from consuming meat or milk from these animals. While EPA has concluded that consuming small amounts of the cottonseed poses no food or animal feed safety risks, under that Agency’s LLP policy, the presence of this material in food or feed would be illegal.

FDA, USDA and EPA are the three government entities primarily responsible for regulatory oversight of GE crop plants and their products. Their responsibilities are complementary. FDA has jurisdiction over food and feed uses of all foods from plants. USDA has jurisdiction over the introduction into the environment of GE plants which may be plant pests. EPA regulates pesticides produced by GE plants such as the pesticidal protein produced by the cotton in this case. These pesticides are called PIPs.

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