Monday, December 20, 2010

Fed Delays on Alcohol Labeling Stymieing National Policies on Alcohol and Obesity

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Consumers League (NCL) has once again called on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to issue a final rule to improve alcohol beverage labeling.

"The drinking public needs certain basic information on beer, wine, and spirits labels," said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. "With a severe nationwide obesity epidemic, there is no excuse for not having calories listed on all alcohol beverage labels. Consumers also need clear information about alcohol content in order to drink responsibly."

Seven years ago, the National Consumers League petitioned TTB to require an "Alcohol Facts" panel on labels of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. More than 3 years ago, TTB proposed a watered-down version of "Alcohol Facts," which it called "Serving Facts," but has still not issued a final rule.

"The Alcohol Facts panel was intended to provide all the information consumers need in one location, clearly and concisely," said Greenberg. "It would be like the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels, except that it would provide the information relevant to alcoholic beverages." NCL asked that the "Alcohol Facts" panel include serving size, the number of calories per serving, alcohol content information (including the amount of alcohol per serving, the definition of a "standard drink," and the number of standard drinks per container), and ingredient information.

"The nine college students who went to an emergency room for alcohol poisoning after drinking too much of a caffeinated alcoholic beverage earlier this year may not have realized just how much alcohol they were consuming," added Greenberg. "Maybe if the standard drinks per container had been required to appear on the labels, they wouldn't have made that mistake."

TTB's inaction on Alcohol Facts labeling is also interfering with other important public health objectives. A new law requires nutrition labeling of foods and beverages served in chain restaurants and bars, including alcoholic beverages, but there is no approved method for measuring certain nutrients in alcohol and TTB has provided the industry with no guidance. If the Alcohol Facts panel were required, restaurants and bars could simply use the information on the product label.

The lack of calorie and alcohol information on beer, wine, and spirits labels is also an obstacle to application of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services will soon issue the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, but, without calorie and alcohol information on product labels, consumers still will not be able to follow its recommendations on weight control and alcohol consumption.

"Label reform for alcoholic beverages is a no brainer," according to Greenberg. "What is TTB waiting for?"

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FDA says Tessalon liquid cough capsules pose risk for young children

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning that accidental ingestion of Tessalon (benzonatate) by children younger than 10 years can result in serious side effects or death.

Tessalon, approved by the FDA to treat symptomatic relief of cough in patients older than 10, may attract younger children because of the drug’s candy-like appearance – a round, liquid-filled gelatin capsule. The safety and effectiveness of benzonatate in children younger than 10 years has not been established.

“Benzonatate should be kept in a child-resistant container and stored out of reach of children," said Carol Holquist, R.Ph., director of FDA’s Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis. “The FDA encourages health care professionals to talk with their patients and those caring for children about the risk of accidental ingestion or overdose.”

A review of the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System database from 1982 through May 2010 identified seven cases of accidental ingestion associated with benzonatate in children younger than 10. Five of the cases resulted in death in children ages 2 years and younger. Overdose with benzonatate in children younger than 2 years has been reported following accidental ingestion of only one or two benzonatate capsules.

Common adverse events reported in the overdose cases included cardiac arrest, coma, and convulsion. Signs and symptoms of overdose can occur within 15-20 minutes of ingestion. Some of the deaths reported in children have been within hours of the accidental ingestion.

The FDA is also adding a new Warning and Precaution section to the benzonatate drug label to warn health care professionals about accidental ingestion resulting in overdose and death in children younger than 10.

Consumers and health care professionals are encouraged to report adverse side effects or medication errors from the use of benzonatate to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program at or by calling 800-332-1088.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Surgeon General's Report Dramatically Demonstrates Immediate Harm From Smoking and Secondhand Smoke

/PRNewswire-/ -- The following is a statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

The U.S. Surgeon General's report released today provides dramatic new evidence that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke cause immediate harm to the human body, triggering physical changes that lead to cancer, heart attacks, lung disease and many other serious illnesses, including damage to the reproductive systems of both men and women.

The report also concludes that design changes to cigarettes, such as filter ventilation, flavoring agents and added chemical ingredients, have over time made them more addictive. Today's cigarettes deliver nicotine more efficiently to the brain, addicting kids more quickly and making it harder for smokers to quit. The tobacco industry's decades-long effort to finely engineer cigarettes, along with its use of deceptive (and now-banned) cigarette descriptions such as "light" and "low-tar," have undermined smoking prevention and cessation efforts, the report says.

Nearly 50 years after the first Surgeon General's report on tobacco was released in 1964, this latest report is a stark reminder of how lethal and addictive smoking truly is, with every cigarette doing you damage. It sends an unmistakable message to elected officials at all levels that reducing smoking is one of the most effective actions we can take to improve the nation's health and prevent some of the most deadly and costly diseases in our society.

The report also sends important messages to America's kids and smokers. If you do not smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, try to quit immediately and get the help you need to succeed. This is true not only for regular smokers, but also for the 22 percent of smokers who do not smoke every day and to those who consider themselves only "social" smokers and may think they are not at risk. This report's message is clear: You are at risk. There is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke, and you don't have to be a heavy or long-time smoker to develop a smoking-related disease.

The report underscores the importance of actions that we know work to prevent kids from starting to smoke, help smokers quit and protect everyone's right to breathe clean air, free of the hundreds of toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke. Despite progress in making workplaces and public spaces smoke-free, four in ten non-smokers – and more than half of children between 3 and 11 – are still exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one should have to breathe secondhand smoke at work or in public places, and parents should ensure that homes, cars and other places frequented by children are smoke-free.

Federal, state and local policymakers must redouble their efforts to implement proven measures that reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

The federal government must fund and aggressively implement the new tobacco prevention plan that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last month. The plan includes a national media campaign to prevent kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit; expanded assistance and health insurance coverage for smokers trying to quit; effective regulation of tobacco products and marketing; and accelerated research to enhance strategies to reduce tobacco use.

The Food and Drug Administration must continue to vigorously exercise its new authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing and sale of tobacco products to keep these harmful products away from our children and reduce their devastating effects on public health.

The states must step up their efforts to reduce tobacco use by increasing tobacco taxes, enacting smoke-free workplace laws and fully funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at levels recommended by the CDC. Unfortunately, states have slashed funding for tobacco prevention programs by 28 percent in the past three years and now fund such programs at the lowest level since 1999, when they first received funds from the settlement of state lawsuits against the tobacco industry. The states this year (Fiscal Year 2011) will collect $25.3 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only two percent of it — $517.9 million — on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.

The Surgeon General's report details the serious health effects of even brief exposure to tobacco smoke. It concludes that:

* Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 70 that cause cancer.
* Every exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer.
* Exposure to secondhand smoke has an immediate adverse impact on the cardiovascular system, damaging blood vessels, making blood more likely to clot and increasing risks for heart attack and stroke.
* Smoking makes it harder for women to get pregnant and can cause miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. It also harms male fertility.

The Surgeon General's report provides the grim details of how tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans each year and costs almost $100 billion in health care expenditures. It underscores the need for political will and urgent action to win the fight against tobacco.

The report, titled "How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease," can be found at:

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Darvon and Darvocet: Risks Outweigh the Benefits

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Some "Lead-Free" Pottery Can Still Taint Food

/PRNewswire/ -- Colorful pottery may look nice on the dining room table. But beware: it can cause serious harm if it can contaminate food placed in it with lead.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it has confirmed reports that traditional ceramic pottery made by several manufacturers in Mexico -- and labeled "lead free" -- in fact contains lead.

Learn about this pottery, and steps you can take to detect it, at

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Beware of the Break Up Email

What fun!  Today, I received a delightful email which immediately went into the trash.  It appears the writer of the email worded it in a decidedly hostile manner. 

What was so fun about the email was it was allegedly addressed to the young female who was his, er, partner.  Then why was the email addressed to so many recipients? 

In the email, the writer has promised to upload any and all acts online so the world can enjoy their alleged antics.  Wow.  If so many recipients have been so intimately involved with the writer of the email, then he was one busy character.  No wonder he had to send it to any mailbox he could.  He couldn't remember their names!

