Health Highlights: Sept. 28, 2011

By on September 28, 2011

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

Health-Care Reform Appeals Taken to Supreme Court

Twenty-six states have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for a speedy ruling on “grave” constitutional concerns surrounding President Barack Obama’s new health care law, the Associated Press reported.

Critics of the health care overhaul object to the provision that people must buy purchase insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a penalty.

The states’ complaint also opposes expansion of the publicly funded Medicaid program and a mandate that states must pay penalties if they fail to provide their employees with a certain level of insurance coverage, the AP said.

The Federation of Independent Business also appealed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking that it overturn the entire law, not just the requirement to buy health insurance — a provision struck down by a federal appeals court in Atlanta.

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens told the AP on Wednesday that he thinks the justices should act quickly and not delay the case beyond next year’s presidential election.


U.S. Lifts Restrictions on Imported Cantaloupes

Food-safety advocates are concerned about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to lift import restrictions on cantaloupes from a Guatemala farm linked to a widespread U.S. salmonella outbreak last spring, The New York Times reported.

The melons — which have no connection to the current outbreak of listeria tied to Colorado cantaloupes — were imported by Del Monte Fresh Produce. A recall was announced last March. After import restrictions were enacted, the fruit importer filed a lawsuit against the FDA.

“We would certainly hope that F.D.A. has proof that the conditions that may have led to the outbreak have been cleaned up,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. De Waal told the Times that she knows of a previous case involving a recurrence of problems after the FDA lifted restrictions.

In an email announcement, the FDA said it was lifting the “import alert” on the basis of tests showing the cantaloupes were free of pathogens, and on an independent audit that found the growers were using sound practices.

Del Monte denied accusations that it was attempting to coerce the FDA into lifting the ban and said that the FDA’s action showed mutual cooperation between the two parties, the newspaper said.

Before it ended in April, the 10-state salmonella outbreak sickened at least 20 people.


Jewelry Industry Will Self-Regulate Toxin in Kids’ Jewelry

U.S. jewelry manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to restrict levels of the toxic metal cadmium in children’s necklaces, rings and other products, the Associated Press reported.

The heavy metal has been linked to cancer and other diseases, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which last year recalled some 300,000 pieces of costume jewelry because of high cadmium content, intends to use the voluntary limits to determine if and when product recalls are needed, the AP said.

The agency said voluntary standards, rather than mandatory rules, should be enough to regulate cadmium content in children’s baubles. Most of the recalled trinkets were made in China.

The guideline “limits potential exposure to cadmium in children’s jewelry in a manner that assures safety without resulting in bans on safe products,” said Brent Cleaveland, who helped draft the regulations for ASTM International, a group that sets standards for various consumer goods. Cleaveland told the AP that the new limits, which may take effect in November, are “way more conservative than necessary.”

Magnets, lead and other potential jewelry problems are also addressed in the new standard. Experts worry that if kids lick or bite trinkets bearing the metals that high levels might enter their bodies.

Under the new policy, 0.03 percent cadmium would be the content limit for jewelry intended for children 12 years and younger. Products that exceeded the limit in testing would be rejected or referred for additional examination.


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