Tuesday Briefing

California’s ban on drivers using handheld cellphones is saving lives, study concludes. The ban, adopted nearly four years ago, found that overall traffic deaths dropped 22 percent, while deaths blamed on drivers using hand-held cellphones were down 47 percent. University of California, Berkeley, researchers examined accidents for two years before and two years after the cellphone restriction took effect in July 2008. The number of deaths among drivers using hand-held phones fell from 100 to 53 during that period, while the number of injuries dropped from 7,720 to 3,862. California’s success was attributed by one authority to its relatively strict enforcement of the cellphone law. The Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News

Big fracking company may be on shaky financial ground. Chesapeake Energy, one of the nation’s biggest users of the controversial drilling technique and a top producer of natural gas, makes more money from real estate deals than from selling gas. But the company depends financially on complex partnerships and lots of debt. One consultant says Chesapeake and its competitors resemble a Ponzi scheme, overhyping the promise of shale gas to recoup their investments. “When you look at the level of debt some of these companies are carrying, and the questionable value of their gas reserves, there is a lot in common with the subprime mortgage market just before it melted down,” he said. Rolling Stone

Survey shows that pilots, train operators are chronically sleepy and make fatigue-related errors. The survey, by the National Sleep Foundation, found that about one in four of the pilots and rail workers reported that sleepiness affects their job performance at least once a week, compared with one in six non-transportation workers. In addition, one out of five of the pilots surveyed said they had made a serious error caused by fatigue. Regulations are set to take effect in December 2013 to curb fatigue among pilots, a problem linked to more than 250 fatalities over the past two decades, including the 2009 crash of a Colgan Air plane near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people. Bloomberg, USA Today

Workplace safety regulators propose $174,600 in fines against Ohio manufacturer. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused Hobart Brothers Co., a manufacturer of welding wire and airplane equipment in Troy, Ohio, of 55 violations. The alleged offenses included failing to provide fall protection for employees working on top of ovens,  training for workers dealing with hazardous energy sources or protective equipment for employees performing electrical work. OSHA said it opened the investigation under the agency’s Site-Specific Targeting program, which focuses on companies with high injury and illness rates. OSHA

Maker of Brazilian Blowout hair-straightening treatment agrees to $4.5 million settlement. The tentative deal, going before a superior court judge in Los Angeles today, would resolve a class-action lawsuit stemming from health complaints about the product. According to a lawyer for the plaintiffs, consumers who contend they were harmed would receive a $35 payment for each treatment, up to three total, and stylists would receive $75 for each bottle they bought. In addition, Brazilian Blowout no longer can be marketed as “formaldehyde free.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which warned the product’s maker last year for mislabeling the product formaldehyde-free, said it continues to investigate the issue. The New York Times

Campbell’s Soup to stop using the chemical BPA in the lining of its cans. The company is joining other marketers in moving away from using the substance, which has been linked in human and animal studies to heart disease, early-onset puberty, behavioral problems, diabetes and breast and prostate cancer. A Campbell’s spokesman didn’t specificy when it will make the change, saying only that the company will switch as soon as “feasible alternatives are available.” The announcement comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepares to decide by the end of this month whether to ban the chemical in all food and beverage packaging. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Report blasts convenience stores for teaming with Big Tobacco to promote smoking. The report, issued by anti-tobacco groups including the American Heart Association, said convenience stores, gas stations and other retailers dominate the marketing of tobacco products. According to the paper, “In exchange for billions of dollars in direct payments, price incentives and other inducements, they have become veritable marketing arms of the tobacco companies.” The report also accuses convenience stores of becoming “front groups for the tobacco industry in fighting higher tobacco taxes and other public policies that reduce tobacco use.” Convenience Store NewsCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Obama administration appeals court ruling against graphic warning labels on cigarette packs. The challenge, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, takes aim at a ruling by a federal judge last week. The judge found that a federal plan requiring tobacco companies to use the graphic labels, which included images of rotting teeth and diseased lungs, was a violation of their free-speech rights. The government planned to require the graphic images by September. It would be the first change in U.S. cigarette warning labels in 25 years. Reuters

Recalls: brake cables for road bikesPrice Chopper Bakery streusel pies

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

Print Print  

Leave a comment