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OREGON SERIOUS ABOUT ALLOWING ITS MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM TO CONTINUE DESPITE SUPREME COURT DECISION ALLOWING FEDERAL PROSECUTION FOR THE CULTIVATION AND USE OF MARIJUANA FOR MEDICAL PURPOSES ñ RHODE ISLAND ALSO APPEARS READY TO BEGIN ITS OWN PROGRAM

Oregon will officially resume issuing medical-marijuana registration cards today after its Attorney General, Hardy Meyers, concluded the June 6 ruling by the United States Supreme Court “has no legal impact on the operation of Oregon’s program.”

The Human Services Department had continued to process applications but had not issued any new registration cards until Oregon Attorney General Hardy Meyers rendered an opinion that nothing in the Supreme Court decision prevented the program from continuing.

In Oregon, patients qualify for a medical-marijuana card if a state-licensed physician verifies they suffer from certain serious medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, or severe pain and that they may benefit from marijuana use. Oregon voters approved the program in 1998 and, since then, 10,421 cards have been issued.  

Attorney General Meyers found the Supreme Court decision “does not hold the state laws regulating medical marijuana are invalid nor does it require states to repeal existing medical marijuana laws.” Meyers has also concluded that the decision does not compel any state to enforce federal drug laws and does not require a state to tell patients they could be prosecuted under federal laws.

In its 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that statutes like the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which permits the cultivation and use of marijuana under specific circumstances for medical purposes, are subject to being superceded by the federal government’s authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Thus, while not declaring California’s statute to be unconstitutional or void for any reason, the 6 Justice majority simply ruled that Congress has “the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana in compliance with California law.”

Clearly, the state laws are still on the books. Doctors may still prescribe the use of marijuana for medical purposes without being criminally liable and there was no determination that the underlying purpose of the laws was flawed from a medical perspective.

In addition, the Court did not (and could not) compel state law enforcement authorities to enforce the ruling. This leaves overburdened federal law enforcement agencies like the DEA, ATF, and FBI to monitor 11 states (at present) for cases where critically ill patients may be growing a few marijuana plants for the relief of excruciating pain.  

Although federal law enforcement officers did raid a number of medical marijuana facilities in California last week which were considered “fronts” for illegal marijuana production and sales, it seems unlikely the initiative can be sustained over the long run and in all of the states having such programs,

The chances of those agencies making anything but token efforts to seize such small amounts of the substance is unlikely especially in an area where local law enforcement authorities have always been primarily responsible for policing the matter.

From a purely legal perspective, the Supreme Court decision also fails to address the very practical matter of: Would any jury in a state which already passed a law allowing for such “compassionate use” of marijuana ever convict anyone who disobeyed the Supreme Court’s decision in an effort to alleviate their constant, excruciating pain?      

Many critically or terminally ill people who have been helped by the “compassionate use” laws have already stated that they will continue to use marijuana for medical purposes.

While the White House has taken the position that the Supreme Court decision puts the matter to rest, the facts would seem to indicate that the battle has only just begun since the Rhode Island legislature approved the use of medical marijuana Tuesday night.

Although Gov. Donald L. Carcieri vetoed the bill Wednesday evening, saying it would encourage marijuana use, sanction criminal activity and make the drug more available to children, it appears those supporting the bill have the necessary three-fifths vote in each heavily democratic chamber of the legislature to override the veto. The bill passed the Senate 33 to 1 after a 52 to 10 vote in the House.

If the veto is overridden, Rhode Island will become the 11th state to allow medical marijuana, and the first to do so after the Supreme Court ruling.

THE CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION (CPSC), LG ELECTRONICS AND SEARS, ROEBUCK AND CO. ANNOUNCE RECALL OF 20,000 REFRIGERATORS FOR POTENTIAL FIRE HAZARD

The CPSC, in cooperation with LG Electronics Inc. (of Lincolnshire, Illinois) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (of Hoffman Estates, Illinois) have announced a voluntary recall to retrofit 20,000 LG and Kenmore Elite® Trio™ Three-Door Refrigerators manufactured in Korea. Consumers should contact the manufacturer or retailer for further instruction.

