Health Highlights: Dec. 13, 2007

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

Drug-Related Poisonings Boost Some Death Rates

Unintentional drug-related poisonings are the main reason why certain death rates among adults in the United States have started to increase after a long period of decline, says a study in the current Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 1979 and 1999, so-called "injury death rates" in the U.S. declined, but then increased 5.5 percent between 1999 and 2004.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Drug-Related Poisonings Boost Some Death Rates
    • CDC To Test Formaldehyde Levels in Katrina Victims' Trailers
    • FDA Approves Drug for PKU Patients
    • Many Incontinent Adults Suffer in Silence
    • U.S. House Committee Investigating Zetia Trial
    • Bush Again Vetoes Children's Health Insurance Legislation

Death rates for unintentional injury, suicide, and undetermined intent injury increased between 1999 and 2004, while homicide rates remained relatively stable.

Increases in poisoning deaths accounted for 61.9 percent of the increase in unintentional injury, 28 percent of the increase in suicide, 81.2 percent of the increase in underdetermined intent injury, and 55.7 percent of the increase in total injury deaths.

Increases in poisoning deaths are most likely being driven by increases in drug-related poisonings, the study authors said.

Adults ages 45 to 54 had the largest increase (25 percent) in total injury death rates, with an additional 8,000 deaths in 2004. By comparison, adults ages 20 to 29 had an 8 percent increase in total injury death rates. Unintentional poisonings accounted for more than 50 percent of the increase in each group.

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CDC To Test Formaldehyde Levels in Katrina Victims' Trailers

Testing of formaldehyde levels in trailers and mobile homes that provide temporary housing for Hurricane Katrina victims will begin Dec. 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday.

The testing is being done in response to concerns raised by residents and community members. The CDC plans to test air samples from 500 trailers and mobile homes in Louisiana and Mississippi, and a summary of the findings will be released in early 2008. Residents who take part in the testing will be notified of the results for their individual trailers or mobile homes. Formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing of a number of building products.

"We are mindful of the importance of this information to people who have been living in temporary housing for such a long time," Dr. Henry Falk, director of CDC's Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention, said in a prepared statement.

"This is a complex task," he said. "Knowledge about health effects of formaldehyde on long-term residents of temporary housing is limited. Levels we find in these tests will help everyone involved in this process make better informed decisions about what steps to take."

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FDA Approves Drug for PKU Patients

A drug called Kuvan (sapropterin dihydrochloride) has been approved for treatment of a rare genetic disorder called tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4)-responsive phenylketonuria (PKU), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

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