Wednesday Briefing

Federal bill delaying deadline for rail safety systems introduced. The extension would give railroads at least five more years, until 2020, to install systems known as Positive Train Control, or PTC. They are designed to prevent crashes caused by human error. The delay was included in a bill introduced by John L. Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation  Committee. As FairWarning reported last month, railroad companies have pushed to scale back and delay PTC, which was mandated by Congress in 2008 after a Chatsworth, Calif., train wreck killed 25 people. Progressive Railroading

Texas rule requires drillers to disclose fracking chemicals. The requirement, which takes effect today, is intended to address concern about the potential environmental harm from fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into rocky formations at high pressure to release oil and gas. Energy companies also are required to indicate how much water they use.  Separately, legal experts say they expect mounting numbers of lawsuits claiming that fracking is tainting water supplies. Houston Chronicle, Bloomberg

Food and Drug Administration secretly monitored personal email of a group of its own scientists and doctors. The FDA took the action, government documents show, after the six scientists and doctors warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that they believed posed unacceptable risks to patients. The six have filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the agency, alleging that they were subjected to retaliatory dismissals or harassment. The Washington Post

Salami maker settles federal charges over two leaks of poisonous gas. Columbus Manufacturing will pay a $685,446 penalty and spend about $6 million on a new refrigeration unit as a result of two anhydrous ammonia leaks in 2009 at its South San Francisco meat plant. One of the leaks prompted an evacuation of the company and neighboring businesses, and left 17 people hospitalized. San Mateo County Times, Environmental Protection Agency

Breast cancer patients undergoing unnecessary second operations. A new study found that nearly half of the women who get lumpectomies, the most common operation for breast cancer, later have second surgeries that they may not need. The problem is that doctors have failed to come up with guidelines for what should be done when pathology reports indicate that the first operation may have left behind some cancer cells. The New York Times, The Journal of the American Medical Association

U.S. regulators will require 96 nuclear plants to conduct seismic studies. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials are concerned that plants in central and eastern states face previously unrecognized threats from potentially big earthquakes. The new assessments are being spurred by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan last March and led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The Wall Street Journal, Reuters

Safety officials will step up scrutiny of surface mines. The head of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, Joe Main, unveiled plans to emphasize 14 safety standards to reduce deaths and injuries, including 11 that would focus on surface mining for metals and other minerals. Last year 23 workers died in surface mines, versus 14 in underground mines. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, MSHA

More than 1 million condoms recalled in South Africa. The condoms were given away at this month’s 100th anniversary celebrations for the African National Congress. But complaints emerged of the items having leaks or breaking during intercourse. An AIDS activist said some of the reports came from people infected with the AIDS virus who were worried about the potential health threats to their sexual partners. In South Africa, more than 5.6 million people live with AIDS, more than any other country. The Guardian

Pfizer recalls 1 million packets of birth control pills. The company said it discovered packaging errors that could leave women with  inadequate doses and raise the risk that they will get pregnant accidentally. The problem affects 14 lots of Lo/Ovral-28 tablets and 14 lots of generic Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol tablets. The Associated Press

More recalls: Container Store power strips, Bin-Bin rice crackers, Renastart powerdered food, peanut butter candy

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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One comment to “Wednesday Briefing”

  1. Jan Coggeshall

    Re recent story on motorcycle helmets, why doesn’t someone do a study on the public costs of treating head injuries from motorcycle riders who do not wear helmts, in one or two states …as most injuries are not totally covered by private insurance. Head injuries are most expensive, from injury to recovery and rehab, paid by the public because of the refusal to wear a helmet. That might get some attention in some states.

    I would think a few hospitals might cooperate with generic names, case 1 etc. and list the cost and what part the taxpayer ultimately paid, perhaps by the state funds. It might add up to enough to force folks to wear helmets. Like seatbelts.

    ie..in 12 accidents, $10,000 was paid by private insurance and $100,000 paid by public funds etc.

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