Friday Briefing

Millions in southern China are warned not to drink water from two rivers after high levels of cadmium are detected. The warning panicked residents of Liuzhou, a city of 3.7 million, which relies heavily on one of the two contaminated rivers for drinking water supplies. A mining company was blamed for discharging the cadmium, which U.S. authorities classify as a probable human carcinogen. The Telegraph, Reuters

Brazilian prosecutor plans to file criminal charges against Chevron Corp. The action anticipated against the oil company and some of its managers adds the threat of prison sentences to an $11 billion civil lawsuit already filed by Brazilian authorities over a November offshore oil spill. The leak, estimated by prosecutors at close to 3,000 barrels, occurred in the Frade oil field off Brazil’s southern coast. Separately, a U.S. appeals court threw out an injunction that Chevron had won to block enforcement of an $18 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador for polluting the Amazon jungle. Reuters, Bloomberg

California investigators discover pharmacists routinely allowing unsafe and potentially lethal prescriptions for nursing home patients. The state’s Department of Public Health found that, in 18 of its 32 nursing home investigations conducted during 2010 and 2011, pharmacists failed to red-flag cases in which residents were inappropriately prescribed powerful antipsychotic medications. Pharmacists also missed situations in which medications were prescribed at questionable levels or in unsafe combinations. The Bay Citizen

Federal overseers raise new concerns about Hanford nuclear waste treatment plant. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board wants more tests to validate designs for the plant, which is meant to contain 56 million gallons of radioactive waste at the former nuclear weapons production complex in Washington state. The concern is that key plant components could fail, crippling the operation before its 30-year mission is completed. USA Today

Commission urges new approach to choosing nuclear waste sites. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, set up in response to the failed proposal to create a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, emphasized securing local consent before moving ahead with plans. It also recommended taking the job of managing nuclear wastes out of the hands of the Energy Department and giving it to a special federally chartered corporation. The New York Times

Too few American getting screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, federal researchers say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said screening rates are particularly low among Asians and Hispanics.  For example, screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for men and women between ages 50 and 75, and the target set by federal authorities was to screen 70.5 percent of that group. The actual overall screening rate, however, was 58.6 percent, and it was just 46.5 percent for Hispanics and 46.9 percent for Asians. WebMD, Forbes

Workplace safety regulators cite two employers for failing to provide protection against possible trench cave-ins. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited construction companies in Ashland, N.H., and Memphis, Tenn. The agency seeks fines that together could amount to $106, 635. In addition, an administrative law judge ordered a Newport, Del., construction company to pay $59,000 in fines for trenching violations. The order resolved litigation by the employer contesting violations stemming from a 2010 inspection. OSHA

Airbus blames manufacturing and design flaws for wing cracks on its A380 superjumbo. An executive with the airplane maker, however, said Airbus will resolve the problem with manufacturing changes, and that it eventually will start using a new alloy. “The A380 is safe to fly,” he said. European aviation authorities ordered inspections on about one-third of the A380 fleet due to cracks discovered in components used to fix the outside of the wing to its ribcage. Reuters, Wired

Recalls: Anytime Deli Turkey & Ham Footlong Sandwiches, Columbia ParCar vehicles

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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