Health Highlights: Dec. 8, 2009

By on December 8, 2009

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Spending on Health Care Doesn’t Show in Life Expectancy

Even though it spends the most on health care, the United States has one of the lowest life expectancies of industrialized nations, says a report released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In 2007, individual and government spending on health care in the United States was $7,290 per person, nearly 2.5 times the OECD average of $2,984, the Associated Press reported.

But life expectancy in the United States was 78.1 years, a year less than the OECD average of 79.1 years. The United States ranks just ahead of the Czech Republic, Poland and Mexico, which spend much less on health care.

Health care spending in the United States rose an average of 3.4 percent per year between 1997 and 2007, which was below the OECD average of 4.1 percent, the AP reported.


Current Decade Warmest on Record

This decade has been the warmest since global surface temperatures started being recorded in the mid-1800s, according to figures released Tuesday at the climate change talks in Copenhagen.

“Despite 1998 being the warmest individual year, the last 10 years have clearly been the warmest period in the 160-year record of global surface temperature maintained jointly by the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia,” said a news release issued by the United Kingdom’s National Weather Service, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

“These figures highlight that the world continues to see global temperature rise — most of which is due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and clearly shows that the argument that global warming has stopped is flawed,” the Met Office said.

In related news, the World Meteorological Organization said the latest figures indicate that 2009 will go down in the books as the fifth warmest year — 0.44 degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term average of 14 degrees C (57 degrees Fahrenheit), Dow Jones reported.


Bryant Gumbel Treated for Lung Cancer

Former “Today” show anchor Bryant Gumbel disclosed Tuesday that he’s recovering from lung cancer surgery and treatment. He’s currently the host of HBO’s “Real Sports.”

While filling in for co-host Regis Philbin on “Live With Regis and Kelly,” Gumbel said a malignant tumor and part of his lungs were removed two months ago, the Associated Press reported.

Gumbel, 61, said he wanted to keep his condition private but revealed it to Kelly Ripa backstage when he had to explain why he couldn’t dance with her during a segment on the show.

He’s meeting with his surgeon and oncologist next week and hopes he’ll soon get the go-ahead to play golf, Gumbel said, the AP reported.


Hot Christmas Toys Aren’t Dangerous After All: Consumer Group

A consumer group that warned that some of the most popular toys for the holiday season are unsafe because of high levels of chemicals has issued a correction.

On Saturday, Good Guide said Zhu Zhu Pets’ robotic hamsters and International Playthings’ My First Purse had levels of the heavy metal antimony that exceeded U.S. government limits. The group also said unlawful limits of the chemical chromium were detected in the Bakugan 7-in-1 Maxus Helios and Fisher-Price’s Laugh & Learn Laughing Farm.

But Good Guide said Monday that the chemicals found in the toys didn’t exceed federal limits, the Associated Press reported.

The incorrect warning about antimony levels hasn’t affected sales of Zhu Zhu pets, according to toy maker Cepia LLC. Spokesman Bruce Katz didn’t divulge whether the company plans legal action against Good Guide, the AP said.


Safety Violations Common in U.S. Water Treatment Systems

Since 2004, more than 20 percent of the United States’ water treatment systems have violated major parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act, a New York Times investigation reveals.

The analysis of federal data showed that over the past five years, more than 49 million Americans have received water with illegal concentrations of chemicals such as arsenic, radioactive substances like uranium and dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

Even though regulators were informed about each of these violations, fewer than 6 percent of the offending water systems were ever fined or punished by state or federal officials, the Times reported.

In some cases, violations were single events that likely posed little risk to water users. However, illegal contamination continued for years at hundreds of water systems, the newspaper said.

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