Tuesday Briefing

High rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis are striking wealthy and poor nations. While London has been dubbed the “tuberculosis capital of Europe,” a recent study documenting new cases of a supposedly “totally drug resistant” TB in India suggests the disease could get a lot worse. Russia, China and South Africa also report large numbers of TB cases. A global alliance of researchers, however, unveiled a plan today to develop a new vaccine that aims to disrupt transmission in hard-hit areas. The group says it represents the first comprehensive effort for them to work together to test possible new vaccines, and to coordinate fund-raising for expensive human trials. Reuters, The Wall Street Journal

Exposure to chemicals may partly explain rising obesity and diabetes in the developed world. An assessment by academic researchers in the U.S. and South Korea of 240 previous studies cited chemicals in pesticides, paint additives, flame retardants, diesel and plastics used to make food containers. The report said that many of the chemicals are endocrine disruptors, which can affect appetite, fat storage and the regulation of sugar. Although some of the chemicals studied have been banned, others, including BPA and phthalates, still are widely used in everyday products. The Independent, The Telegraph

Retailer’s discovery of radioactive tissue boxes illuminates growing global threat of contaminated scrap metal. The discovery of the tainted merchandise at Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc. in January prompted a  recall of the items from 200 stores nationwide, and there were no reports of injury. Still, the incident highlighted the need to take radioactive scrap metal out of circulation, an issue facing world leaders at a nuclear security meeting in Seoul next week. Authorities say abandoned medical scanners, food-processing devices or mining equipment containing radioactive metals sometimes are picked up by scrap collectors, sold to recyclers and melted down by foundries. Bloomberg

Verizon accused of 10 safety violations in electrocution death of technician. The employee, Douglas Lalima, 37, was killed in September as he stood in an aerial bucket trying to attach steel suspension strands to a utility pole in Brooklyn, N.Y. He accidentally brushed against a power line and burst into flames. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the victim wasn’t wearing insulated gloves and, despite being a 15-year company veteran, hadn’t received proper safety training. Verizon was cited for similar violations in 2007 after a worker died in Providence, R.I. OSHA is proposing $140,700 in fines. The company disputed the findings and vowed to appeal. The Wall Street Journal, OSHA

Safety regulators propose $167,580 in fines in death of New Hampshire construction worker. The U.S. Occupational Safety  and Health Administration also charged The MacMillin Co. of Keene, N.H., with seven safety violations, including three willful offenses, the agency’s most serious charges. The case stems from the death of Steven Sawyer, 58, of Dublin, N.H., who suffered fatal injuries in a 27-foot fall that occurred in September at a Keene middle school when a scaffolding plank he was working on snapped. OSHA accused MacMillin of, among other things, failing to inspect the scaffold for defects or to adequately train workers in building  or inspecting scaffolding. OSHA, The Keene Sentinel

Federal appeals court upholds a law requiring graphic warning labels on cigarette packs. A three-judge appeals panel in Cincinnati found that the requirement is constitutional and did not violate the companies’ freedom of speech. Still, more legal wrangling lies ahead before the federal government can go ahead with plans to force tobacco companies to cover 50 percent of the front and back of every cigarette pack with graphic warning labels. Last month, in a separate legal challenge, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., sided with tobacco companies and blocked the labels, ruling that they violate constitutionally protected free speech. Experts say the issue could go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Time, The Associated Press

Recalls: Bon Hiver snowboard findings, Lawson Foods pork shoulder butts

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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