A faulty component in the condenser fan motor can short circuit. This could cause the condenser fan motor to overheat, posing a potential fire hazard to consumers.

LG Electronics has received 82 reports of incidents involving a condenser fan motor failure due to a failed capacitor arcing and smoking. There has been smoke damage in a few incidents. There have been no reported injuries.

The recalled refrigerators are three-door, 21 to 25 cubic foot units with a bottom freezer. The refrigerators come in titanium, stainless steel, bisque, white or black. Brand names are identified on the door at the top right of the units and the interior data plate. The units have the following model and serial numbers located on the data plate inside the fresh food section of the refrigerator door:

Brand    Product    Model Number    Serial Number Range
Kenmore Elite® Trio™    Trio bottom freezer refrigerator with external filtered water dispenser    21Cu.Ft.
795.7519240*
795.7519340*
795.7519440*
795.7519640*
795.7519940*     25Cu.Ft.
795.7554640*
795.7554940*
795.7555240*
795.7555340*
795.7555440*     25Cu.Ft.
795.7555640*
795.7555940*
795.7554240*
795.7554340*
795.7554440*     405KRxxxxx through 410KRxxxxx
LG    Three-door bottom freezer refrigerator without water dispenser    LRFC21755TT
LRFC21755SB
LRFC21755ST
LRFC25750WW    LRFC25750SW
LRFC25750SB
LRFC25750TT
LRFC25750ST
    405KRxxxxxxx through 410KRxxxxxxx

*Not all refrigerators within the serial number range are included in the recall. Consumers should call LG or Sears to determine whether their refrigerator is included in the recall.

Sears stores nationwide sold the Kenmore brand exclusively and other major retailers nationwide sold the LG brand refrigerators from May 2004 through May 2005 for between $1,400 and $2,400. Consumers should contact Sears or LG to arrange for a free in-home repair.

For further information call LG toll-free at (888) 294-5782 or Sears at (800) 659-7026 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. CT Monday through Saturday. Consumers also can log on to http://us.lge.com or www.sears.com for further information on those models included in the repair program and to arrange for an in-home appointment.

CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION (CPSC) SIGNS COOPERATIVE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH CANADA TO IMPROVE SAFETY OF CONSUMER PRODUCTS IN BOTH COUNTRIES

The CPSC has announced an agreement (pdf) with the Canadian government aimed at further improving consumer safety and making both the United States and Canadian marketplaces among the safest in the world. This agreement is also part of the “Security and Prosperity Partnership” between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) calls for increased harmonization of existing and prospective safety standards, and exchanging more information on safety research and other findings. The agreement also calls for both agencies to share inspection and laboratory test results, where appropriate.

Another key provision that Health Canada has agreed to involves advance notification to CPSC when a product that violates a Canadian safety standard or poses a danger to Canadian consumers is intended for export to the United States.

Canadian officials will inform CPSC staff in a timely manner of a shipment’s contents and intended importer, so that steps can be taken to ensure the greatest protection of American consumers, which can include re-routing or denying entry of the non-compliant products.

CPSC has been notifying other countries for years of non-compliant and/or violative U.S. goods requested for export.

Since consumers in both countries shop in similar stores and use many of the same products, the will help both agencies identify dangerous products faster and save lives and prevent injuries in the U.S. and Canada. In recent years, the informal cooperation between the U.S. and Canada in the area of consumer protection has increased dramatically.

This agreement will strengthen that cooperation and serve to safeguard the people of both countries against potentially harmful consumer products.

The MOU builds upon existing information sharing that includes monthly conference calls between officials at CPSC and Health Canada. Now, CPSC will be able to provide more timely and in-depth information to Canadian media who contact CPSC about recalls and safety alerts that affect Canadian consumers.

