Wednesday Briefing

New campaign urges doctors to perform fewer medical tests on patients. The campaign, backed by an array of doctor specialty societies and called “Choosing Wisely,” comes amid intense pressure to rein in growing health-care costs. The 45 tests or practices that the campaign wants to curb include most repeat colonoscopies within 10 years of a first such test, early imaging for most back pain, brain scans for patients who fainted but didn’t have seizures and antibiotics for mild- to-moderate sinus distress. “We’re not saying they should never be done, we’re saying these are often unnecessary, and therefore the patients should ask the doctor, ‘Gee, do I need this?’” said a leader of the campaign. The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press

Brazilian prosecutor files second lawsuit against Chevron and Transocean. The new suit, the federal prosecutor’s second civil case against the energy companies in less than five months, brings to nearly $22 billion the amount of  damages sought. The latest case is related to the escape discovered last month of a single barrel of oil in Chevron’s offshore Frade field northeast of Rio de Janeiro. The first suit, brought in November, stemmed from an estimated 3,000-barrel spill in the Frade field. Even one of the nation’s leading environmentalists called the damages being sought “irresponsible” and, if applied to all companies working in the country, could lead to the shutdown of Brazil’s oil industry. Reuters, Bloomberg

Researchers find that flame retardants can create deadlier fires. Scientists led by Anna Stec of the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom focused on the hazards of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants added to upholstered furniture, children’s car seats and other consumer items. Although they may stop the spread of flames, the chemicals, when they burn, release emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, which are responsible for 60 percent to 80 percent of fire deaths. Much of the nation’s furniture is manufactured with flame retardants to meet a California standard calling for furniture foam to withstand a 12-second exposure to a small, open flame. Environmental Health News

Emergence of “Big Chicken” farms poses environmental threats. Chicken that once came from small, family farms is now produced by networks of huge chicken-growing complexes and sprawling processing plants. But with the growth has come concern over how concentrating the operations could increase  pollution, including the millions of gallons of wastewater released by processing plants into streams and creeks. In Texas, the nation’s sixth-biggest poultry producer, environmental advocates have found that poultry processors are among the biggest water polluters. StateImpact Texas

Regulators uncover new batch of counterfeit cancer drug. The bogus medications discovered by the Food and Drug Administration apparently were being distributed by a different network from the one connected to an earlier fake supply of the same cancer drug, Avastin. The new batch of contraband was packaged in boxes labeled as Altuzan, the brand name for Avastin in Turkey. The FDA warned doctors and hospitals to avoid using the unapproved products. Avastin,  made by the Genentech unit of the Swiss company Roche, is used to treat patients with colon, lung and other cancers. The Wall Street Journal, Reuters

Government watchdog faults Canada’s air safety system. An auditor general’s report found that, among airlines, large airports and other aviation entities required to be inspected annually, only 67 percent actually were examined in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Canada’s safety record has been good in recent years, and the last serious accident occurred last August when a First Air jet crashed in the northern Arctic, killing 12 people. Yet the auditor general, citing a forecast that the current volume of air traffic in North America will more than double by 2025, warned that more accidents could occur if improvements aren’t made. Postmedia News, Reuters

Central California county notorious for its pesticide-tainted wells doesn’t disclose one of its worst water contaminants. For years, Fresno County has been No. 1 on a California list that you won’t find at the Chamber of Commerce — pesticide detections in water wells. On the latest list, the county had more than one-third of the state’s 286 detections. But the county doesn’t report discoveries of TCP, more formally known as 1,2,3-trichloropropane, perhaps the region’s most dangerous water contaminant. That’s because state authorities don’t officially consider the chemical a pesticide even though it’s a toxic leftover from a fumigant used decades ago to kill tiny worms. The Fresno Bee

Residents of Asbestos, Quebec brush off warnings about the health effects of the community’s namesake mineral. Many in the economically hard-pressed town are rooting for an effort by Balcorp Ltd. to raise enough money to reopen the Jeffrey Mine. Although asbestos causes lung diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, a typce of cancer, residents often scoff at the dangers. “They buy a lot of our asbestos in Asia,” said one resident. “They wouldn’t be buying it if they didn’t think it was safe. And it can’t be more dangerous than the other products we use in our home.” The McGill Daily

Recalls: Husqvarna grass and hedge trimmersbeef-stuffed potatoes, Jersey Hollow Farm raw milk and cheese, American Regent cyanocobalamin injections

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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