Scam?  I think so.  Trash?  I know so.

Beware of any email that trashes the alleged recipient.  You don't want to be a victim of malware.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Violent Pornography Linked to Sexually Aggressive Behavior in Children and Adolescents

/PRNewswire/ -- Viewing violent x-rated material may contribute to sexually aggressive behavior among 10-17 year olds. X-rated material without violent content does not appear to have the same impact, finds a new study conducted by Internet Solutions for Kids and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published in Aggressive Behavior, the study is expected to be highly influential. "Because of the obvious ethical problems of purposefully exposing kids to pornography," Dr. Michele Ybarra, the primary author of the study, explains, "little was known before about how viewing x-rated material may be related to sexual aggression in children. We asked kids whether they had looked at x-rated material before, and then looked to see if the kids who said 'yes' were more likely to also say that they were sexually aggressive."

The study finds that youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person versus kids not exposed to x-rated material. Watching violent pornography does not always lead to sexual aggression and not all sexual aggressors have been exposed to pornography, Ybarra cautions; nor does the study prove that violent x-rated material causes sexual aggression.

Exposure to Internet pornography is relatively common. Findings from the Youth Internet Safety Survey – 2 indicate that 15% of 12-17 year olds have purposefully looked at x-rated material online. Data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggest that 70% of 15-17 year-old Internet users accidentally view pornography "very" or "somewhat" often. Nevertheless, Ybarra's study also finds that the Internet is not the most common source of x-rated material – even violent x-rated material. Fourteen percent looked at x-rated material in movies, 12% in magazines, and 11% online.

"There's an assumption out there that the Internet has somehow increased kids' exposures to deviant content. Our data don't support this. We're learning that just because content that we find disturbing is accessible online, doesn't mean kids will seek it out," Ybarra explains. She agrees that blocking and filtering software will likely prevent exposure to violent x-rated material online. "But, these things won't do anything to prevent exposure through magazines and movies. That's why it's important to talk to your kids also."

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FDA Warning Letters issued to four makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today warned four companies that the caffeine added to their malt alcoholic beverages is an “unsafe food additive” and said that further action, including seizure of their products, is possible under federal law.

The companies receiving Warning Letters and their products are:

• Charge Beverages Corp.: Core High Gravity HG, Core High Gravity HG Orange, and Lemon Lime Core Spiked
• New Century Brewing Co., LLC: Moonshot
• Phusion Projects, LLC (doing business as Drink Four Brewing Co.): Four Loko
• United Brands Company Inc.: Joose and Max

FDA’s action follows a scientific review by the Agency. FDA examined the published peer-reviewed literature on the co-consumption of caffeine and alcohol, consulted with experts in the fields of toxicology, neuropharmacology, emergency medicine, and epidemiology, and reviewed information provided by product manufacturers. FDA also performed its own independent laboratory analysis of these products.

“FDA does not find support for the claim that the addition of caffeine to these alcoholic beverages is ‘generally recognized as safe,’ which is the legal standard,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Principal Deputy Commissioner. “To the contrary, there is evidence that the combinations of caffeine and alcohol in these products pose a public health concern.”

Experts have raised concerns that caffeine can mask some of the sensory cues individuals might normally rely on to determine their level of intoxication. The FDA said peer-reviewed studies suggest that the consumption of beverages containing added caffeine and alcohol is associated with risky behaviors that may lead to hazardous and life-threatening situations.

The agency said the products named in the Warning Letters are being marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FFDCA). Each Warning Letter requests that the recipient inform the FDA in writing within 15 days of the specific steps that will be taken to remedy the violation and prevent its recurrence. If a company does not believe its products are in violation of the FFDCA, it may present its reasoning and any supporting information as well.

If the FDA believes that the violation continues to exist, the agency may pursue an enforcement action that could include seizure of the products or an injunction to prevent the firm from continuing to produce the product until the violation has been corrected.

FDA’s action today follows a November 2009 request to manufacturers to provide information on the safety of adding caffeine to their products.

FDA is aware that on November 16, Phusion Projects, LLC, the maker of Four Loko, announced its intention to remove caffeine and other stimulants from its drinks. FDA views this announcement as a positive step. FDA has not yet heard officially from the company about this announcement, including how quickly it will remove present product from circulation and how quickly it will reformulate its product. FDA intends to work with Phusion Projects, LLC and the other manufacturers to assure their products meet safety standards.

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New Report: States Slash Funding for Tobacco Prevention Programs to Lowest Level Since Tobacco Settlement

/PRNewswire-/ -- The states have slashed funding for programs to reduce tobacco use to the lowest level since 1999, when they first received tobacco settlement funds, according to a report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

The states this year (Fiscal Year 2011) will collect $25.3 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only two percent of it – $517.9 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The states have cut funding for such programs by nine percent ($51.4 million) in the past year and by 28 percent ($199.3 million) in the past three years.

With the U.S. adult smoking rate stalled at 20.6 percent after decades of decline, the report warns that continued progress against tobacco use – the nation's number one cause of preventable death – is at risk unless states increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report also calls on states to increase tobacco taxes and, for states that have yet to do so, to enact strong smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

The report further calls on the federal government to robustly fund and implement the national tobacco prevention strategy unveiled last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including launching a national media campaign to discourage kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.

The report, titled "A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 12 Years Later," was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These organizations have issued annual reports assessing whether the states have kept their promise to use funds from the state tobacco settlements – estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years – to fight tobacco use.

"We know how to win the fight against tobacco, but we will not win it unless elected officials at all levels step up efforts to implement proven solutions," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Despite their budgetary challenges, the states are collecting huge sums from the tobacco industry and should be spending more of it to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Tobacco prevention is a smart investment for the states that saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs."

Other findings of this year's report include:

* Most states are falling far short of meeting recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The $517.9 million the states have budgeted amounts to just 14 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends for all the states combined.
* Counting both state funds and federal grants, only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels. Only five other states provide even half the recommended funding, while 33 states and DC provide less than a quarter. Three states – Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio – provide zero state funds for tobacco prevention this year.
* Tobacco companies spend nearly $25 to market tobacco products for every $1 the states spend to fight tobacco use. According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend $12.8 billion a year on marketing.
* Federal grants, most of them temporary, have helped to cushion the impact of funding cuts in some states. In the past year, the federal government has provided $261.6 million in state and community grants specifically dedicated to reducing tobacco use (the grants are spread over three fiscal years, so not all the money will be spent in fiscal 2011).

The report comes as recent surveys have found that smoking declines in the United States have slowed and even stalled. The CDC recently reported that the adult smoking rate in 2009 was 20.6 percent – essentially unchanged since 2004 when 20.9 percent smoked. While smoking among high school students has declined by 46 percent from a high of 36.4 percent in 1997, 19.5 percent still smoke.

"We know that much of what helps us live longer, healthier lives happens outside the doctor's office," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "With progress on smoking rates stalled, it's more important than ever for states to focus on community prevention programs and policies that work – like smoke-free restaurants and workplaces and adequate funding to prevent kids from starting and to help smokers quit."

"For every step forward in curbing tobacco use among Americans, many states have taken two steps backwards," said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. "The public health community is appalled at the lack of commitment among a vast majority of states to adequately fund comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs with the settlement dollars. As tobacco companies devise new tactics to increase smoking rates among children and adults, it's more important than ever to protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco use and give smokers the necessary tools to reduce their risk for heart disease, stroke and other smoking-related illnesses."

"Fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs stop addiction before it starts and improve the health of our nation's communities," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. "Given the record low amount that states are allocating to these important programs, they simply must do a better job at properly allocating funding that helps reduce tobacco use and protects the health of children, 4,100 of whom try their first cigarette every day."

"States have a responsibility to prevent people from starting to smoke and to ensure that all smokers have easy access to cessation treatments and services as the human and financial toll of tobacco continues to rise," said Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO. "Preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit saves lives and money."

Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke kill more than 400,000 people in the United States each year and cost the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular smokers – one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

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Watchdog Calls for State Bans on Alcoholic Energy Drinks

/PRNewswire/ -- While applauding expected actions by the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission against dangerous alcoholic energy drinks, Marin Institute, the alcohol industry watchdog, called for strong state action as well.

In the wake of increased media attention to the grave risks of combining caffeine with high-alcohol content, states have taking swift stands. In the past 2 weeks alone, four states – Michigan, Oklahoma, Washington, and New York— have shown leadership by banning the products or suspending their sale, while many more states are planning similar actions.

"State-level product bans will continue to be necessary to get the products off of store shelves," explained Michele Simon, Marin Institute's research and policy director and co-author of the 2007 report. "States are the primary regulators of alcoholic beverages and have full authority to ban alcoholic energy drinks whether by regulatory or legislative action, or through attorney general enforcement," Simon added.

Marin Institute first sounded the alarm about alcoholic energy drinks in 2007, with its groundbreaking report, Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix. The report describes both the health risks and how companies market these products to youth.

"We are thrilled that the federal government is taking action," said Simon. "We have maintained all along that these products contain illegal additives in the form of caffeine and other stimulants and that they are being deceptively marketed to youth."

For the past several years, Marin Institute has called on companies to stop making these products, for states to ban or restrict them, and for the federal government to act as well. Most recently, Marin Institute directed more than 1,200 emails from around the country calling on FDA to ban alcoholic energy drinks. In 2010, Marin Institute backed legislation in Washington State, California, and New York to ban the tainted products.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1 in 10 Americans Touched by Bed Bug Problem

/PRNewswire/ -- Despite media reports that make it seem like the country has been overrun by bed bugs, most Americans seem to be taking this latest scare in stride, with about one in ten respondents in a nationwide survey saying they or someone they know has had a bed bug problem. That number was higher (nearly 2 out of 10) among survey respondents from the Northeast, where cities like New York City have been particularly hard-hit with bed bug infestations.

Regional differences aside, the country was fairly evenly split in terms of their bed bug concerns. Just under half said they were concerned about picking up bed bugs, while half were not, according to the survey conducted by Infogroup/ORC on behalf of Enforcer® Brand pest control products.

"Bed bugs can be a problem anywhere – from big cities to small towns, from coast to coast, and in a variety of settings," says Mari Hayes, VP, Product Development & Marketing, Zep Retail (manufacturer of Enforcer brand products), noting that 25 percent of survey respondents are only afraid of picking up bed bugs when staying at a hotel and nine percent think bed bugs are only a real problem in big cities like New York City. "Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid them from the start and to eliminate them if you get them."

What People are Doing to Avoid Bed Bugs

Many survey respondents admit to altering their behavior in and outside the home in response to recent reports about bed bug infestations:

* 22 percent have started checking their beds, furniture, clothes and rugs for evidence of bed bugs on a regular basis.
* 21 percent have started washing their clothes and bed linens in extremely hot water and drying them on super-high heat in an attempt to kill bugs that may or may not be there.
* 16 percent are avoiding establishments because they're afraid of picking up bed bugs and bringing them home.
* 13 percent have stopped traveling to hotels or cities with known bed bug problems.
* 12 percent are avoiding people they know who have had a bed bug problem.

"Clearly, people are getting concerned about potential bed bug infestations," comments Hayes. "As we enter the holiday travel, shopping and entertainment season, it will be interesting to see how hotels, stores, theaters and other establishments are coping with a potential downturn in business."

Extreme Measures Considered

While 11 percent of those surveyed said bed bugs are "almost impossible to get rid of," many of the respondents said they would be likely to try a variety of methods – some more extreme than others – to stave off an infestation:

* 52 percent would buy mattress wraps that protect against bed bugs.
* 35 percent would hire a professional to take care of the problem, no matter what the cost.
* 27 percent would blast their home with super-high heat to kill any bed bugs that might be lurking.
* 18 percent would cover all their upholstered furniture with plastic slip covers.
* 13 percent would even go so far as to get a bed bug-sniffing dog to warn them at the first sign of infestation.

"Although some of these measures may seem extreme, they are all effective when used as part of a comprehensive bed bug elimination program," says Hayes. "In fact, there are a number of steps people need to take to eradicate bed bugs from their homes, and it appears as if the people surveyed are aware of many of them."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, those necessary bed bug elimination steps include:

* Inspecting infested areas, plus surrounding living spaces.
* Checking for bed bugs on luggage and clothes when returning home from a trip.
* Looking for bed bugs or signs of infestation on secondhand items before bringing the items home.
* Correctly identifying the pest.
* Keeping records – including dates when and locations where pests are found.
* Cleaning all items within a bed bug infested living area.
* Reducing clutter where bed bugs can hide.
* Eliminating bed bug habitats.
* Physically removing bed bugs through cleaning.
* Using pesticides carefully according to the label directions.
* Following up inspections and possible treatments.
* Raising awareness through education on prevention of bed bugs.
* Washing and drying bedding and clothing at high temperatures to kill bed bugs.
* Heat infested articles and/or areas through to at least 113 degrees F (45 degrees C) for 1 hour. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs at all life stages.
* Cold treatments (below 0 degrees F (-19 degrees C) for at least 4 days) can eliminate some infestations. Again, the cooler the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs.
* Use mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements to trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.

Bed Bugs: Myths vs. Facts

The survey found that some people are operating under a number of misconceptions when it comes to bed bugs:

* 37 percent believe that bed bugs spread disease. Actually, while bed bugs may bite, causing small welts, there is no indication they spread disease.
* 34 percent believe bed bugs are resistant to pesticides. In fact, there are still several pesticides on the market that kill not only bed bugs, but also their eggs.
* 29 percent believe that bed bugs are caused by a general lack of cleanliness and hygiene. Unfortunately, bed bugs can be a problem no matter how fastidious a person is about staying clean.
* 62 percent would dispose of bed bug-infested mattresses and 29 percent would dispose of infected carpeting. These extreme measures are not needed if the proper bed bug elimination strategy is pursued.

"Some of these misconceptions may be why there's such a stigma attached to having a bed bug problem," suggests Hayes, noting that a quarter of those surveyed said they would be "too embarrassed" to tell friends or acquaintances if they had a bed bug problem in their home.

Indeed, the thought of a bed bug infestation is so worrisome that 30 percent of those surveyed said they would rather have a root canal than deal with bed bugs.

Survey Methodology

The survey of 1,005 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone from October 21-24, 2010 by Infogroup/ORC on behalf of the Enforcer® Brand. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points. For additional survey results, visit

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Say 'I Opt Out' of Airport Scanners on National Opt Out Day, November 24

/PRNewswire/ -- Pro-consumer grassroots effort We Won't Fly is organizing mass x-ray scanner opt outs at airports around the nation for National Opt Out of the Airport Scanners Day, November 24, in order to highlight the health and privacy dangers of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) backscatter x-ray airport scanners.

"Not only are these porno scanners a gross violation of individual privacy," said boycott co-founder George Donnelly, "they're also a threat to the health of millions of passengers and ineffective as well. The goal of the demonstrations is to urge Americans to exercise their legal right to 'opt out' of the scan."

If you have to fly on November 24, We Won't Fly urges you to opt out of the new scanners for your own health and privacy. Say "I opt out!" Be prepared for delays and intimate TSA "patdowns." If you're not flying on November 24, We Won't Fly urges you to tell your friends, family and community members who are flying. Organizers of local meetups can list their events on our nationwide map at

As University of California scientists noted earlier this year, the airport scanners may pose a serious health risk. "Our overriding concern is the extent to which the safety of this scanning device has been adequately demonstrated. This can only be determined by a meeting of an impartial panel of experts that would include medical physicists and radiation biologists at which all of the available relevant data is reviewed," they said in a letter of concern.