The CPSC/Health Canada MOU also builds on the “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP),” announced earlier this year by President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Mexican President Vicente Fox. The SPP is a trilateral effort to increase security and enhance prosperity among the three countries through greater cooperation and information-sharing.

CPSC is currently negotiating with its Mexican counterpart, PROFECO, to reach a similar Memorandum of Understanding agreement.

IOWA MAN SUES FORD, TEXAS INSTRUMENTS, AND DUPONT CLAIMING FAULTY ELECTRICAL SWITCH CAUSED FIRE THAT KILLED HIS WIFE AND BURNED DOWN HIS HOME

After calling 911, 74-year-old Darletta Mohlis died attempting to escape from her burning house. Now, her three children and husband, Earl, are suing the Ford Motor Company in a wrongful death action claiming a faulty cruise-control deactivation switch on Mr. Mohlis’s 1996 Ford F-150 pickup truck caused the fatal fire.  

In its ongoing investigation of fires linked to faulty cruise control shut off switches in Ford vehicles, CNN has already reported that despite the fact that Ford is aware of 16 million 1992 to 2003 vehicles at risk, only slightly over one million have been recalled.

The switch (manufactured for Ford by Texas Instruments) costs $20.57 and has already being linked to 559 fires reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Many of these fires have completely destroyed the vehicle. In this case, however, Mrs. Mohlis died when her entire house burned down after the family pickup truck caught fire while parked in the garage.

The fires are spontaneous and often occur when the ignition switch is off and the key removed. This is because Ford designed the switch to remain on or “hot” at all times. When a crack develops in the film (supplied by Dupont) separating the brake fluid from the electrical circuit, the leak will cause a fire.

Since May 1999, Ford has recalled a total of 1,071,000 vehicles in two separate recalls. CNN reports, however, that a document it has obtained shows Ford is aware that it installed a total of 16 million of the switches between 1992 and 2003 in the following vehicles:

•    Mark VII/VIII from 1994-1998
•    Taurus/Sable and Taurus SHO 2.3 L 1993-1995
•    Econoline 1992-2003
•    F-Series 1993-2003
•    Windstar 1994-2003
•    Explorer without IVD 1995-2003
•    Explorer Sport/Sport Trac 2002-2003
•    Expedition 1997-2003
•    Ranger 1995-2003

In March 2005, the NHTSA opened an expanded investigation into more than 3.7 million of these vehicles. Ford, however, has chosen not to recall all of the vehicles arguing that the switch has performed well for years in most vehicle models.

As a result, Ford has limited their recalls to those models “with an increasing fire rate report.” A recent recall notice was clear as to the risk, however.  Ford stopped using the switch last year in favor of a new design.
In the case of the Mohlis family’s truck, inspections of the truck and fire scene have been performed by two experts hired by the family’s attorney, officials from the NHTSA, and inspectors from Ford.

The family’s experts, an electrical engineer and a certified fire investigator, believe the switch caused the fire. Ford claims the fire started elsewhere and spread to the truck and the switch had nothing to do with the fire. The NHTSA has made no public statement as to its investigation or findings.

Mr. Mohlis states the truck had been parked in the garage and shut off for four days before the fire.

WARNING LABELS FOR RITALIN AND CONCERTA TO BE STRENGTHENED BY FDA IN RESPONSE TO REPORTS OF ADVERSE PSYCHIATRIC AND CARDIOVASCULAR SIDE-EFFECTS

Methylphenidates (generic) are a class of drugs used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The most common forms of the drug are Ritalin (made by Novartis) and the long-acting version known as Concerta (made by Johnson & Johnson).

These drugs, along with amphetamines like Adderall, Adderall XR, and Strattera, are widely prescribed for the treatment of ADHD. Last year, 7.8 million prescriptions for Concerta and 2.5 million for methylphenidate were written in the United States alone.

