Tuesday Briefing

Safety consulting firm alleges regulators withheld evidence of unintended acceleration in Toyota Prius. Safety Research & Strategies is suing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, saying it illegally concealed information about a case in which agency engineers witnessed, and videotaped, a Prius going into sudden acceleration. NHTSA has closed its Toyota investigation, saying there was no “conclusive evidence” of an electronic defect causing unintended acceleration. But some safety experts say the evidence in the cars of “tin whiskers” —  strands of tin that can conduct electricity and cause malfunctions — warrant more investigation. Safety Research & Strategies, Huffington Post, Newsome Blog

Dangerous levels of mercury found in wildlife. A study by the nonprofit Biodiversity Research Institute detected large amounts of mercury in several Northeastern bird species, including rusty blackbirds, saltmarsh sparrows and wood thrushes. The study’s author called rules adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency last month to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants “an excellent step forward in reducing and minimizing the impact.” The New York Times, Biodiversity Research Institute

Safety inspectors intercept influx of hazardous toys. At the Port of Houston alone, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission officials seized 25,000 toys in 2010 and 2011. Most of the problem products had lead paint or were considered choking hazards. Houston Chronicle

Japanese official admits that no records were kept of emergency response discussions after nuclear plant disaster. Trade Minister Yukio Edano apologized for the failure to document decision-making in the days last March immediately after the Fukushima Daiichi crisis, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The revelation came amid heightened concerns about earthquake safety, prompted by a study forecasting a 70 percent chance of a major quake hitting Tokyo within the next four years. Reuters, The Telegraph

More than half of Chicago’s older residential high-rises have failed to take action to meet tougher fire standards adopted in 2004, an analysis shows. A fire that killed a high-rise resident this month brought renewed attention to delays in implementing the revised fire standards. Separately, a fire last weekend that took the lives of three students at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., highlighted long-running concerns about hazards common in student housing. Chicago Tribune, The Journal News (White Plains, N.Y.)

Northwest Wisconsin slaughterhouse accident that cut off a worker’s arm leads to $318,000 in proposed fines. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking the penalties against the Barron, Wis., plant of Jennie-O Turkey Store, a unit of Hormel Foods. OSHA cited the plant for four willful violations and seven serious violations in connection with the July accident in which the worker’s arm became caught in production equipment.  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, OSHA

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down California anti-animal cruelty law. Sponsored by the Humane Society, the 2008 state law was passed to prevent sick or wobbly pigs and other livestock from being sent to slaughterhouses after an undercover video showed slaughterhouse workers dragging and bulldozing cows into pens. But in a 9-0 decision, the justices ruled that California was not free to adopt slaughterhouse rules that differed from federal regulations. The ruling was a victory for the National Meat Assn., which represents pork producers. Los Angeles Times, CNN

Hewlett-Packard to pay $425,000 to settle civil charges of failing to disclose defects in lithium-ion battery packs. The agreement with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission resolves allegations that the company knowingly sold laptops with hazardous batteries that could overheat or catch fire. According to the CPSC, Hewlett-Packard had learned of about 22 incidents involving the batteries by September 2007, but it failed to report the problem until 10 months later. Eventually, 32,000 of the company’s battery packs were recalled. PCWorld, CPSC

Recalls: Insulated lunch boxes and food carriers, Jones Mock Salt, Lee Carter Co. infant rattles, Super Luchamania Action Figures

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein


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