Wednesday Briefing

Drug used to keep pigs lean and boost growth jeopardizes the nation’s pork exports. The drug, ractopamine hydrochloride, is fed to pigs and other animals right up until slaughter. The European Union, China, Taiwan and other nations, however, have banned its use, citing concerns about its potential effect on human health. It also is controversial because it often sickens or kills livestock, an investigation of Food and Drug Administration records shows. Food and Environment Reporting Network

Nebraska fertilizer producer cited for 25 workplace safety violations. Most of the charges by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Loveland Products in Fairbury, Neb., involved the company’s handling of highly hazardous chemicals. The agency is seeking fines of up to $148,000. OSHA, Lincoln Journal Star

Global fish stocks are being depleted due to international rivalries, corruption and mismanagement. The problems are illustrated by the declining stock in the South Pacific of the jack mackerel, a food staple in Africa and a common feed elsewhere. Delegates from at least 20 countries will meet in Chile next week to seek solutions. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Former Boston-area dentist pleads guilty to Medicaid fraud charges involving substituting paper clips for stainless steel posts in root canals. The dentist, Michael Clair, will be sentenced next week. He billed Medicaid for the cost of standard root-canal posts while leaving the paper clips in patients as a permanent fix. Clair also pleaded guilty to illegally prescribing powerful pain killers such as Hydrocodone and Percocet. Reuters

U.S. senator fires off letter to 34 states asking how they are cracking down on physicians who prescribe too many potentially dangerous drugs. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, is focusing on doctors who prescribe lots of antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers to Medicaid patients. “These types of drugs have addictive properties, and the potential for fraud and abuse by prescribers and patients is extremely high,” Grassley wrote. ProPublica

First significant oil slick from Costa Concordia cruise ship is reported. Italian officials said absorbent booms were trapping the contamination from the craft, described as a “very thin film,” off the Tuscan coast. UNESCO officials called on the Italian government to ban cruise ships from passing too close to shore. The bodies of 16 victims have been recovered, and more than 20 people remain missing. The New York Times, Bloomberg

Children living near DuPont plant in West Virginia show much higher blood concentrations of industrial chemical. A study found that kids under 5 had 44 percent more perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA, than their moms. The study was by a court-approved panel of scientists trying to determine whether the chemical is making people sick in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Scientists say fetuses, infants and young children are the most vulnerable to the effects of chemicals such as PFOA  because they might interfere with development of brains, reproductive tracts, immune systems and hormones. Environmental Health NewsEnvironmental Health Perspectives

West Virginia study finds no evidence of widespread groundwater pollution in a coal-mining community. A consulting firm hired by the state tested 33 wells in the Prenter area, where residents say coal-slurry injections underground have poisoned their drinking water. Officials said the worst cases they found were two wells, neither currently used for drinking water, with elevated sulfate, iron, manganese and aluminum. The levels, however, did not exceed government standards. The Charleston Gazette, The Associated Press

Efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants languish. Although the Obama administration has moved ahead on cutting mercury and other air pollution from coal-fired generators, it has hesitated to regulate heat-trapping gas emissions from existing power plants. However, the administration is expected within the coming weeks to propose greenhouse gas standards for future power plants. Politico

Recalls: Toyo Extensa tires, Blount lawnmower replacement blades, bicycle handlebars

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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