While these drugs appear to be effective, they come with relatively serious warning labels. In fact, the FDA posted the following Alert on February 9 in response to Health Canada’s suspension of Adderall XR sales due to a concern about reports of sudden unexplained deaths in children taking both Adderall and Adderall XR.

“FDA ALERT [2/9/2005] – Sudden Deaths in Children
Health Canada has suspended marketing of Adderall XR products from the Canadian market due to concern about reports of sudden unexplained death (SUD) in children taking Adderall and Adderall XR.  SUD has been associated with amphetamine abuse and reported in children with underlying cardiac abnormalities taking recommended doses of amphetamines, including Adderall and Adderall XR.  In addition, a very small number of cases of SUD have been reported in children without structural cardiac abnormalities taking Adderall.  At this time, FDA cannot conclude that recommended doses of Adderall can cause SUD, but is continuing to carefully evaluate these data.”

Thus, the FDA has had every reason to monitor adverse event reports very carefully with respect to all of the drugs used in the treatment of ADHD. Of course, an adverse event report neither identifies a side-effect nor confirms one’s existence. It may truly be something to watch or it may simply be an occurrence unrelated to the drug being taken.

Even when a link to a particular prescription drug is not proven, the FDA and the manufacturer often mention these events on the label. Recent high profile drug withdrawals, pressure from consumer advocacy groups and lawmakers, and a move toward greater disclosure of adverse information about prescription drugs have prompted the FDA to be more proactive in terms of identifying and following potential safety problems.

Recently, the FDA has received reports of patients experiencing a variety of psychiatric events while being treated with Ritalin or Concerta. These include hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, psychotic behavior, aggression, and violent actions. (Eli Lilly has reported observing increased aggression and hostility in a small number of Strattera users and has added that information to the U.S. and European label for the drug.)

As a result of these reports, the FDA plans to strengthen the warning labels on Ritalin, Concerta, and all other methylphenidate products and has also asked its pediatric advisory committee to review the matter. The agency has not confirmed any link between the adverse events and the drugs and it has not indicated that a description of the events will be included in the warning. 

Any labeling change, however, is likely to be put off until all ADHD medications are re-evaluated. This would probably not occur until early 2006.

In addition to the possible psychiatric problems associated with the drugs, the FDA is also concerned over reports of cardiovascular problems including hypertension, arrhythmias, chest pain, and tachycardia in Concerta users. As a result, further steps may be taken to investigate these issues by way of data base studies or new safety trials.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MAKES IT OFFICIAL ñ THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL ONLY SEEK A TOTAL OF $14 BILLION IN DAMAGES IN ITS CIVIL RACKETEERING CASE AGAINST THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY

Amid great speculation and controversy as to its underlying motivations, the Justice Department has filed its formal damage request motion in its civil racketeering case against the tobacco industry. The $10 billion for a five-year stop-smoking program and a ten-year $4 billion for an anti-smoking education program is all that is being asked of an industry that stands accused of a decades-long conspiracy of fraud on the public and government agencies. In terms of absolute dollars, it is like asking someone who just burned down an entire neighborhood to pay a $500 fine and another $100 to fund an anti-arson program.   

As previously reported, the manner in which the trial came to an end has raised questions as to just what motivated the dramatic and unexpected last-minute shift in the government’s position with respect to the amount of damages it was seeking in its six-year-old civil racketeering case against the tobacco industry for engaging in a 50-year conspiracy to defraud and addict smokers by intentionally concealing information regarding the dangers associated with smoking.   

For years, the government has pursued the tobacco industry for “a decades-long pattern of material misrepresentations, half-truths, deceptions and lies that continue to this day.” (Excerpt from summation of Associate Attorney General Sharon Eubanks.)
 
The monetary damages the government had always been expected to demand from the industry was based on the extensive testimony of expert witnesses and was anticipated to be a $130-billion, 25-year smoking cessation program along with other penalties and injunctive relief prohibiting tobacco companies from targeting young smokers in their marketing campaigns.

