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CPSC Head Says She Won’t Step Aside, Despite Criticism Over Toy Recalls

Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) Chair Nancy Nord said she won’t resign her position, despite calls from several member of Congress that she step down. Nord and her agency have been under fire in recent months after a series of highly publicized toy recalls led to questions about the way the CPSC polices consumer products. Now, some Democrats in Congress want Nord out because of her opposition to recently proposed CPSC reforms.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is just one lawmaker calling for Nord’s resignation. Pelosi recently criticized a letter Nord wrote to Congress in which she voiced her opposition to an overhaul of the CPSC, including proposals that would double the cash-strapped agency’s funding. The proposal would also increase CPSC staff, and improve product testing facilities. Finally, the CPSC would be given more authority to order recalls and fine companies that put dangerous products on the market. In her letter, Nord complained that some aspects of the additional responsibilities placed on the CPSC would be too much of a burden for the agency.

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ConAgra Banquet Pot Pie Salmonella Victims Now Number 272, CDC Says

The ConAgra Banquet Pot Pie Salmonella outbreak has extended to 35 states, where the tainted pot pies have sickened 272 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 65 victims have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths connected to the ConAgra pot pie recall.

The number of Salmonella victims has more than doubled since ConAgra’s Banquet and store brand pot pies were first linked to 139 cases of Salmonella poisoning throughout the country on October 9. That day, ConAgra issued a health alert about the Salmonella pot pie outbreak, warning consumers not to eat any of its 7-ounce store brand or Banquet Pot Pies with the codes “P-9” or “Est 1059” on the package. Despite the health alert, ConAgra did not recall the tainted Banquet pot pies. Instead, ConAgra tried to deflect blame for the Salmonella pot pies by claiming that consumers caused the outbreak by failing to cook the pies properly.

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Topps Ground Beef Recall, E, Coli Outbreak Started with Canadian Beef

The Topps ground beef E. coli outbreak originated with Canadian beef, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced recently. The revelation is sure to raise more questions about meat inspection in the US, as American meat processors are not required by the USDA to test certain types of meat supplied by foreign companies.

More than 21 million pounds of Topps ground beef was recalled in late September after it was linked to an E. coli outbreak that sickened people throughout the US and Canada. At least 40 people in the US became sick from the contaminated Topps ground beef, and the fallout from the E. coli outbreak and subsequent Topps ground beef recall caused the 67-year old meat processing company to go out business.

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Popcorn Workers Lung Victims Granted Big Victory in Manhattan Appeals Court

Popcorn Workers Lung victims involved in a class action lawsuit got some good news from a New York appeals court yesterday. The court ruled that if the former Missouri popcorn plant workers successfully prove their claims that diacetyl exposure caused them to develop Popcorn Workers Lung, each should receive a minimum $50,000 deductible payment from International Flavors and Fragrances, the company that supplied the toxic chemical to the plant.

Diacetyl is used to give microwave popcorn and other snacks a buttery flavor. In 2003 and 2004, the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health found an association between diacetyl exposure and the development of Popcorn Workers Lung among hundreds of workers at six Midwestern popcorn factories. In April, the Centers for Disease Control reported that workers at food flavoring factories, as well as popcorn plants, were at risk for the disease.

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Stand ‘n Seal Dangers Still Ignored by CPSC

Stand ‘n Seal, a do-it-yourself grout sealant sold by Home Depot, has caused serious lung injuries to hundreds of people.   Despite the fact that this dangerous product was recalled in August 2005, many new Stand ‘n Seal injuries were reported long after the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) ordered the recall.   That’s because the company that manufactured Stand ‘n Seal, Roanoke Companies (now known as BRTT), was allowed by the CPSC to market a new version of Stand ‘n Seal.  The CPSC simply took Roanoke’s word that the new Stand ‘n Seal was safe, and even now, a page on the CPSC website states that the Stand ‘n Seal recall only applies to the version of the sealant sold through June 2005.

Yet according to an investigation aired on CNN, the new Stand ‘n Seal was no safer than the old version.   The CNN investigation reported on instances of people becoming ill from Stand ‘n Seal long after the CPSC’s 2005 recall.  In one particular case, a doctor developed “chemical pneumonia’ after using Stand ‘n Seal to finish tile work in his bathroom.   The doctor followed all the directions on the Stand ‘n Seal label, and ventilated the area where he was working.  But a few hours later, he could not breathe and was rushed to the emergency room.  Stand ‘n Seal had damaged 30% of his lungs, and he spent days in intensive care as a result.  Even now, he is unable to walk stairs without difficulty.  According to CNN, the doctor was able to purchase the Stand ‘n Seal that injured him two months after the recall.   What’s more, the particular can of Stand ‘n Seal he purchased was not even included in the CPSC recall.

