Health Highlights: June 11, 2008

Hong Kong has begun culling all chickens in its markets and retail outlets after finding the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu among fowl in a total of seven markets, the Bloomberg news service reported Wednesday.

The outbreak was first detected at four markets last week, and the virus has since been found at three additional markets. Poultry imports from mainland China were suspended on June 7.

Some 3,500 chickens were to be slaughtered at about 470 locations, Bloomberg reported. Additional testing at bird farms will determine if more culls are needed, the government said.

So far, it has been difficult for the virus to pass between fowl and people, but experts have long feared that the germ would mutate and spark a human flu pandemic.


Kids' Pajamas Recalled for Excessive Lead

Some 28,000 sets of camouflage child pajamas are being recalled because the screen print on the shirt contains excessive lead, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

Made in Vietnam, the pajamas were sold at The Children's Place retail stores nationwide between December 2006 and January 2008. They also were sold on the retailer's Web site during the same period for $15 to $17.

No injuries have been reported. Consumers should immediately take the pajamas away from children and return them to any The Children's Place store for a full refund.

recalled pajamas

For more information, contact the retailer at 877-752-2387.


Bottles With Bisphenol A Safe: FDA Official

Plastic baby bottles and water bottles made with a chemical called bisphenol A are safe, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official.

While small amounts of bisphenol A can be released as plastics break down, the levels of exposure is safe, Dr. Norris Alderson, the FDA's associate commissioner for science, said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

"Although our review is ongoing, there's no reason to recommend consumers stop using products with (bisphenol A)," Alderson told a House subcommittee.

The chemical has come under intense scrutiny. In a recent draft report, the U.S. National Toxicology Program said animal studies suggest bisphenol A may cause changes in behavior and the brain, and reduce birth weight and survival in fetuses, the AP reported.

The Canadian government plans to ban bisphenol A in baby bottles, and proposed U.S. legislation would ban the chemical in children's products.


Chemical Changes May Identify Defects That Lead to Cancer

Subtle changes in cell chemicals may help identify people at risk for cancer before they actually develop the disease, according to researchers at the U.K. Institute of Food Research.

They detected these changes in apparently normal cells taken from the intestines of bowel cancer patients, BBC News reported.

"We looked at changes in 18 genes that play a role in the very earliest stages of colorectal cancer and detected clear chemical differences in these genes in otherwise normal tissue in cancer patients," said lead researcher Professor Ian Johnson. "This represents a new way to identify defects that could eventually lead to cancer."

The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer.

While this is an interesting finding, it requires much more research, Henry Scowcroft, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, told BBC News. He noted the chemical changes detected in the normal cells could occur in response to already having cancer or to cancer treatment.


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