A recent article in the San Diego Entertainer on August 31, 2010 stated that "the scans are detailed enough to identify a person's gender... to identify a passenger's surgery scars, or to discern whether a woman is on her menstrual cycle or not." As CNN has reported, the scanners include ethernet connectivity. Images can be stored and shared by design. According to CBS News, US Marshals saved 35,000 images from similar scanners at just one courthouse.

We Won't Fly is a pro-consumer grassroots effort to boycott the airlines until they join with concerned consumers in opposition to the new airport x-ray scanners and enhanced patdowns.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Stop a Predator...? Don't Ask Backpage, Yet.

/PRNewswire/ -- Ongoing independent research commissioned by Women's Funding Network, in partnership with the Georgia-based "A Future. Not A Past." campaign, has exposed Internet classified sites as the most commonly used platform for buying and trafficking adolescent girls.

A report released in October by the AIM Group, a global team of consultants in interactive and traditional media, found that Village Voice Media, with its classifieds site, is the new leader in online sex advertising. The site recently announced the acquisition of an online security specialist and an initial take-down of roughly half of their sex-related categories while putting others under review. The other half of the frequently misused categories to advertise illegal sex, often related to trafficking, remain active and girls continue to be exploited on backpage.

A CNN segment aired yesterday highlights the plight of just one of thousands of girls trafficked online every day. A young woman who was coerced into the sex trade at 14 is suing Village Voice Media, accusing the newspaper conglomerate of knowingly allowing her trafficker to advertise her sexual services on, alleging that websites like backpage provide a "safe house" for traffickers and predators to buy and sell girls for sex.

"How many more girls will be trafficked before Village Voice Media takes comprehensive action to protect them? From what we've seen so far the answer is not nearly far enough," says Deborah Richardson, chief programs officer at Women's Funding Network. "The fact is that girls are being bought and sold online while media companies that provide a platform for this illegal activity increase their profits and market share," Richardson adds.

"Drastic steps must be taken to combat sex trafficking of girls in the United States. Instead of applying a band-aid approach to the problem, companies like backpage must take action to truly protect girls through improved screening and monitoring, and increased cooperation with law enforcement," concludes Richardson.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Uranium threatens some Georgia drinking water

Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive element found in some rocks and groundwater. It can make its way into drinking water, where it can be harmful to health. Some parts of Georgia could have problems with it.

Safe drinking water should contain less than 30 parts per billion of uranium. A small number of wells located in Georgia’s piedmont region exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard uranium amount.

“The potential problem areas are supplied by wells deeper than 100 feet on granite bedrock,” said David Kissel, director of the University of Georgia Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories. “Levels of uranium above 30 ppb have not been found in shallow wells or surface water.”

Water that comes from a public system is routinely tested to ensure uranium levels are safe. People consuming water from a private well, cistern or spring are responsible for their own testing and are encouraged to monitor contamination. Water samples can be submitted for testing through a local UGA Cooperative Extension office.

Studies suggest that water containing levels of uranium higher than the standard may hurt kidney function. Health concerns related to uranium should be taken to a local physician.

Although drinking high levels or uranium can be harmful, skin contact is not harmful according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Water high in uranium is OK to use for bathing, washing clothes or gardening.

If a well has high levels of uranium, Kissel said, its water should be treated through filtration systems. Affordable, at-home options such as point-of-use reverse osmosis, or RO, systems are available from many manufacturers.

These systems are placed on a faucet and produce 5 gallons to 20 gallons of safe drinking water per day.

“RO systems remove a high percentage of ions that are in the water,” Kissel said. “Uranium is dissolved in the water, and the RO system pushes the water through a semi-permeable membrane with high pressure to filter the uranium out of the water.”

After an at-home treatment system is installed, the water should be tested again to ensure the filtration system is working properly and the uranium level is below the standard.

People who live in areas that contain water with high concentrations of uranium should also be concerned with elevated levels of radon in their homes.

“Radon is a decomposition product of uranium,” Kissel said “The air filters in through the basement. It is recommended that well owners with elevated uranium levels also test their homes for radon gas.”
Radon test kits are available at county UGA Extension offices.

More information on water contamination or water treatment systems can be found at the National Sanitation Foundation at or Water Quality Association at

By Sarah Lewis

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Friday, October 08, 2010

FDA: Potentially harmful stimulant found in Slimming Beauty capsules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today advised consumers who have Slimming Beauty Bitter Orange Slimming Capsules not to use the product. FDA warns that Slimming Beauty Bitter Orange Slimming Capsules contain the active pharmaceutical ingredient sibutramine, a prescription-only drug which is a stimulant. Sibutramine is not listed on the product label and could harm consumers, especially those with cardiovascular conditions.

FDA lab tests reveal that the product contains excessive amounts of sibutramine that may be dangerous to people who have a history of cardiovascular disease, because it can lead to elevated blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.

Consumers who are otherwise healthy and who take the amount of sibutramine found in Slimming Beauty capsules can experience anxiety, nausea, heart palpitations, a racing heart, insomnia, and elevated blood pressure. Sibutramine also may interact with other medications and can cause serious side effects.

Sibutramine is a powerful stimulant that should not be used without a prescription due to the safety risks associated with it.

Slimming Beauty is being sold over the Internet by Beautiful Health Inc., formerly LL Health and Beauty. Slimming Beauty sample packets also have been distributed by individuals at community events. The product and the sample packets are falsely labeled as “100% Herbal.” The sample packet label is misleading because it indicates that it is a natural vitamin and calcium capsule for use in children as young as 2 years old.

The FDA has determined that Slimming Beauty sample packets were distributed at the 40th Annual Mexican Independence Day Parade in Chicago, on Sept. 12, 2010. The agency is aware of several reports of serious side effects from the use of this product including elevated blood pressure, headaches, vomiting, and insomnia.

Consumers and health care professionals are encouraged to report adverse events related to the use of Slimming Beauty capsules to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program at or by phone at 800-FDA-1088 (800-332-1088).

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Judicial Watch Uncovers FDA Records Detailing 16 New Deaths Tied to Gardasil

/Standard Newswire/ -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has received new documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), detailing reports of adverse reactions to the vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil. The adverse reactions include 16 new deaths (including four suicides) between May 2009 and September 2010. The FDA also produced 789 "serious" reports, with 213 cases resulting in permanent disability and 25 resulting in a diagnosis of Guillian Barre Syndrome.

Adverse report excerpts include:

* A nineteen year old girl with no medical history except occasional cases bronchitis received Gardasil and in 53 days, had "Headache, Nausea, dizziness, chilling, tiredness, shortness of breath, complained of chest plain, severe cramps." She experienced an Acute Cardiac Arrhythmia. Attempts to resuscitate her resulted in a sternal fracture, but were unsuccessful and the patient died. -- V. 356938

* A thirteen year old girl was vaccinated on July 17th, 2009. Ten days later, she developed a fever and was treated. However, "the patient did not recover and was admitted to the hospital on [August 8th]...She developed dyspnoea and went into a coma...she expired [that day] at around 9:00 pm. The cause of death was determined as 'death due to viral fever.' ... This event occurred after 23 days of receiving first dose of Gardasil. -- V. 380081

* Thirteen days after vaccination, a ten year old girl developed "progressive loss of strength in lower and upper extremities almost totally...Nerve conduction studies [showed Guillain Barre Syndrome]." Case was "considered to be immediately life-threatening." -- V. 339375

* One mother of a 13-year old girl who died 37 days after receiving the vaccination noted in a report: "I first declined getting her the vaccination but her doctor ensured me that it was safe..." After her daughter complained of a severe headache, no feeling in her foot and a tingling feeling in her leg, a doctor's appointment was set for October 23, 2009. "My daughter never made it to Oct[ober] 23rd, which is also her birthday," the mother noted. "She passed on Oct[ober] 17th, I found her cold unresponsive in her room at 7am...."

"To say Gardasil has a suspect safety record is a big understatement. These reports are troubling and show that the FDA and other public health authorities may be asleep at the switch," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "In the meantime, the public relations push for Gardasil by Merck and politicians on Capitol Hill continues. No one should require this vaccine for young children."