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Avandia Vote at FDA Kept Secret, Leads to Questions from US Senator

Avandia may have been the subject of a secret vote by a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) panel in which it apparently decided by a one-vote margin to keep the controversial drug on the market. Now, a member of the US Senate wants to know if the report of the 8-7 vote by the FDA’s Drug Safety Oversight Board is accurate, and if so, why the agency has yet to make this vote public.

Avandia has been under intense scrutiny since May when an analysis of 42 clinical trails published by the Cleveland Clinic showed that patients taking the drug had a 43-percent higher risk of having a heart attack. During a congressional hearing earlier this summer, the drug’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, and the FDA have came under fire for an apparent failure to warn the public about the cardiac risks associated with Avandia. Testimony at that hearing revealed that the company and the FDA had known about the heart attack risk as far back as September 2005. In July, the FDA convened a panel to discuss the issues surrounding Avandia’s heart attack risk. The panel voted 20-3 that the drug did in fact raise the chance of heart attacks, yet the panel still voted 22-1 to allow it to remain on the market.

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Gardasil Side Effect Reports Raise Doubts over Efforts to Make Cervical Cancer Vaccine Mandatory

Gardasil, the much-touted vaccine against cervical cancer, has been linked to some very serious side effects. Those reports have called into question efforts in many states to make Gardasil a mandatory vaccination for young girls.

Gardasil was approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2006. At the time of its approval, Merck & Co., the maker of Gardasil, said that clinical trials had proven the vaccine to be between 90-100% effective in preventing the transmission of some strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer. The approval of Gardasil was much hyped, with Merck claiming that it had the potential to eventually eliminate most cervical cancers.

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Anthrax Vaccine Side Effects Disable Many Military Veterans, Yet Very Little Help Is Available

The Anthrax vaccine, a mandatory immunization for many people serving in the US military, has been linked to dozens of serious side effects and adverse reactions. But in spite of this, the Department of Defense still insists that the defective drug is perfectly safe. And even though thousands of veterans have been permanently disabled following reactions to Anthrax vaccine side effects, the US government refuses to classify these injuries as combat related. As a result, many disabled veterans face even greater economic hardship because their already-paltry disability benefits are still subject to income tax.

The US military began requiring many of its uniformed personnel and civilian contractors to receive an Anthrax vaccine in 1998, amid concerns that enemies might use the deadly virus in biological weapons. Since then, well over 1 million people have received the controversial Anthrax vaccine. In 2004, military personnel were given a reprieve from mandatory Anthrax vaccinations when a US court ruled that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had to approve its use. But the FDA did that in short order in 2005, and now the Anthrax vaccine is again a requirement for soldiers and contractors serving in the Middle East, Central Asia and Korea.

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Defective Medtronic Sprint Fidelis Lead Fracture Reports Ignored by Company, FDA for Months Prior to Recall

Medtronic Inc. knew that its Sprint Fidelis Defibrillator Leads were fracturing at higher-than-usual rates for months. Yet, the company appears to have dragged its feet in getting the defective Sprint Fidelis Lead off the market. Medtronic even went so far as to blame physicians for the problems, claiming that they weren’t implanting the defective Sprint Fidelis Lead properly. What’s even worse, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which never required the defective medical device to undergo clinical testing, was oblivious to the increasing reports of Sprint Fidelis Lead problems.

Medtronic suspended sales of the Sprint Fidelis Leads in October, after receiving reports of 5 fatalities linked to lead fractures. A lead is a wire that connects an implantable defibrillator to the heart. When it breaks, the defibrillator can emit a massive and painful shock. And in the worse case scenario, the fractured lead can prevent a defibrillator from sending a necessary, lifesaving shock to the heart. Replacing a lead is not an easy procedure, as the invasive surgery can cause the tissue of the blood vessels and heart to tear. In fact, replacing a defibrillator lead is so risky that patients with Sprint Fidelis Leads are being told to leave the defective components in place unless they fracture.

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Gadolinium Based Contrast Agents Used Off-Label in MRAs Pose Even Greater Risk of Causing NSF than if Used in MRIs

Gadolinium based contrast agents used during MRIs, are known to be associated with the onset of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis/ Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NSF/NSD) in patients with pre-existing kidney disease. But the use of gadolinium in a procedure call Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) could put these patients at an even greater risk of developing NSF/NSD, because these procedures often use far more gadolinium than a typical MRI. The use of gadolinium contrast agents in MRAs is a growing practice, even though the Food Drug Administration (FDA) never approved gadolinium for MRAs.

An MRA is a variation of a traditional MRI that is used to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. In many cases, an MRA can provide information that cannot be obtained from an X-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan. An MRA is often used to detect aneurysms, blood clots or narrowing caused by plaque buildup in the blood vessels leading to the brain, and it is also used to find similar narrowing in the vessels leading to the lungs, kidneys and legs.

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