Tuesday Briefing

Children living next to driveways or parking lots coated with coal tar are exposed to higher doses of cancer-causing chemicals, researchers find. The study by scientists from Baylor University and the U.S. Geological Survey points to the hazards of commonly used pavement sealants. It also comes amid efforts by cities in the Midwest, South and East to ban the products’ use on playgrounds and other surfaces. Chicago Tribune

French court finds Monsanto guilty in poisoning of farmer. The court ruled that the U.S. chemical company was responsible for harm caused to grain grower Paul Francois, 47, who suffered from memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004. The farmer accused the company of not providing adequate safety warnings on the product label. Monsanto said it will appeal the verdict. It is the first case of its kind to be tried in France. Reuters, BBC

China’s electric car revolution backfires on the environment. University of Tennessee researchers say China’s more than 100 million electrically powered scooters and cars don’t curb air pollution because the power they rely on comes from dirty coal-fired generating plants. In China, more than 75 percent of the power comes from coal-fired plants, which can emit metals, acids and other pollutants into the air. U.S. News & World Report

Two executives of Swiss conglomerate convicted in asbestos-related deaths of more than 3,000. The defendants — Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Eternit conglomerate, and Louis de Cartier de Marchienne, a Belgium baron — were sentenced by an Italian court to 16 years in prison on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. They were accused of exposing workers at four Italian asbestos cement factories, along with people who lived near the plants,  to asbestos fibers, which can cause deadly diseases such as mesothelioma. The Center for Public Integrity

Massachusetts lawmakers warned of chronic drug shortages. Medical experts told a Massachusetts legislative panel that the shortages are compromising the quality and safety of patient care, and driving up health care costs, by forcing doctors and hospitals to purchase scarce medications at exorbitant markups. Shortages have soared nationally in recent years. Many of the problems are blamed on production deficiencies at U.S. pharmaceutical plants or on decisions by drug companies to focus on more profitable products. The Associated Press

California workplace safety regulators seek nearly $541,000 in fines from three firms involved in fuel explosion.  State authorities cited 28 violations by Realm Catalyst Inc., Rainbow of Hope Foundation and Strategic Sciences Inc., which shared a building in the Sylmar section of Los Angeles. Their alternative fuels operation was the site of an August blast that critically injured two people. State regulators said the companies failed to correct hazardous conditions blamed in two previous explosions, including a 2010 blast that killed one of the owners’ sons. Los Angeles Daily News, Cal/OSHA

Automakers urge Senate to reject higher fines for moving too slowly on recalls. The Senate is expected to debate this week legislation that would overhaul the nation’s auto safety laws and boost maximum fines for companies that violate recall requirements from the current $17 million to $250 million. In a letter to Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate, a coalition of auto industry groups said the proposed increases in penalties “appear unfairly punitive.”  The Detroit News

Federal regulators investigate fires in driver side doors of 2006 and 2007 Chevy TrailBlazers. The announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came only days after the agency disclosed a probe into into similar problems with the 2007 Toyota Camry sedan and RAV4 small crossover SUV. In both investigations, the problem is thought to be associated with power window switches or related electrical parts. NHTSA has received 12 complaints of smoke or fires in TrailBlazers, but no injuries have been reported. The Associated Press, Consumer Reports

Recalls: Subaru Outback and Legacy

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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