In 2008, Judicial Watch launched a comprehensive investigation of Gardasil's safety record. All previous FDA documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, as well as a Judicial Watch special report, entitled "Examining the FDA's HPV Vaccine Records: Detailing the Approval Process, Side-Effects, Safety Concerns & Marketing Practices of a Large Scale Health Experiment," are available at (

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Consumer Travel Alliance Analysis Finds Major U.S. Airlines Not Disclosing Most Fees on Websites

/PRNewswire/ -- The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), a non-profit organization promoting consumer interests on travel policy issues, today released an analysis showing that major U.S. airlines are not disclosing the vast majority of existing ancillary fees on their websites, despite regular statements to the contrary by the airlines. CTA and other leading consumer and travel organizations are meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today to support his efforts to bring full transparency to airline fees.

The CTA analysis tracked the time and effort it would take a typical two-bag traveler needing extra legroom to find and calculate the total cost of a flight from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. A video showing the findings of the analysis can be found at

The analysis found:

* Not a single one of the seven airline websites in the study offered a page or chart with specific fee information regarding extra legroom or seat upgrades.
* Although the airline sites disclosed baggage fees, those fees were often multiple clicks away from the main page and buried in diagrams and legal fine print.
* To compare baggage fees and attempt to find the fees for extra legroom, a typical traveler would have to visit seven different airline sites, view 47 different web pages, and dig through more than 11,000 words of airline fine print.

"The airlines are asking travelers to put on a blindfold and hand over their wallets every time they buy a ticket," said Charles Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. "There is no way for a traveler to find the vast majority of extra fees charged by airlines on their websites, because those fees aren't even listed. That's why two-thirds of air travelers said in a recent survey that they had been surprised by hidden fees at the airport. If airlines want to charge ancillary fees, they should be required to disclose those fees through every distribution channel in which they sell their tickets."

The analysis also refuted frequent airline claims that all of their ancillary fees are listed on their websites. For example, a spokesperson for the airline industry told Bloomberg on September 17th that "fee information is already available on carrier Web sites." In another news story, the same spokesperson said that "airlines post their fees on their websites ..." and went on to claim that "there's nothing hidden about the fees by the US airliners that have fees."

Earlier this year, CTA released the results of a study showing that hidden fees charged by airlines on popular routes can increase the base cost of an airline ticket by an average of 54 percent for a typical traveler with two checked bags and extra legroom, or by an average of 26 percent for a comparable one-bag traveler. One of the routes examined in that earlier analysis was used as the basis for this current review.

Travelers concerned about the issue of hidden fees can visit, a joint effort of the Consumer Travel Alliance, Business Travel Coalition, and American Society of Travel Agents, to sign a petition urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take action to make those fees fully transparent. The three organizations plan to present the petitions to the DOT on September 23rd, "Mad As Hell Day."


The analysis examined a single traveler with two checked bags wishing to obtain extra legroom on a flight from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. Base prices for the analysis were drawn from a popular online travel site. The analysis recorded the time and steps required to enter those fees manually, visit each of the websites of the seven airlines flying that route, attempt to locate the fees for checked baggage and extra legroom, and then calculate the full price of each itinerary. The full video analysis can be found at

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September Named “Mold Awareness Month”

As National Mold Cases Rise, Local Experts Warn of Increased Health Risks

As documented cases of residential mold contamination and related health problems continue to rise across the nation, the indoor air quality industry is on a crusade to educate homeowners about the serious consequences of mold in the home. (September 5 – October 5) has been deemed Mold Awareness Month by the industry because mold spores that commonly grow in summer humidity are often trapped as people close up homes and foundation vents in the fall. Just a few of these spores can make a family sick.

Consider This:

There are an estimated 10,000 mold-related court cases nationwide
There has been a 300 percent increase in litigation involving mold contamination over the past five years.
The average mold claim costs $35,000 and many exceed $100,000.

“We know to check the batteries in our smoke detectors, to change our air filters, to clean out our gutters and rake our leaves, but no one talks to homeowners about the dangers of household mold,” says Jeff Dudan, CEO and founder of AdvantaClean, a national mold remediation company with a locally owned franchise serving the area. “We’re on a mission to teach homeowners how to limit mold growth and keep their families healthy.”

Fast Facts about Mold:

According to the U.S. EPA, the air inside the average American home can be more than 100 times more polluted than the air outside. New homes usually have poorer air quality than older homes because they’re air tight, so spores can’t escape, providing a perfect breeding ground.

Common household molds cause asthma, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes. Infants and the elderly are most the at risk, because they often have weaker immune systems.

Mold is prevalent in most homes and it’s often difficult to eradicate, but all mold requires moisture to grow, so reducing moisture will reduce mold growth.

Where Mold Grows:

Windowsills, closets, wall paper, flooring, in or around showers, dishwashers, washing machines, and even in the soil of potted plants.

Mold can be caused by slow dripping pipes, condensation, standing water on or under carpets and floor boards, leaky dryer vents, broken shingles and wet insulation.

Preventions and Control:

When water leaks, ACT QUICKLY. If you dry wet materials 24 – 48 hours after a leak or spill, mold will not grow in most cases.
Clean and repair roof gutters and leaky roofs regularly.
Point sprinklers away from the home and siding.
Make sure landscapes slope away from your home’s foundation so water doesn’t collect.
Keep relative indoor humidity low, if possible below 60 percent. Humidity is measured most accurately with a moisture meter, a small $10 - $50 instrument found at most hardware stores.
Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers regularly.
Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering and up to 10 minutes afterward.
Use exhaust fans or open widows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or even washing dishes.

Source:  AdvantaClean

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upcoming FDA Hearing on Abuse of Cough and Cold Medications Misses the Mark

/PRNewswire/ -- The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest released the results of a national Teen Substance Abuse survey today, indicating that police officers and high school teachers nationwide believe alcohol and marijuana are the most serious problem substances facing teenagers. These survey results come as the Food and Drug Administration has scheduled an Advisory Committee meeting for September 14 to examine whether abuse of cough and cold medications by teens requires stricter controls on the sale of those commonly used products.

Police and teachers polled do not believe it is a good idea to force Americans to visit a doctor to get a prescription to purchase commonly sold cough and cold medicines. However, an FDA Advisory Committee next week could decide to make more than 100 brand name, over-the-counter cold and cough medicines containing the ingredient dextromethorphan available only through a doctor's prescription or place them behind the counter at pharmacies, forcing customers to receive assistance from a pharmacist or store employee to get the medicines.

When asked which substances pose the greatest negative impact on teens, teachers and police overwhelmingly identified marijuana and alcohol, followed by methamphetamine and cocaine. Additionally, no police and only 1% of high school teachers cited cough and cold medicines as having the greatest negative impact on teens.

When you think of substance abuse,
   which substances do you see as
   having the greatest negative impact
   on teens?                           Police      H.S. Teachers
  ------------------------------------ ------      -------------
  Alcohol//beer                                51%              70%
  -------------                               ---              ---
  Marijuana//pot                               69%              51%
  Prescription drugs//prescription
   pills                                       27%              15%
  --------------------------------            ---              ---
   methamphetamine                             28%               9%
  Cocaine//coke//crack                         22%               8%
  --------------------                        ---              ---
  Heroin                                       12%               3%
  Ecstasy                                       6%               5%
  -------                                     ---              ---
  Cigarettes//tobacco                           3%               6%
  Inhalants//spray can fumes                    3%               -
  --------------------------                  ---              ---
  Over the counter medicine//non
   prescription medication                      1%               2%
   Medicines//DXM                               -                1%

CMPI's study also shows that alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, methamphetamine, cocaine and cigarettes are cited among the top substances posing the most serious problems to teens:

% Selecting as Most/2(nd) Most/
   3(rd) Most Serious Problem
   Substance                          Police      H.S. Teachers
  ----------------------------------- ------      -------------
  Alcohol                                     82%              88%
  -------                                    ---              ---
  Pot                                         76%              75%
  ---                                        ---              ---
  Prescription drugs                          41%              27%
  ------------------                         ---              ---
  Meth                                        32%              22%
  ----                                       ---              ---
  Cigarettes                                  14%              36%
  ----------                                 ---              ---
  Cocaine/Crack                               27%              15%
  -------------                              ---              ---
  Ecstasy                                      5%               9%
  -------                                    ---              ---
  OTC cough and cold medicine                  5%               8%

The survey also reveals that by a margin of two to one, police officers and high school teachers support education efforts as a means to address abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, versus restricted accessibility to consumers.

