Health Highlights: March 22, 2011

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

Send Health Care Law Directly to Supreme Court: Va. Attorney General

Virginia’s challenge of the new U.S. health care law should bypass an appellate court and proceed straight to the Supreme Court because a delay in resolving the case leads to “crippling uncertainty,” according to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

He makes the argument in a brief filed in response to the Obama administration’s March 14 filing on the issue. The White House had argued that there was no reason to take the rare step of bypassing a lower court review of a Virginia judge’s decision to strike down the part of the health care law requiring citizens to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, the Associated Press reported.

The Obama administration has asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the Virginia judge’s decision. A May hearing has been scheduled by the appeals court.

However, Cuccinelli said Virginia wants the case to go directly to the Supreme Court because of “the crippling uncertainty faced by the country until those issues are resolved,” the AP reported.


New South Dakota Law Puts 3-Day Wait on Women Seeking Abortion

A new South Dakota law requires women to wait three days after meeting with a doctor before having an abortion, and to undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortion.

The measure, which was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and takes effect July 1, means women in South Dakota will have longest abortion waiting period in the nation, the Associated Press reported.

Abortion rights groups plan to file a lawsuit challenging the measure. They say the waiting period and counseling impose an undue burden on women who have a constitutional right to abortion.

Supporters of the law say it will ensure women are not being coerced into abortions, the AP reported.


Overweight Passengers Force Bus Safety Rule Changes

Bus safety rules have to be rewritten due to the increasing number of overweight Americans using public transit, says the U.S. government.

The assumed average weight per bus passenger should be raised from 150 pounds to 175 pounds, says a Federal Transit Authority proposal, USA Today reported. The FTA also wants an additional quarter of a square foot of floor space per passenger.

The proposed rule modifications “acknowledge the expanding girth of the average passenger,” the FTA said.

The changes could mean that fewer people will be allowed on city buses across the nation, USA Today reported.


Tween Brands Will Limit Cadmium in Jewelry

The toxic metal cadmium will be removed from child, teen and adult jewelry sold by Tween Brands Inc. as part of a settlement that’s the first of its kind in the United States.

Last summer, Tween recalled about 137,000 Chinese-made pieces of jewelry due to unspecified levels of cadmium. A case against the company was brought by the California-based Center for Environmental Health. The group has made extensive use of the state’s Proposition 65 to force companies to reduce levels of harmful materials in consumer products, the Associated Press reported.

The agreement takes effect January 2012 and Tween will face fines if it sells jewelry that is more than 0.03 percent cadmium. A state judge still needs to approve the settlement.

The settlement covers jewelry sold in California but the state’s market is so large that the elimination of cadmium will become national policy for Tween, the AP reported.


U.S. Personnel in Japan Offered Potassium Iodide

U.S. government personnel and their dependents who are in the vicinity of the damaged Japanese nuclear power station are being offered potassium iodide (KI), the State Department said Monday.

Officials said the offer to Americans in Nagoya, Tokyo, Yokohama and 15 prefectures is being made “out of an abundance of caution,” and added that no one should take KI at this time, Agence France-Presse reported.

“While there is no indication that it will become advisable to take KI, out of an abundance of caution the United States government is making it available to its personnel and family members to be used only upon direction if a change in circumstances were to warrant,” the State Department said in a travel warning.

Earlier on Monday, a plume of smoke that rose from one of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear facility led to the removal of workers trying to get the situation under control, AFP reported.


Pelosi Released From Rome Hospital

Following a brief stay in a Rome hospital, U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was released Monday and is resuming her schedule in Italy, says her spokesman.

“After several flights yesterday in Afghanistan, and a long flight back to Italy that arrived early this morning, Leader Pelosi was not feeling well,” Nadeam Elshami said in an e-mailed statement, Bloomberg News reported.

“This morning in Rome, the leader was advised to visit a clinic, and the closest medical facility was a hospital,” the spokesman said.

Pelosi, 70, is on an official trip to Rome with a congressional delegation. Her health concerns forced her to cancel a meeting with the Italian defense minister, Bloomberg reported.