Tuesday Briefing

Consumer advocates sound alarm about toxic chemical in Tide. The group Women’s Voices for the Earth commissioned tests on 20 cleaning products and found what it described as problematic levels of 1,4 dioxane in Tide Free & Gentle (fragrance free) and Tide Original Scent. Small amounts of 1,4 dioxane, a solvent that federal authorities consider a probable carcinogen, are formed during the manufacturer of detergents and other products. Advocates raised concerns with Procter & Gamble, which makes the laundry detergent brand, but the company says levels of the substance are tiny. Federal authorities have yet to indicate what constitutes a safe level in consumer goods. The New York Times

Public health officials raise concerns about teenagers drinking hand sanitizer. The issue emerged with the disclosure that six teenagers in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley have shown up in emergency rooms in the last few months with alcohol poisoning after drinking the product. Some of the teenagers used salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, making a potent drink that is similar to a shot of hard liquor. “All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager,” said a county public health official. “There is no question that it is dangerous.” With distillation instructions available on the Internet, officials fear the problem easily could spread. Los Angeles Times

Regulators rule that barge captain was illegally fired for telling Coast Guard about engine problems. A whistle-blower investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that St. James Stevedoring Partners of New Orleans dismissed the captain in retaliation for his two disclosures to the Coast Guard. Regulations require riverboat captains to report failed engines to the Coast Guard, and federal law protects the jobs of those who make the disclosures. Under a settlement with OSHA, St. James Stevedoring agreed to clear the captain’s personnel records and to pay $245,000 in wages, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees. OSHA, The Associated Press

Drug company taking legal action in United Kingdom to block use of competitor’s cheaper blindness-fighting remedy. The Swiss company Novartis is calling for a judicial review to prevent its drug, Lucentis, from being replaced by Genentech’s Avastin at state-run hospitals to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. Lucentis costs about $1,130 per shot, versus $97 for Avastin. Novartis says it is calling for the judicial review “as a last resort” because it believes patient safety could be compromised. Although Avastin isn’t officially approved for treating eye conditions, the National Health Service last year decided to let Avastin be used for AMD at four hospitals in southern England. The Associated Press, BBC

Some Fukushima evacuees won’t be able to return for 20 years or more. Radiation levels remain so high in some communities near the site of last year’s disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that many of the roughly 75,000 people who currently are displaced won’t be able to go back to their homes for years. Japan’s current evacuation system allows people to return if radiation levels are under 20 millisieverts a year — a level about 20 times higher than Japan’s ultimate safety limit. But even that level won’t be achieved for more than 20 years in parts of the towns of  Okuma, Futaba and Namie, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono disclosed. The Wall Street Journal

Recalls: Gems pressure detectors/transducers

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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