"Americans expect to be able to buy cough medicines conveniently at the supermarket or their neighborhood corner store," says CMPI Vice President Robert Goldberg, Ph.D. "Overly restricting access to cough and cold products containing dextromethorphan will create more health problems than it will solve, especially during cold and flu seasons. We need to find common sense solutions and invest more resources in education."

The entire Teen Substance Abuse survey is available at and the poll was conducted by Fabrizio Ward and Associates.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Low Carb Diet Rich in Animal Fat and Protein Increases Risk of Death

/PRNewswire/ -- Those who adhered to a diet low in carbohydrates but rich in animal-based fats and proteins increased their risk of death - especially by cancer, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, led by Simmons College nutrition professor Teresa Fung, Sc. D.

This study is the first of its kind to demonstrate the link between different types of low carbohydrate diets and mortality. It also sought to determine the long-term impact of low carbohydrate diets, which have been promoted as an effective option for weight loss and improving health.

Conversely, the study found that a diet low in carbohydrates but rich in plant-based fats and proteins was associated with a lower risk of mortality.

Fung, who teaches at the Simmons College School of Health Sciences, led the study with colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health and Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"This research indicates that all low carb diets are not the same, and the differences have an indelible impact," Fung said. "One that is based on plant foods is a better choice than one that is based on animal foods."

The study is based on two cohorts of participants: more than 85,000 women enrolled in the Nurse's Health Study (ages 34 to 59) who provided dietary information for 26 years; and more than 44,500 men enrolled the Health Professional's Follow Up Study (ages 40 to 75) who provided dietary information for 20 years. All participants included in the study were free of heart disease, cancer or diabetes. The Nurses' Health Study is based at Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study is based at Harvard School of Public Health.

In determining health risk, the study created low carbohydrate scores for the women and men, based on a multi-year evaluation of their diet intake with a focus on the proportion of carbohydrates, and fat and protein - whether derived largely from animal or vegetable-based sources.

During follow ups with the men and women, the study found that those who had a diet made up of more animal-based sources and a low-carbohydrate intake , scored higher for association with "all-cause" mortality and cancer mortality., Those who had a diet made up of more plant-based sources and a low-carbohydrate intake, scored lower for association with "all-cause" mortality, and cancer and cardiovascular mortality.

Participants with a higher animal low carbohydrate score were heavier and were more likely to be smokers, whereas those with a higher vegetable low carbohydrate score consumed more alcohol and whole grains. Variations in lifestyle and other dietary issues, such as smoking status, family history of colorectal cancer, aspirin use, and history of hypertension were controlled in the analyses.

The National Institutes of Health funded the study, "Low-Carbohydrate Diets and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: Two Cohort Studies."

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

New Survey Shows Consumers 'Mad As Hell' About Hidden Airline Fees: Two-Thirds Say They Have Been Surprised by Additional Fees at the Airport

/PRNewswire/ -- The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) today released the results of an online survey of 1,396 travelers showing widespread surprise and anger over hidden airline fees for services such as checked baggage, advance seating and priority boarding.

Responding to traveler anger, the groups announced the launch of a new website,, that will allow travelers to tell their own hidden fee stories, create YouTube videos, and sign a petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) urging it to take action to require airlines to disclose those fees in advance through every ticketing channel in which airlines sell their seats. The groups also announced that they were marking September 23rd as "Mad As Hell Day!" and planned to deliver thousands of traveler petitions to the U.S. DOT on that day.

"As we come to the end of one of the busiest air travel periods of the year, millions of Americans are returning from their summer vacations tanned, rested, and mad as hell," said Kevin Mitchell, Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. "They are tired of arriving at the airport and finding huge unexpected costs for travel services they thought were part of the ticket price. It's time for consumers, corporate travel managers and travel agents to stand up and say 'we're not going to take it any more!'"

Conducted over the last two weeks before Labor Day, the hidden fees survey found:

-- Two-thirds (66%) of respondents said they had been surprised at the
airport by unexpected fees for things such as checking bags,
requesting a seat assignment, getting extra legroom, or flying

-- Nearly a third (29%) said they were surprised often or nearly every
time they travel via air by such fees.

-- Nearly two-thirds (65%) said such fees placed some or a great deal of
unexpected financial strain on their budget for the trip, while more
than a quarter (26%) said that those fees placed a great deal of
unexpected strain.

-- A nearly unanimous 99% of respondents said that they think airlines
should be required to disclose all of their fees in advance on every
website that sells airline tickets.

-- When asked to rank the fees they found most annoying, respondents
rated carry-on baggage fees the most annoying, with 91% calling those
fees "very annoying," followed by seat reservation fees (88% very
annoying), checked baggage fees (74%), and telephone reservation fees

"Hidden fees are a violation of a traveler's most basic right: to know how much they will have to pay for their trip," said Charlie Leocha, President of the Consumer Travel Alliance. "When two out of every three air travelers say they have been surprised by hidden fees at the airport, you know the current system is broken and needs to be fixed. Airlines should have to share their fees with every traveler, through every ticketing channel in which they participate, to every point of sale."

The three groups have called on Congress and DOT to take swift action to ensure that all ancillary airline fees are fully disclosed to travelers through every distribution channel in which carriers participate so that the total cost of air travel options can be compared among carriers.

"For a travel agent, comparing air travel costs without fee transparency is like trying to read a book with half the pages torn out," said Paul Ruden, Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents. "We must level the playing field to ensure that travel agents and their customers can make apples-to-apples comparisons of the costs of each trip."


The survey was conducted among 1,396 air travelers from August 20 - August 31, 2010. Respondents were recruited from the readers of online travel newsletters distributed by organizations such as Consumer Traveler and the Consumer Travel Alliance, and the survey was conducted online via SurveyMonkey. Full results of the survey can be found at

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Friday, September 03, 2010

No Specific Cause Found Yet Linking Dry Max Diapers to Diaper Rash

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Health Canada (HC) have reviewed consumer incident reports and other information involving Pampers Dry Max diapers. To date, the review has not identified any specific cause linking Dry Max diapers to diaper rash.

Both agencies will continue to evaluate consumer complaints related to Pampers Dry Max diapers and will provide parents with updated information if this assessment changes. As always, parents and caregivers are advised to seek the attention of a medical professional if they have any concerns about adverse health reactions.

From April through August 2010, CPSC received nearly 4,700 incident reports about diaper rash. Nearly 85 percent of these complaints came in May and then dropped off significantly. As part of its technical evaluation, staff from each agency considered certain characteristics of the diaper, including the materials used, the construction of the diaper, and heat and moisture retention issues.

In addition, CPSC staff reviewed clinical and toxicological data found in published, peer-reviewed medical literature. CPSC also critically reviewed data submitted by Procter & Gamble (P&G) and the results of a human cumulative irritation patch study conducted by P&G in May 2010. Further, chemistry, toxicology and pediatric medicine information provided by Health Canada was reviewed by CPSC.

While the investigation thus far does not find a link between the diapers and the health complaints received, CPSC recognizes the serious concerns expressed by parents. CPSC staff cannot rule out that there may exist a health concern for some babies, especially those babies that may be sensitive and develop rashes or other skin problems as a result of contact with the materials in this or other products.

Most babies exhibit diaper rash at least once in their lifetime. If parents or caregivers believe that their child is suffering from a rash that they believe to be related to a diaper, CPSC staff suggests that they discontinue use of the diaper and contact their pediatrician.

