Health Highlights: Jan. 31, 2012

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

Brazilian Blowout Maker Settles California Lawsuit

As part of a lawsuit settlement, the company that makes popular Brazilian Blowout hair straightening products says it will warn consumers that two of its formulations emit formaldehyde gas, a possible carcinogen.

The lawsuit was filed in November by California’s attorney general, the Associated Press reported.

North Hollywood GIB LLC also agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and penalties for failing to alert consumers and hair stylists that its products may contain cancer-causing chemicals, and will have all its products tested for toxic substances at a state-approved lab.

The company will also supply salons with a pamphlet outlining recommended safety precautions, the AP reported.


FDA Sued Over Secret Surveillance of Employees

A lawsuit by a group of scientists and doctors who worked at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the agency secretly monitored their personal e-mails.

Government documents show the surveillance occurred over two years and began after the employees alerted Congress that the FDA was approving medical devices that the scientists and doctors believed posed unacceptable risks to patients, the Washington Post reported.

All six employees worked in an office that reviewed devices for cancer screening and other purposes. The information collected by the FDA surveillance contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six employees.

FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said the agency does not comment on litigation, the Post reported.


Senator’s Stroke Shows it Can Happen at Any Age

The stroke suffered by 52-year-old Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois a little over a week ago shows that a stroke can strike people at any age and everyone needs to know the warning signs, experts say.

“Nobody’s invincible,” Dr. Ralph Sacco, a University of Miami neurologist and past president of the American Heart Association, told the Associated Press.

Most strokes do occur in older adults but up to a quarter of them occur in people younger than 65, Sacco said.

Recent government research found that national hospitalization rates for ischemic strokes (caused by blocked/reduced blood flow to the brain) have risen by about a third among people ages 15 to 44 over the past decade, the AP reported.

Kirk suffered an ischemic stroke caused by a tear in the carotid artery in his neck. Such tears are usually caused by trauma but doctors haven’t been able to say what the cause was in this case, the AP reported.


Faster, Safer Circumcision Methods Being Evaluated For HIV/AIDS Prevention

Research showing that circumcising adult heterosexual men can reduce their risk of HIV infection by 60 percent or more has public health experts looking for ways to provide faster, cheaper and safer circumcision for men in Africa.

Several devices are currently being tested, including one called the PrePex and another called the Shang Ring, The New York Times reported.

The PrePex features a rubber band that compresses the foreskin against a plastic ring slipped inside it. The foreskin is deprived of blood and dies within hours. After a week, it falls off or can be clipped off.

The Shang Ring, a plastic two-ring clamp that’s used in China to treat men with foreskins that have become so tight that they cut off urination. This method requires cutting off the excess foreskin beyond the clamp, The Times reported.

Both methods are being evaluated by the World Health Organization.


Legionnaire’s-Causing Bacteria Found in Las Vegas Hotel-Casino

The bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease was found in water samples from the Luxor hotel-casino in Las Vegas this month after a guest died of the form of pneumonia, health officials said Monday.

Three cases of Luxor guests being diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national surveillance program, according to the Southern Nevada Health District, the Associated Press reported.

District officials said water at the Luxor was tested after the first two cases were reported in the spring of 2011, but no Legionella bacteria was detected. Both those patients recovered.

After the bacteria was found in water samples this month, the Luxor immediately took action, including superheating and super-chlorination of its water system, the AP reported.