Suicides among U.S. soldiers increase at the fastest pace in a decade. Pentagon statistics show that there have been 154 suicides among active-duty troops so far this year, nearly one a day. That compares to 130 during the same period last year, an 18 percent increase. The Army convened its suicide prevention group this week to study the alarming numbers, but could not pinpoint a cause. Studies have pointed to the effects of combat exposure over the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. Army statistics also suggest that soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide. The Associated Press, NBC News

Authorities lack plan to deal with debris heading to West Coast from last year’s tsunami in Japan. The Japanese government estimates that 1.5 million tons of debris is floating in the Pacific Ocean from the March, 2011 catastrophe, which killed thousands and triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdowns. Some experts in the United States think the bulk of that trash will never reach shore, while others fear a massive, slowly unfolding environmental disaster. An official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told a U.S. Senate panel last month that in most cases cleanup will be handled by individual states, and funding hasn’t been determined. The Associated Press

Environmental groups sue to spur federal regulation of lead in ammunition. The groups claim that exposure to the toxic metal from spent bullets fired by hunters kills millions of birds and poses a risk to human health. The plaintiffs include the Center for Biological Diversity. It was among 100 organizations that this year unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict the use of lead-based ammunition. Environmentalists say bald eagles, California condors and other wildlife are poisoned each year by scavenging lead-contaminated carcasses or from ingesting spent lead-shot pellets. Reuters

Poll finds that one-third of teenage drivers text behind the wheel. The finding came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which otherwise showed that high school students have become safer drivers over the past 20 years. Still, the numbers of those who said they sent text or email messages while driving over the past month were particularly high for upper classmen, with nearly 58 percent of 12th graders saying they had done so. In 2010, auto accidents killed 3,115 teens. That was down 44 percent over the past decade, but auto accidents remain the leading cause of teen deaths. The survey also found that marijuana use and suicide attempts rose. Reuters, WebMD Health News,

Reinstatement ordered for worker who was fired after blowing the whistle on water quality problems. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration gave the order to Anchorage, Alaska-based North Star Behavioral Health System, which runs treatment centers for youths. The agency found that North Star, a unit of the  hospital company United Services Inc., fired the worker in retaliation for telling state agencies about possible drinking water problems at a treatment center in Palmer, Alaska. In addition to reinstating the unidentified worker, OSHA told North Star to pay back wages, damages and attorney fees totaling more than $270,000. North Star said it would appeal. OSHA, Alaska Dispatch

Montana electrical worker’s death leads to proposed fines of $52,500. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Kansas City, Mo.-based PAR Electrical Contractors for three alleged safety violations. The investigation stemmed from the death last December of an employee who was electrocuted while working on a power line near Two Dot, Mont. OSHA accused the company of failing to use insulation safeguards and keeping employees working on a power line while high winds made the job particularly dangerous. PAR previously was cited by OSHA in 2007 for problems at a Missouri job site. OSHA

Recalls: California Innovations Ice/Hot and Ice Gel Packs, Bay Valley Foods boxed pasta mix products

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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