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Cancer Rates Higher in Night Shift Workers, Leads WHO to List Graveyard Shift as ‘Probable’ Carcinogen

Working the overnight shift has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer.   Though the association may seem a bit far fetched, research has found that men who work the overnight shift have higher rates of prostate cancer, while women have higher rates of breast cancer.   The overnight shift – cancer link is strong enough that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently added the graveyard shift to its list of probable carcinogens.

The night shift – cancer link was first brought to light in 1987, when Richard Stevens, a cancer epidemiologist and professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center, published a paper suggesting the connection.  Stevens speculated that a sudden rise in breast cancer rates in the 1930s was somehow connected to the increased prevalence of night shift work brought on by industrialization.  Most other scientists, however, scoffed at Stevens’ assertions. But over the years, more and more research has pointed to a connection between overnight work and cancer rates.  Also, lab animals that have their light and dark schedules switched have been shown to develop more tumors and die earlier. 

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E. Coli Outbreak from Fresh Spinach Has USDA Mulling New Leafy Green Regulations

The fresh spinach E. coli outbreak that sickened hundreds of people across the country last year has the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) considering changing the way it regulates fresh leafy greens.  If it follows through, the USDA will implement the first-ever federal regulations governing leafy green vegetables.

In September 2006, bagged fresh baby spinach sold by the Dole Food Company was linked to an E. coli outbreak that was blamed for the deaths of three people and illness in 200 others. Health officials traced the source of that E. coli contamination to a cattle ranch adjacent to the California field where the spinach was grown. It is believed that runoff from the ranch that was contaminated with cattle feces made its way into the spinach field.  Since then, several other recalls of E. coli contaminated lettuce and other greens have made headlines.

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Toyota Issues Lexus Recall, as Quality Issues, Lawsuits Mount

Toyota is recalling more than a quarter million cars worldwide, including about 49,000 Lexus models because of defective fuel pipes.  According to Toyota, the defective parts on the recalled vehicles could cause cracks and corrosion and lead to a fuel leak.  The Toyota  recall is just the latest problem for the Japanese automaker in recent months, which has seen its long-held reputation for reliability damaged over mounting quality control issues.

Toyota, once considered to be among the most reliable car makers in the market, has quickly fallen from grace over the past several years.  Last month, Consumer Reports said Toyota “is showing cracks in its armor” and will no longer get automatic recommendations from the magazine for new or redesigned vehicles. It also removed several Toyota vehicles from its recommended list because of quality issues.  While Toyota is poised to overtake General Motors as the world’s biggest automaker by sales as soon as this year, the company recalled 766,000 vehicles in the United States last year, up from 210,000 in 2003.

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Toxic World Trade Center Dust Implicate in Childhood Asthma

World Trade Center dust has caused the same types of health problems for children who were in the vicinity of the Twin Towers when they collapsed as it did for 9/11 rescue workers.  The New York City Health Department just released results of a survey confirming that children exposed to toxic World Trade Center dust are at much higher risk for respiratory problems; in some cases children are twice as likely as their peers to develop asthma.  The survey included 3,100 children enrolled in NY City’s World Trade Center Health Registry and revealed that being caught in the World Trade Center dust cloud immediately following the September 11th attack was the single greatest risk factor for developing respiratory problems.  Half of all children enrolled in the registry developed new or aggravated breathing problems, but those who were caught in the cloud were diagnosed with asthma at double the rate of those who were not.

Created in 2003, the registry tracks physical and mental health problems experienced by downtown residents and workers and Ground Zero rescue and recovery teams; 71,000 people are enrolled in the registry, making it the nation’s largest public health registry.  Despite this, officials acknowledge it captures only a fraction of those who were living or working in lower Manhattan at the time of the attacks or those involved in the recovery effort.

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Quiznos Salmonella Came from Raw Tomatoes

Salmonella at a Quiznos sandwich shop in Rochester, Minnesota that sickened 20 people has been traced to raw tomatoes served at the restaurant.  Larry Edmonson, an epidemiologist with Olmsted County Public Health, said studies showed that tomatoes delivered to the store were contaminated with Salmonella bacteria before they even got to the Quiznos restaurant.

Salmonella bacteria cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 72 hours of exposure. Children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to complications from Salmonella poisoning. In rare cases, extreme instances of Salmonella poisoning can lead to a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, which is associated with chronic arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Salmonella bacteria sicken 40,000 people every year. Although the true number could be much higher, because it is estimated that for every case of Salmonella poisoning reported, two others are unreported.