Anti-smoking advocates were all in favor of such a substantial award which they believed would act as a deterrent to future improper conduct as well as provide funding for badly needed cessation programs.  

The tobacco industry and its attorneys fully expected that demand and were concerned about how much of that claim and penalties U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler would impose.

Much of the evidence presented by the government was comprised of highly incriminating internal documents that included written memos from tobacco executives and scientists which described plans to encourage young people to smoke and to keep the public ignorant of the potentially dangerous and addictive nature of cigarette smoke.

This was essentially the same evidence introduced in prior litigation brought by states to recover their costs for the medical treatment of smokers. The industry settled that case for $246 billion.

Thus, it came as a complete shock to everyone in the courtroom when the Justice Department lawyers inexplicable scaled back their demand to what amounts to little more than petty cash to the defendants which include Phillip Morris USA; RJ. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson (now Reynolds American Inc.); British American Tobacco; the Lorillard Tobacco unit of Loew’s Corp.;  and Vector Group Ltd.’s Ligget Group Inc.

Anti-smoking advocates like William V. Corr, director of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, immediately assailed the government’s unexpected move as “a political decision to take into consideration the tobacco companies’ financial interest rather than health interests of 45 million addicted smokers.” Tobacco analysts and many lawmakers immediately speculated that politics played a role in the decision.

At the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman and seven other lawmakers, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has opened an investigation into allegations of political interference in the case.

Even the trial judge, herself, questioned the reduction in the demand as suggesting “that there are some additional influences being brought to bear on the government’s position in this case.”

At first, the Justice Department offered had no real explanation for the reduced figure and the members of its trial team declined comment. As more facts surrounding this “mystery” came to light, however, it began to appear that the decision was more the product of politics and favoritism than sound legal analysis.

Less than a month before summations, the Justice Department had filed an extensive legal brief with the trial judge which argued that the $130 billion smoking-cessation program was an appropriate and legally permissible sanction that was unaffected by the recent federal appeals court ruling that determined the government could not seek to force the tobacco industry to pay $280 billion in ill-gotten gains.

Representative Waxman has expressed great concern that a position the Justice Department had confidence in so close to the end of the trial was abandoned to benefit the tobacco industry at the expense of the health of the American people. A group of 50 lawmakers has sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez requesting that he not enter into any agreement with the tobacco industry “based on the unreasonably weak demands made by the government last week.”

While the Justice department attempted to justify the decision as a response to the appellate ruling which eliminated a large element of the damages being sought, the May 12 brief had already addressed that point and came to the conclusion that the earlier ruling by the Court of Appeals did not preclude the $130 billion demand.

An additional red flag was also raised by an apparent flurry of internal activity at the Justice Department just prior to the end of the trial. The New York Times reported that senior Department officials flatly overruled the objections of the career lawyers in charge of the case and ordered them to reduce the demand by $120 billion despite the fact that the trial team argued the move was legally unjustifiable and would be viewed as politically motivated.

Robert D. McCallum, the Associate Attorney General who overruled the top two lawyers on the trial team (Sharon Y. Eubanks and Stephen D. Brody) and other political appointees appear to have engaged in efforts to undermine the case.

Significantly, McCallum is a close friend of President Bush from college as well as a former partner in the Atlanta law firm of Alston & Bird, which has done legal work for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, part of Reynolds American, a defendant in the case.

The New York Times quoted an anonymous source in the Justice Department as stating: “Everyone is asking, ‘Why now?’ Why would you throw the case down the toilet at the very last hour, after five years?” Some lawyers on the trial team reportedly threatened to quit after McCallum’s actions.

As a result of the internal dissention, a lower-level attorney in the Department, who agrees with the lower demand, was reportedly put in charge of preparing the final briefs and the proposed order on penalties.

Other allegations adding to the suspicion that the decision to reduce the demand by $120 billion was anything but justified include what the New York Times calls “the handling of some government witnesses who were asked to alter their written testimony to reflect the department’s concerns.”