Consumers are encouraged to report any health or safety incidents related to the use of a consumer product. Easy-to-use incident report forms are available on CPSC's website at or on Health Canada's website at

Additional information on diaper rash can be found on the American Academy of Pediatrics website at

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Should the Federal Government Try to Curb Obesity?

/PRNewswire/ -- The First Lady and the Surgeon General are trying to rally Americans to fight against the "epidemic" of obesity. Perhaps they will inspire many to follow their leadership by example. Otherwise, the role of the federal government in curbing obesity is questionable, write economists Michael Marlow and Alden Shiers of California Polytechnic State University.

The government's tools are taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, bans on soft drinks in schools, regulations forcing restaurants to post calorie counts, and government-funded motivational programs.

In an article in the fall issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Marlow and Shiers argue that these methods are ineffective or even counterproductive.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks doubled between 1960 and 1980, a period when obesity rates were stable, and has been declining recently. Taxes are more likely to affect the behavior of casual consumers, who are more price sensitive, than of heavy consumers. States with strong restrictive policies on soft drinks in schools have no better obesity statistics than those with no such policies. Calorie labeling laws do not cause consumers to order lower-calorie meals.

The idea of funneling "sin tax" revenues into government programs to discourage unhealthy behavior has been tried with tobacco taxes. Roughly 10 percent of tobacco tax revenue flows into smoking-control programs--which are not very effective--and the rest is used for unrelated government programs.

"We predict government intervention will make obesity worse as it crowds out market-based solutions that effectively tie weight loss to personal responsibility, higher wages, and lower insurance premiums," write Marlow and Shiers.

"The main effect of the campaign will be to extract more money from taxpayers and to expand government."

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid TimeOut Capsules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to take TimeOut Capsules because it contains an active drug ingredient that can dangerously lower blood pressure. The product is marketed as a dietary supplement for sexual enhancement.

TimeOut is labeled as “100% natural” and consumers may mistakenly assume the product is harmless and poses no health risk. TimeOut is distributed on Internet sites and online marketplaces as 2,500 mg capsules.

Consumers who have TimeOut Capsules should stop using them immediately. Sexual enhancement products that claim to work as well as prescription products are likely to expose consumers to unpredictable risks and the potential for injury or death.

The FDA analyzed TimeOut and determined that it contains hydroxythiohomosildenafil, a chemical similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. Like sildenafil, this chemical may interact with prescription drugs such as nitrates, including nitroglycerin, and cause dangerously low blood pressure. When blood pressure drops suddenly, the brain is deprived of an adequate blood supply which can lead to dizziness or lightheadedness.

To date, the FDA is not aware of any adverse events associated with the use of this product.

The FDA advises consumers who have experienced any negative side effects from sexual enhancement products to consult a health care professional and to safely discard the product. Consumers and health care professionals should report adverse events to the FDA's MedWatch program at 800-FDA-1088 or online.

During the past several years, the FDA has found many products marketed as dietary supplements for sexual enhancement that can be harmful to consumers because they are adulterated with ingredients in FDA-approved drugs or variations of these ingredients.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FDA Warns of Possible Dangers from Portable Foot-Tanning Device

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about the risk of ultraviolet radiation overdose with the Tootsie Tanner portable foot tanning device.

Use of the tanning device can lead to an overdose of ultraviolet radiation because its labeling recommends an improper duration of exposure to radiation and the device has an inadequate timer. The labeled exposure schedule indicates that the device may be used for 30 minutes, and the timer control permits 30 minutes exposure. Based on FDA testing, the maximum exposure time for this device is 20 minutes.

The device fails to provide prominent warnings about the need for protective eyewear. Use of this product according to the labeling could result in an overdose of ultraviolet radiation, which may cause immediate and delayed serious eye and skin injuries.

The FDA has issued a warning letter to the device manufacturer and distributor, IPCH, located in Sugarland, Texas. Since issuing the warning letter, the FDA learned that IPCH is no longer in business. Thus, the device will not be replaced or updated with the correct labeling. Refunds will not be available for the estimated 3,000 devices sold.

The FDA recommends that users of this device, which include tanning salon owners and operators, stop using this device, remove the lamps and safely discard all components of the device according to local environmental protection standards.

Although the FDA has received no adverse event reports to date, the agency is concerned about the risk of eye and skin injuries from an overdose of ultraviolet radiation.

Consumers may report serious adverse events (side effects) with the device to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either online, by regular mail, fax, or phone.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

A Wake-Up Call: Bed Bugs Migrate into the Workplace

/PRNewswire/ -- Atlanta-based pest control leader Orkin identified that bed bugs are making the move among commercial properties. New analysis of its commercial bed bug treatments over the past 10 years reveals that bed bugs, initially confined to the hospitality industry, have steadily increased their presence in multifamily and, more recently, commercial real estate properties.

With the hospitality and multifamily industries on the front lines of the bed bug resurgence, the potential for business travelers and apartment-dwelling employees to pick up bed bugs and bring them into the office has greatly increased. This exposure created a perfect storm for commercial real estate. Orkin conducted a survey with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International in early 2010 and found that one in 10 respondents reported bed bug incidents in a commercial property.

"Ten percent may not sound significant at first," noted Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Orkin's director of technical services. "But it is a concerning statistic when you consider that these properties don't represent the typical bed bug habitat - a place where people sleep."

Harrison spoke at the BOMA International annual conference in June to address the impending threat to commercial property managers and building owners, noting that Orkin's bed bug treatments in commercial properties more than tripled from 2008 to 2009.

"At BOMA International, we felt it was important to be proactive in presenting this information to our members," said BOMA Senior Vice President Patricia M. Areno, CAE. "Commercial real estate leaders have the opportunity to educate themselves and their tenants to prepare for a possible bed bug epidemic."

Bed bugs are reddish-brown blood-feeders roughly the size and shape of apple seeds. The nocturnal pests surfaced from nearly a half-century of inactivity in the early part of this decade, predominantly in hotels. Increased international travel and a more targeted approach to pest control contributed to bed bugs reestablishing a presence in the U.S. Nationally, Orkin saw bed bug treatments double from 2008 to 2009, a trend it expects will continue this year. While New York City has been in the news recently for its efforts to curb bed bugs, the top five hot spots for bed bug activity, according to Orkin treatment data, are Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, followed by Chicago, Denver and Detroit.

Orkin's treatments in commercial real estate are still limited when compared with the hospitality and multifamily industries. In Orkin's Midwest Commercial Region, which services four of the company's top five bed bug cities, office building treatments range from 10-15 per month. Harrison hopes that the educational measures Orkin has initiated will keep it that way, even as high-profile incidents like retail store infestations in the Northeast garner nationwide media exposure.

"Commercial real estate is facing what multifamily dwellings faced a few years ago," said Harrison, who remembers the number of bed bug incidents in multifamily housing significantly increasing in 2008.

Unlike sparsely furnished hotel rooms, apartments and condos contain personal belongings and more furniture, providing ample shelter for bed bugs. Orkin experts also observe that apartment dwellers often recycle furniture from prior residents, which can perpetuate an existing infestation. By the close of the decade and for the first time since bed bugs resurfaced, Orkin treatments in multifamily properties exceeded those in hospitality, in some regions by three or four times the volume.

Harrison collaborated with the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI) earlier this year on a bed bug white paper and a series of webinars for property management professionals, and participated in the National Apartment Association's annual conference.

"In addition to learning identification and remediation techniques, apartment management professionals were eager to discuss how to communicate with residents about bed bug prevention," said Maureen Lambe, CAE, executive vice president of the NAA Education Institute. "Our members recognize that good communication and resident cooperation are critical to successful remediation."