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Cell Phone – Brain Tumor Link Seen in Research

Cell phone users beware! Over the past several years, research has revealed that there is an increased risk of brain tumors in people who have used cell phones for at least ten years.

Three separate European research groups have been studying the effects of cell phone radiation emission on the brain.  Two studies found a link between brain tumor location and the side of the head where people reported they held their phones.  One study suggested the greatest risk for disease was is in people who began using cell phones prior to age 20.  Two of the studies-one conducted in England and the other in Germany-are part of a larger 13-nation Interphone Study, an effort sanctioned by the World Health Organizations.  These studies found an increased risk of a fatal cancer called glioma in people who had used cell phones 10 years or more.

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Ortho Evra Studies Changed, Withheld By Johnson & Johnson to Hide High Estrogen Levels

Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch studies that proved the contraceptive patch exposed women to dangerously high levels of estrogen where either altered or withheld by Johnson & Johnson before the medication was approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), according to court papers file by lawyers for women suing the patch maker in Ohio.   Johnson & Johnson is being sued by 2,400 women nationwide who claim the defective Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch caused them to suffer strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots in the legs and lungs.

When Ortho Evra was introduced in 2002, Johnson & Johnson touted the once-weekly patch as a convenient alternative to daily oral contraceptive pills. The drug’s original safety label stated that the patch’s health risks were similar to those related to oral contraceptives. But in 2005, the FDA warned that women using Ortho Evra were exposed to approximately 60% more estrogen than those who used oral contraceptive pills. High levels of estrogen can greatly increase the risk of developing blood clots, heart attacks, strokes and other serious injuries. As of November 2005, the FDA had received twenty-one reports of life-threatening blood clots and other ailments associated with the use of Ortho Evra. Then a study was published that showed women using Ortho Evra were twice as likely to suffer blood clots as those taking oral birth control pills. That study prompted the FDA to request a change on the Ortho Evra label to include a stronger safety warning.

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Holiday Decorating Safety Tips from the CPSC

Holiday decorating accidents are a surprisingly frequent occurrence this time of the year, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  According to the Commission, around 10,000 people are seen in emergency rooms every year as the result of burns, falls, shocks and cuts they received in the midst of holiday decorating.   So once again, the CPSC is reminding everyone to stay safe this holiday season by following some simple rules when it’s time for holiday decorating.

The holidays are a time for friends, family, giving and sharing.  Unfortunately, it’s also the time for fires – and not the cozy kind one finds in the fireplace.  Christmas trees are a mainstay in many homes over the holidays.  And while they are beautiful, the CPSC says Christmas trees can easily become fire traps.  According to the Commission, dried out Christmas trees start more than 200 fires each year – some of which are fatal. But there are a few things consumers can do to avoid a Christmas tree tragedy during the holiday season.  Purchasers of artificial trees should only consider products that are labeled “fire resistant”.  The freshest trees are the least combustible, so live Christmas trees should have green needles that are difficult to pull from branches, don’t break when bent and don’t fall off if the tree is tapped on the ground.  The Christmas tree’s bottom should be sticky with resin.  All Christmas trees – live or artificial – should be kept away from fireplaces, radiators and high traffic areas in the home.

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Avandia Heart Attack Controversy Results in Black Box Warning, but Critics Still Want Diabetes Drug Pulled

Avandia, a drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, has been at the center of controversy since being linked to an increased risk of heart attack last May.  An update to the black box warning-today’s strongest drug warning-is now being added to the Avandia label.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised that GlaxoSmithKline, Avandia’s maker, agreed to add the new warning to the existing black box warning.  But, despite the revision, the FDA will not withdraw Avandia from the market, claiming that evidence for increased heart attack is inconclusive and does not appear to be higher in Avandia than other type 2 diabetes treatments.  In the meantime, the FDA asked GlaxoSmithKline to conduct a long-term study comparing Avandia with other type 2 diabetes drugs.  The trial will likely commence in a year; however, full results will not be available until 2014.  Patient advocates and FDA critics consider the black box warning a weak response to Avandia’s safety issues and have requested Avandia be pulled from the market.

Avandia breaks down the body’s resistance to insulin but has long been known to cause fluid retention, a major risk factor for congestive heart failure.  Evidence does not indicate Avandia and other oral anti-diabetes drugs-thiazolidinediones-prevent cardiovascular risk as a result of reducing blood sugar.

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