Health Highlights: Dec. 15, 2007

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

CDC Cancels Bids for National Medical Processing Center for Ground Zero Workers

A national plan to provide medical assistance workers from outside the New York metropolitan area who came to assist in The World Trade Center cleanup immediately after its destruction in 2001 has been put on hold, the New York Times reports.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had requested bids to establish a business processing center to administer medical claims at clinics across the country from workers who were experiencing after-effects, especially respiratory problems.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • CDC Cancels Bids for National Medical Processing Center for Ground Zero Workers
    • New Human Bird Flu Cases Reported in Asia
    • Recalled Valucraft Booster Cables Pose Shock Hazard
    • More Blood Contaminants Found in People with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Study
    • Minnesota Bans Mercury in Cosmetics
    • FDA to Issue New Guidelines for Drug-Coated Stents

But late in the day on Dec. 13, the CDC cancelled the bidding process, saying that those interested in giving a proposal seemed confused about the requirements for obtaining the government contract, the Times reports.

This latest snag in systematizing medical relief for the thousands of people who came to ground zero from outside new York City after Sep. 11 2001, was "a sign of continued confusion and lack of commitment to this program within this administration," the newspaper quotes Dr. James M. Melius, chairman of the steering committee for the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, as saying.

The national business center was to help in recruiting doctors to treat those who had medical problems resulting from working at ground zero and to standardize reimbursement. Melius told the Times the national program also would administer a centralized pharmaceutical benefits plan designed to save money over separate prescription plans.

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New Human Bird Flu Cases Reported in Asia

The avian flu that health officials worry may still cause a worldwide pandemic has surfaced again in Asia, claiming more human victims, the Associated Press reports.

While there is still no evidence that the H5N1 flu virus has mutated to allow human-to-human transmission, people who raise fowl or are constantly around birds continue to be vulnerable.

Indonesia Friday announced its 93rd human death this year, out of 115 people infected with avian flu, the wire service said.

And the first human case of bird flu case in Myanmar was reported by the World Health organization, the A.P. said. The 7-year-old girl, who became ill in late November, has recovered.

In the eastern Nanjing province of China, a father and son became ill earlier this month. The son, 24, has died, the wire service said, becoming Chinas 17th bird flu victim.

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Recalled Valucraft Booster Cables Pose Shock Hazard

About 140,00 Valucraft car booster cables are being recalled because the clamps were assembled incorrectly, resulting in reverse polarity. This poses electrical shock and explosion hazards, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

The Chinese-made cables were sold for between $12 and $20 at AutoZone stores across the United States and on AutoZone's Web site from June 2007 through October 2007.

valucraft recall

AutoZone Parts Inc., of Memphis Tenn., has received four reports of incidents of reverse polarity that led to minor property damage.

The recall includes Valucraft eight-gauge and 10-gauge booster cables, which are orange and have "8GA" or "10GA" printed on them. Consumers should stop using these cables and return them to any AutoZone store for a full refund or a free replacement.

For more information, contact AutoZone at 1-800-230-9786.

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More Blood Contaminants Found in People with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Study

People with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma have higher levels of environmental contaminants, such as PCBs and organochlorine pesticides, in their blood than people without the disease, a Canadian study found. This suggests that the chemicals may be a factor in the disease, the study authors said.

B.C. Cancer Agency researchers collected blood samples from 900 residents of British Columbia, including 422 people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, CTV News reported.

Compared to those without the disease, the cancer patients had higher levels of almost every chemical tested for in the study. People with the greatest exposure to PCBs were twice as likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma than those with the least exposure.

The findings will appear in the International Journal of Cancer.

"We know that the incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been steadily rising for the past 30 years worldwide, but there hasn't been clear evidence to explain the increase," lead author John Spinelli, a senior scientist at the B.C. Cancer Agency, told CTV News.

"Our study helps to provide answers to this puzzle by showing a strong link between these specific environmental contaminants and this particular type of cancer," he said.

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Minnesota Bans Mercury in Cosmetics

A new Minnesota law banning mercury in mascara, eye liner and skin-lightening creams takes effect on Jan. 1, making Minnesota the first state to forbid intentionally added mercury in cosmetics. The new law means the state will have a tougher standard than the federal government, the Associated Press reported.

While most makeup manufacturers have stopped using mercury, it's still added to some eye products as a preservative and germ killer, an industry association spokesman told the wire service.

"Mercury does cause neurological damage to people even in tiny quantities. Every source of mercury adds to it. We wanted to make sure it wasn't (in cosmetics)," said state Sen. John Marty, the Democrat who sponsored the ban, the AP reported.

Under the new law, retailers who knowingly sell mercury containing cosmetics could be fined as much as $700, while manufacturers who fail to disclose mercury on product labels could be fined as much as $10,000.

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FDA to Issue New Guidelines for Drug-Coated Stents

New testing requirements for drug-coated stents will be issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the next few weeks, according to Daniel Schultz, director of the agency's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Stents are used to prop open arteries that have been cleared of blockages.

The revised rules were created in response to concerns among some experts that drug-coated stents may cause serious complications, including increased risk of blood clots years after implantation of the stents.

The new FDA guidelines for coated stents are expected to be more stringent than current rules, the Wall Street Journal reported. They'll likely specify the numbers of patients on whom new stents can be tested and for how long, and may offer a recommended length of time that patients should take an anti-clotting drug after receiving a drug-coated stent.

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