One of those witnesses who refused to eliminate part of his testimony was Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, stated in an interview that: “To have the lawyers work on a case this long, and then just have the department basically throw it out seems despicable to me.”  
 
Obviously emboldened and encouraged by the collapse of the Justice Department’s previously aggressive stance with respect to damages and penalties, the attorneys for the tobacco industry defendants have now indicated that they will ask Judge Kessler to throw out the entire case claming the government isn’t entitled to any of the remedies it now seeks to have imposed.

Although Judge Kessler has encouraged the two sides to settle the case, all previous attempts to do so failed. This latest turn of events would seem to guarantee the matter will have to be resolved by the District Court and then the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

HEALTH ADVOCACY GROUP FILES CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS CLAIMING DAIRY INDUSTRYíS WEIGHT-LOSS CLAIM AND THE MULTIMILLION DOLLAR MARKETING CAMPAIGN PROMOTING IT ARE FALSE AND MISLEADING

Only two weeks ago, newsinferno.com covered the story involving the study of 12,829 children aged 9 to 14 conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University, and published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, which found the more milk children drink, the more obese they become.

The researchers concluded the high calorie content found in milk, and not the milk itself, appeared responsible for the weight gains. The study also found dietary calcium, skim, and 1% milks are bigger culprits than whole milk since they may be consumed more freely thereby increasing overall caloric intake even further. Children who drank more than 3 servings a day were 25% more likely to become overweight than those who drank 2 to 3 servings.

Now, an activist group concerned with good health and nutrition appears to have had enough of the dairy industry’s marketing campaign which claims the consumption of its products can help people lose weight. The “Got Milk?” and “milk moustache” ads using celebrities to promote milk along with the notion that dairy products can help speed weight loss and claims that people can “slim down with milk,” have apparently triggered a legal battle which will now play itself out in the courts.

Back in April, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaining about the ads in question. No action has yet been taken on that complaint. A similar complaint was lodged with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In two lawsuits filed on Tuesday in Virginia, PCRM has made its position very clear. It claims the evidence is overwhelming when it comes to showing dairy consumption and specifically milk drinking have no demonstrable effect on body weight or weight loss.

PCRM sees the $200 million (since 2003) ad campaign by the National Dairy Council as false and misleading and nothing more than a fraud on the public.

Moreover, PCRM claims the entire campaign is based solely on studies done by one particular researcher whose objectivity is “compromised” by the fact that his work is funded by the dairy industry itself. That researcher, Michael B. Zemel, PhD, who is director of the University of Tennessee Nutrition Institute, admits to having accepted almost $3 million in funding from dairy companies and industry groups including the National Dairy Council. He has also been paid by the Council for speaking engagements. He claims, however, that his conclusions were in no way influenced by the sources of his funding.   

In one lawsuit, PCRM is seeking a court order halting the dairy industry from continuing to advertise its products as having anything at all to do with weight loss.

The second lawsuit is a class action brought in the name of one specific plaintiff (Catherine Holmes) on behalf of all others who have been similarly affected by the marketing campaign. Ms. Holmes claims to have been taken in by the so-called “dairy diet” when she wanted to lose weight. She alleges she actually gained weight by following the plan.

Since she only gained a few pounds and is merely seeking $236 in damages to reimburse her for the cost of the diary products she consumed while on the “diet,” her role as a plaintiff is mostly symbolic. Her true goal is for “the truth to come out.”

The defendants in the lawsuits include Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., the Dannon Co., Inc., Lifeway Foods, McNeil PPC, the National Dairy Council, Dairy Management Inc., and the International Dairy Foods Association.

