Thursday Briefing

Unlabeled chemicals abound in household and personal care products. Researchers found 55 chemicals associated with either endocrine disruption or asthma in their testing of 213 commercial products, including many supposed “green” items. Silent Spring Institute, which funded the study, emphasized the high content of the chemicals in vinyl products such as shower curtains and pillow protectors, fragranced products including air fresheners and sunscreens, along with alternative cleaners, detergents and personal care products. Forbes, Environmental Health Perspectives

West Virginia mine safety legislation riddled with flaws. The legislation, passed by state lawmakers and heading to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for signing, stems from the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 workers at the Upper Big Branch mine. But it contains language that could leave portions of important mine safety investigations confidential and shielded from public scrutiny, calls for measures that already are in effect and waters down previously proposed requirements and penalties. The Charleston Gazette, The Herald Dispatch

Chemicals known to be included in fracking fluids listed. Although environmentalists have failed so far in their efforts to prod federal authorities to compel energy companies to report what chemicals they use in their drilling and fracking processes, many of the substances have been revealed. They include chemicals that are carcinogenic or that pose other serious health risks, including crystalline silica, naphthalene, formaldehyde, benzene and lead. ProPublica

Coca-Cola tweaking caramel coloring to avoid cancer warning label. The problem for Coke and other soft drink makers began last year when California added the compound 4-methylimidazole, also known as 4-MI or 4-MEI, to its list of known carcinogens. The coloring that gives Coke its brown hue contained levels of 4-MI that would have warranted a cancer warning label on every can sold in the state. In addition, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has called on federal authorities to ban such caramel colorings. Coca-Cola says the product is safe, but it has asked its caramel suppliers “to make the necessary manufacturing process modifications to meet the requirement of the State of California.” NPR

Kitchen appliances are top source of complaints in the government’s product safety database. Appliances accounted for one-third of the more than 6,500 reports that have been filed with, a database created nearly a year ago where people can submit reports, for public view, about problems with household products. Other top complaint categories include nursery equipment, toys, footwear and home climate-control systems. Consumer advocates say the database brings transparency to product safety, but critics complain that bogus information could needlessly frighten consumers and hurt sales of perfectly safe items. The Associated Press

U.S. Surgeon General calls numbers of teens and young adults who smoke “shocking.”  In the first surgeon general’s report on youth tobacco use since 1994, figures show that nearly one in four high school seniors, and one in three young adults under age 26, smoke despite a half-century of federal warnings about tobacco. The report says the tobacco industry’s $10 billion in annual marketing, some of it in promotions to reduce prices, encourages young people to begin and continue their tobacco use. USA Today

Federal government buying “pink slime” beef for school cafeterias. Fast-food giants McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell recently have said they will stop using beef trimmings treated with ammonia hydroxide, a food dubbed “pink slime” by a former Agriculture Department scientist. But the agency stands by the food, and plans to buy 7 million pounds in coming weeks for the National School Lunch Program. The USDA said all of its ground beef purchases “meet the highest standard for food safety.” The food is made by grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally used in products such as dog food, and then it is chemically treated to kill pathogens. The resulting substance is blended into ground beef. The Daily, Mother Jones

Workplace safety regulators propose $469,420 in fines against Texas steel company. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused a JW Steel plant in Baytown, Texas of 36 violations. They included 11 repeat violations, such as failing to provide covers for open pits and floor holes or guards for rotating machine parts. OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates follow-up inspections of “recalcitrant employers” to ensure that they comply with the law. OSHA

Recalls and warnings: Toyota Camry and Venza cars and Tacoma pickup trucks, Umbro Boys’ outerwear jackets, Lenovo ThinkCentre M70z and M90z desktop computersRx Locker containers, Meijer stores items resold by discounters, mercury-tainted cosmetics

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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