Top 5 Health Stories of 2011

Medical miracles and nuclear meltdowns among the list of top health stories.

ByABC News
December 19, 2011, 2:21 PM

Dec. 19, 2011— -- This year's stories that made medical headlines can be best described as miracles and meltdowns. What topped 2011's health news was the physical struggle and triumph of one congresswoman as she worked to regain her strength and stamina after she'd been shot in the head, and the psychological struggle of people looking to regain a new sense of national and religious identity after the collapse of some of the world's most ruthless leaders.

Here are the top medical stories reported over this year:

Consumer Confusion: Arsenic in Apple Juice

In less than 24 hours last September, apple juice went from a subject few parents worried about to a source of great anxiety after Dr. Mehmet Oz's comments on "The Dr. Oz Show" regarding the arsenic content in the juice

According to the "Dr. Oz Show's" website, a laboratory tested "three dozen samples from five different brands of apple juice across three American cities" and compared the levels of arsenic to the limits of arsenic for drinking water set by the Environmental Protection Agency. It found 10 samples of juice with arsenic levels higher than the limits for water.

"I don't have any concerns about it in the short run," Oz said. "And the levels that we have detected in the samples that we have looked at are not high enough to make me concerned about short-term issues. My bigger concern is over the next decade or next generation, especially as children grow."

But the claims were not well received by many in the scientific community, including ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. In a spirited showdown hours earlier on "Good Morning America," Besser confronted Oz on what he called "extremely irresponsible" statements.

"Mehmet, I'm very upset about this. I think that this was extremely irresponsible," Besser said. "It reminds me of yelling fire in a movie theater."

"I'm not fear-mongering," Oz responded. "We did our homework on this risk."

In November, Oz's claims proved to hold water. An independent investigation by Consumer Reports into trace amounts of arsenic found in bottled juice prompted Consumers Union, an advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lower its standards for arsenic levels in juice drinks.

The results of the study, which tested 88 samples of grape and apple juice, found that 10 percent of juices tested had total arsenic levels greater than the Food and Drug Administration's standard for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb), while 25 percent of juices also had lead levels higher than the FDA's bottled water limit of 5 ppb.

Most of the arsenic detected in Consumer Reports' tests was a type known as inorganic, which is considered to be a human carcinogen.

Although federal standards exist for arsenic and lead levels allowed in bottled and drinking water, there are no limits defined for fruit juices.

"Back in September the FDA made a number of statements that reassured me. I'm much less reassured now. They published the test online, but withheld eight results that were very high," Besser said as part of an apology to Oz on "World News."

The testing and analysis led Consumers Union to urge the federal government to establish a standard of 3 ppb for total arsenic and 5 ppb for lead in juice.

Following the report, Besser told "Good Morning America" that parents should limit their children's juice consumption to no more than four to six ounces per day for children under age 7, and no more than 8 to 12 ounces for children older than age 7. Children younger than 6 months should not drink juice at all, Besser said.

Besser also recommended that the FDA do additional testing of juices.

Medical Miracle: Gabrielle Giffords