THE CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION (CPSC) ISSUES ITS ANNUAL WARNING CONCERNING 4TH OF JULY FIREWORKS AS WELL AS THE RESULTS OF ITS OWN STUDY RELATING TO FIREWORKS RELATED INJURIES

As a public service, newsinferno.com is presenting the substance of Tuesday’s special report from the CPSC with respect to the dangers of fireworks. We hope the information will help make this 4th of July holiday safer for all and especially for children and teenagers who are at the highest risk of injuries from these dangerous devices.

 “WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new study (pdf) by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff finds nearly 70 percent of all fireworks-related injuries take place around the 4th of July holiday. The study also found that more than 50 percent of those injuries occur to children and teenagers. The top three injury-causing fireworks are firecrackers, sparklers, and rockets. Those fireworks account for nearly half of all injuries.
To help reduce the number of fireworks-related injuries this summer, CPSC and federal law enforcement agencies are encouraging consumers to keep fireworks out of the hands of children, to safely use legal fireworks and never buy or use illegal fireworks.

CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton said parents often don’t realize that sparklers, for instance, burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals. “The best way parents can keep their children safe this 4th of July is never allow young children to ignite or handle fireworks of any kind,” Stratton said. Children most often suffer burns, lacerations and eye injuries.

CPSC’s staff estimates that there were 9,600 emergency room-treated injuries associated with fireworks in 2004. 6,600 of the injuries occurred in a single month (June 19 – July 19, 2004).

In addition to encouraging the safe use of legal consumer fireworks, the federal government is committed to stopping the manufacture and sale of illegal fireworks, which could prove to be deadly if used by consumers. CPSC is working to do its part to keep American families safe by enforcing fireworks regulations and by prosecuting dealers and distributors who manufacture and sell illegal explosives.

As a part of its fireworks enforcement program, CPSC actively works with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Through undercover buys, online purchases, inspections and investigations, CPSC and ATF are tracking down and closing illegal roadside stands, warehouses and retail stores that sell professional grade explosives to consumers, and homes that serve as havens for the manufacture of dangerous fireworks devices. CPSC also works with the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs & Border Protection to prevent millions of hazardous and illegal fireworks from entering U.S. ports and reaching consumers. For example, since 1988, CPSC and the Bureau of Customs & Border Protection have seized or detained nearly 460 million hazardous fireworks at docks across the country. The investigative work conducted by CPSC and ATF has led to dozens of successful prosecutions by the Justice Department’s Office of Consumer Litigation and U.S. Attorney’s offices across the country.

CPSC recommends following these fireworks safety tips:

•    Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
•    Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
•    Adults should always supervise fireworks activities.
•    Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
•    Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
•    Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
•    Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.
•    Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.”

Once again, we wish everyone a safe and happy 4th of July and hope that all parents and those caring for children on this holiday follow the warnings and advice in the CPSC bulletin.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) INDEPENDENT REVIEW BOARD SEES CANCER RISK ASSOCIATED WITH TEFLON MANUFACTURING CHEMICAL AS BEING MORE SERIOUS THAN INDICATED IN EARLIER EPA REPORT

Earlier this year, the EPA released a draft assessment of a chemical used in the production of Teflon which, based on animal studies, found “suggestive evidence” that the substance may be a human carcinogen.
For the past two years, there has been a growing concern over the safety of the manmade chemical known as C-8 or PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) which can be found in everything from bread to birds, green beans to ground beef, dolphins to drinking water, and in the blood of up to 96% of the population of the United States.

The acid is used to manufacture Teflon coating for cookware and hundreds of other products like telephone cables, carpets, clothing, computer chips, chemical piping, and automobile fuel systems. Since there are no known “natural” sources of C-8, scientists are curious as to how the chemical enters the environment. C-8 has also contaminated the groundwater in areas where Teflon is manufactured.  

DuPont, which pioneered the development of PFOA and continues to dominate its use, claims that the chemical is harmless to humans. It also disputes that C-8 is released during normal cooking (as opposed to overheating).
Others are not so sure that either assertion is true. Studies have concluded that C-8 is one of several toxic gases released by Teflon when it is heated to temperatures which, at their low end, are only slightly above normal cooking temperatures.