Bed Bug Resources for Multifamily and Commercial Properties:
-- EVICTING UNWANTED RESIDENTS: Responsibility, Prevention and Treatment
of Bed Bugs in the Multifamily Industry
-- Don't Let Them Bite Our Community Multifamily Resident Tipsheet
-- Bed Bugs in the Office?: Take ACTION! Resource for Commercial Property

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

U.S. Appeals Court Reinstates Claim That Controversial Diet Drug Redux Should Never Have Been Offered to American People

/PRNewswire/ -- An Ohio Federal Court of Appeals ruling issued yesterday is reinstating the late victim's claim that the recalled diet drug Redux (commonly called fen-phen) linked to her death should never have been marketed to the American people by Wyeth due in part to its pre-approval concerns about potentially lethal side effects. The Court, in remanding the case to the trial court, held that Federal drug regulations do not preempt Ohio negligence claims, and indicated that the Supreme Court's 2009 landmark pharmaceutical manufacturer preemption decision (Wyeth v. Levine) may apply beyond inadequate warning-label claims.

Benjamin H. Anderson, Esq., of Anderson Law Offices, LLC of Cleveland, Ohio, counsel for the plaintiff, said, "Mary Buchanan, like so many others, turned to a drug to help her lose weight and as a result she lost her life. She and her surviving family members deserve justice; this is an important decision in her case and for the harms and losses she sustained, as well as the many millions of Americans taking prescription medications who have long been concerned about drug companies being shielded from appropriate state negligence laws. Significantly, the appeals court has also reinstated and remanded to the trial court our claim for punitive damages."

In reversing key sections of the trial court's finding for the defendant on summary judgment in Wimbush v. Wyeth, 6th Cir. No. 09-3380, the three-judge appeals panel held that the trial judge erred in concluding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) preempted the Buchanan family's negligence claims that the drug should never have been made available to Americans given Wyeth-Redux's known health risks, particularly Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH). Mrs. Buchanan, a hard-working and dedicated 66- year-old nurse from Maple Heights, Ohio who took the weight-loss drug during 1996 and 1997, lost her life to PPH in 2003 within a few months after filing the complaint. The drug company, which spent more than $50 million marketing the wildly popular and profitable drug after its launch in April 1996, pulled it on September 15, 1997 at the request of the FDA and under mounting criticism by independent researchers and reports in respected medical journals.

Though Redux was only on the market for a relatively short period, to date it is estimated that Wyeth has paid thousands of victims of Redux and its predecessor, Pondimin - and/or their survivors - more than $20 billion in damages. In evaluating the potential side effects of Redux, researchers noted that PPH is a devastating pulmonary disease for which there is still no cure, and the associated heart-valve problems may and often did require high-risk heart surgery. The controversial, high-risk diet drug had previously been evaluated and pulled from pharmacies overseas and it was banned in some individual states before the total recall.

In its decision, the appeals Court stated, "...we are not persuaded that it is always impossible to comply with both state law duties and FDA regulations in the process leading up to FDA approval." It added, "...we cannot agree with the district court's conclusion as, not only is there a presumption against preemption, but the case law supports the conclusion that Congress did not intend to preempt state tort law claims when it passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FDCA)."

In a footnote, it commented "...the overwhelming take-away from the Levine majority opinion is that state tort law has historically played a substantial role in the regulation of drug manufacturers and that Congress has never indicated an intent to change this role. Thus, while Levine did leave open the possibility that there may be some state law claims that would conflict with the FDA's regulatory authority and function, the claim at issue in Levine was not one of them. We do not believe that Buchanan's pre-approval negligence claims are, either."

Attorney Anderson, commenting on the interpretation of the Levine ruling in the case, said, "Drug companies are now on notice that they cannot lie to and conceal from the FDA crucial information in the pre-approval process and then expect to be held harmless once their drugs are responsible for causing pain, suffering and, as in Mrs. Buchanan's case, death."

The Court affirmed the dismissal of the balance of the plaintiff's claims, and Attorney Anderson said he will evaluate with appellate counsel Paul Flowers, Esq., and Mrs. Buchanan's family all appropriate legal options.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Studies Link Range of Major Diseases to Pesticides, New Database Launched

/PRNewswire/ -- Links to pesticide exposure are being found in a growing number of studies that evaluate the causes of preventable diseases -- including asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and several types of cancer. A new database, released today, tracks published epidemiologic and real world exposure studies. The studies challenge the effectiveness of risk-assessment-based regulation which is intended to manage adverse disease outcomes, but is criticized for allowing the uses of chemicals that can be replaced by green technologies and practices.

To capture the range of diseases linked to pesticides through epidemiologic studies, the national environmental and public health group Beyond Pesticides launched in the summer issue of its newsletter, Pesticides and You, the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database to track the studies. "A read through the scientific literature on pesticides and major preventable diseases afflicting us in the 21st century suggests that one of the first responses called for is an all out effort to stop using toxic pesticides," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. The database begins an ongoing effort by Beyond Pesticides to maintain this comprehensive database of the studies that the group says "supports an urgent need to shift to toxic-free practices and policies."

The group is calling for alternatives assessment in environmental rulemaking that creates a regulatory trigger to adopt alternatives and drive the market to go green. "Under risk assessment, we constantly play with 'mitigation measures' that the Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database tells us over and over is a failed human experiment," said Mr. Feldman.

The alternatives assessment approach differs most dramatically from risk assessment in rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives. For example, in agriculture, where the database shows clear links to pesticide use and multiple types of cancer, it would no longer be possible to use hazardous pesticides, as it is with risk assessment-based policy, when there are clearly effective organic systems with competitive yields that, in fact, outperform chemical-intensive agriculture in drought years. This same analysis can be applied to home and garden use of pesticides where households using pesticides suffer elevated rates of cancer.

Earlier this year Beyond Pesticides released its Organic Food: Eating with a Conscience guide that explains how foods grown with hazardous chemicals contaminate water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farmworkers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife even though the finished commodities, often referred to as "clean," may have minimal or nondetectable residues. The guide can be found at

The Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, which currently contains 383 entries of epidemiologic and laboratory exposure studies, will be continually updated to track the emerging findings and trends. To view the database, go to

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Report concludes that nearly 80 percent of oil from Gulf spill remains

A report released August 16 by the Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia concludes that up to 79 percent of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon well has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem.

The report, authored by five prominent marine scientists, strongly contradicts media reports that suggest that only 25 percent of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill remains.

“One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and, therefore, harmless,” said Charles Hopkinson, director of Georgia Sea Grant and professor of marine sciences in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade. We are still far from a complete understanding of what its impacts are.”

Co-authors on the paper include Jay Brandes, associate professor, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography; Samantha Joye, professor of marine sciences, UGA; Richard Lee, professor emeritus, Skidaway; and Ming-yi Sun, professor of marine sciences UGA.

The group analyzed data from the Aug. 2 National Incident Command Report, which calculated an “oil budget” that was widely interpreted to suggest that only 25 percent of the oil from the spill remained.

Hopkinson notes that the reports arrive at different conclusions largely because the Sea Grant and UGA scientists estimate that the vast majority of the oil classified as dispersed, dissolved or residual is still present, whereas the NIC report has been interpreted to suggest that only the “residual” form of oil is still present.

Hopkinson said that his group also estimated how much of the oil could have evaporated, degraded or weathered as of the date of the report. Using a range of reasonable evaporation and degradation estimates, the group calculated that 70-79 percent of oil spilled into the Gulf still remains. The group showed that it was impossible for all the dissolved oil to have evaporated because only oil at the surface of the ocean can evaporate into the atmosphere and large plumes of oil are trapped in deep water.

Another difference is that the NIC report estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil were released from the wellhead, while the Sea Grant report uses a figure of 4.1 million barrels since .8 million barrels were piped directly from the well to surface ships and, therefore, never entered Gulf waters.

On a positive note, the group noted that natural processes continue to transform, dilute, degrade and evaporate the oil. They add that circular current known as the Franklin Eddy is preventing the Loop Current from bringing oil-contaminated water from the Gulf to the Atlantic, which bodes well for the East Coast.

Joye said that both the NIC report and the Sea Grant report are best estimates and emphasizes the need for a sustained and coordinated research effort to better understand the impacts of what has become the world’s worst maritime oil spill. She warned that neither report accounted for hydrocarbon gasses such as methane in their oil budgets.

“That’s a gaping hole,” Joye said, “because hydrocarbon gasses are a huge portion of what was ejected from the well.”

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