Monday

Toll Rises From Meningitis Linked to Tainted Steroid Injections

Federal authorities say fungal meningitis outbreak has killed seven, sickened at least 84 more. Investigators are trying to home in on the precise source of contamination at the Framingham, Mass., compounding pharmacy tied to the outbreak. The pharmacy made 17,676 potentially tainted steroid injections, which were shipped to 75 clinics in 23 states before being recalled. Authorities gave no estimate of how many cases could emerge. Federal and state health officials have scrambled since last week to find patients who received the tainted methylprednisolone acetate between July and September for back and neck pain. The outbreak has exposed the loose regulations on compounding pharmacies that blend drugs. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg

Authorities previously discovered problems at peanut butter plant blamed for recent salmonella outbreak. Records show that the Food and Drug Administration, during inspections at Sunland Inc.’s New Mexico plant in 2009 and 2010, found “objectionable conditions.” But the findings were classified as not meeting the agency’s threshold for action, and any corrective action by the company was considered voluntary. The FDA has yet to release details on what the objectionable conditions were and why the agency visited the plant twice in two years. Separately, the recall of peanut butter and other products due to the salmonella outbreak, which has 35 reported cases, has expanded to retailers including Costco. The Associated Press, Puget Sound Business Journal

Study points to possible harm from suncreens containing nanoparticles. Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide increasingly are being used in sunscreen lotions to protect against harmful UV rays. To keep the titanium dioxide stable in sunlight, the material is coated with another substance, aluminum hydroxide. But a study published in the Chemical Engineering Journal found that swimming pool chlorine can degrade the protective coating. That, in turn, can lead to the formation of free radicals, particles known to damage DNA, that cause aging and can even lead to cancer. Still, the human health effects from exposure to free radical oxidants that form this way from sunscreen nanoparticles are not known. Environmental Health News

Nearly 28 years after the Bhopal disaster, toxic chemicals still contaminate the site’s groundwater. The explosion at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in the north Indian city of Bhopal released toxic gases that killed between 15,000 and 30,000 people. What’s more, toxic chemicals used to make pesticides have infiltrated the soil long since before the explosion, harming untold numbers of residents. But last month a plan to remove 347 metric tons of waste and incinerate the material in Germany fizzled. The German Agency for International Cooperation said its decision stemmed from the Indian government’s refusal to be responsible if there is an accident in transporting or handling the toxic substances. Le Monde

Energy industry gears up to challenge Hollywood movie about fracking. The film, “Promised Land,” stars Matt Damon as a gas company salesman trying to lease drilling rights in rural Pennsylvania, where fracking has become a widespread technique to release natural gas from shale deposits. The movie won’t open until Dec. 28, but the energy industry already is developing responses that it says could include bombarding film reviewers with scientific studies, distributing leaflets to moviegoers and mounting a “truth-squad” effort on Twitter and Facebook. One company backing the film, Participant Media, specializes in movies about public issues, such as Al Gore’s climate documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” The Wall Street Journal

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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