C-8 has been shown to cause tumors in rats and fumes from Teflon coated cookware can cause what is known as “polymer fume fever,” a condition which has been shown to kill birds even at low temperatures but which DuPont claims is harmless to humans if the cookware is used at a temperature of up to 500F. When Teflon is overheated (above 700F), fatal cases of polymer fume fever in humans have occurred (at 842F).
In 2005, however, the Environmental Protection Agency stated that tests on laboratory animals linked PFOA to liver, pancreatic, and testicular cancer, reduced birth weight, birth defects, and immune suppression. The EPA also found that elevated cholesterol and triglycerides were a risk of exposure to C-8.

As a result, the EPA stated that low-level exposure to PFOA could pose a “potential risk of developmental and other adverse effects” in humans. DuPont also agreed to pay up to $343 million in settlement of a class action arising out of the contamination of drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia and plans to dramatically decrease the use of PFOA in Teflon coatings by the end of 2006.

In May, the Justice Department has issued grand jury subpoenas seeking documents from DuPont with respect to PFOA and related chemical compounds. The suspicion is that DuPont withheld critical information concerning possible health risks posed by PFOA.

A 1961internal document indicated that DuPont scientists had already warned company executives to avoid human contact with PFOA. DuPont faces more than $300 million in fines if it is found guilty of withholding such information. Even DuPont’s shareholders are now demanding that the company fully disclose all legal and expert fees, media and lobbying expenses related to PFOA.

Dupont is attempting to settle the EPA claim for some $15 million, but no agreement has been finalized.
Now, however, the complexion of the entire issue has changed as a result of a draft report released by an independent EPA scientific advisory board which reviewed the earlier EPA assessment. The new report, which will now be submitted to the EPA, concluded that PFOA (C-8) is “likely” to be a human carcinogen and, as a result, the EPA should conduct cancer risk assessments for a variety of tumors found in rats and mice exposed to it.

This latest finding is seen by environmental advocacy groups as significant since it will increase the pressure on the EPA to conduct human health risk assessments for a variety of cancers as well as potential toxic effects on the human immune system .

EXPERT INDICATES THAT A GROWING NUMBER OF PREADOLESCENT GIRLS NOW ENGAGE IN DIETING AND OTHER BODY-CONSCIOUS BEHAVIORS AND MAY BE AT RISK FOR DEVELOPING SERIOUS EATING DISORDERS

Dr. Terry Bravender, assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and medical director of Duke Eating Disorder Program, sees an alarming trend with respect to the eating habits and concerns about body image in young girls.

In a report by MedicineNet.com, Dr. Bravender stated that girls as young as 7 or 8 are dieting and, according to a recent survey, 40% of 9- and 10-year-olds claim to be on some kind of weight-loss diet.   
 
While Dr. Bravender stated these “body-conscious” behaviors do not mean a child is definitely headed for serious eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia, he saw them as unhealthy and worrisome, and worthy of parental notice.
Fads come and go and a particular diet may only be transient in that it imitates something on TV or at home. However, when a preteen engages in repeat dieting, frequently talks about “fattening” foods, and spends unusually large amounts of time in front of a mirror, this should “set off parental alarm bells.”

Unfortunately, other experts see parents as being part of the problem when they too engage in image-conscious conversations or behavior of their own. “Teenybopper” celebrities who dress provocatively and fashion designers who create age-inappropriate erotic designs just add more fuel to the fire.

Dr. Bravender believes kids should be allowed to be kids and not be pushed to grow up too quickly. Stressful times in a developing child’s life are the most likely points for serious eating disorders to appear. The end of puberty (around 14) and when girls leave high school and enter college are the most stressful.

Developing a healthy respect for food and sensible eating without obsessing about calories are the ways to avoid problems. It is also helpful if parents let their children know that it’s OK to be exactly who you are as a person. It will go a long way to preventing the formation of life-long negative behaviors.  

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