Environmental Protection Agency proposes stricter air quality rules for soot. The proposal being announced today would reduce the amount of fine particulates released into the atmosphere. It is likely to draw criticism from Republicans and industry officials who contend the rules would hurt the economy. The Obama administration sought to delay the new standard until after the November election, but a federal judge ordered action after 11 states filed suit against the EPA. Released from smokestacks, diesel trucks and buses and other sources, fine-particle soot can settle deep into the lungs and the circulatory system. It is among the deadliest contaminants to which the American public is regularly exposed. The Associated Press, The New York Times

U.S. authorities arrest a pioneer of Canada’s online drug industry. In a sign of a stepped-up crackdown on the illegal pharmaceutical trade, authorities arrested Andrew Strempler, 38, on fraud charges related to the sale of foreign and counterfeit medicines. He appeared Thursday in federal court in Miami and is expected to be arraigned next week. Strempler’s former company,, sold fake and otherwise misbranded drugs to U.S. customers, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each of three charges, and the government is seeking to recover $95 million in proceeds. His arrest reflects a focus by authorities on bogus drugs, including cancer medications. The Wall Street Journal, CBC News

Regulators are investigating the nation’s largest operator of dialysis centers. The Food and Drug Administration is examining whether Fresenius Medical Care, which treats more than a third of the estimated 400,000 Americans receiving dialysis and provides supplies to other dialysis centers, violated regulations by failing to inform all customers of a potentially lethal risk. Last November, Fresenius alerted doctors in the company’s dialysis centers that improper use of one of its products appeared to be linked to a sharp increase in the risk of patients dying suddenly from cardiac arrest. But, until the FDA learned of the alert, the company didn’t inform non-Fresenius centers using the product. The New York Times

Report spotlights severe death toll from motorcycle crashes. The analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said motorcycle accidents led to 14 percent of road fatalities, even though they accounted for less than 1 percent of miles traveled, in 2010. The CDC assessment also underscored the life-saving value, and the related economic benefits, of state laws that require all riders to wear helmets. It said $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets in 2010. However, as FairWarning pointed out last week, biker group lobbyists for years have prodded states to roll back helmet requirements, and also are working to prevent U.S. authorities from promoting helmet laws. CDC

Wal-Mart Stores accused of new food-safety violations in China. Authorities in Beijing faulted the world’s biggest retailer, saying it sold sesame oil exceeding allowable amounts of benzopyrene and squid containing hazardous levels of cadmium. A government website said the products were produced by Chinese companies. The cited chemicals can cause cancer, according to U.S. health officials. Wal-Mart, without directly addressing the charges, said it “has a compliance structure in China that few other companies have.” The company also faces problems in China’s southwestern city of Dazhou, where officials said this week that inspectors in January found pork ribs from diseased pigs at a local Wal-Mart. The Wall Street Journal

Safety authorities accuse Pennsylvania and Illinois employers of hazardous exposure violations. Guardian West in Urbana, Ill., was cited on nine charges by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including allegations that it failed  to monitor workers’ exposure to nickel, chromium, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid. The company’s bumper manufacturing plant faces fines of up to $57,000. Separately, OSHA accused Abington Reldan Metals of 11 violations, including overexposing workers to dangerously high levels of lead and arsenic, at its Fairless Hills, Pa., recycling site. OSHA inspected after state authorities said employees had high blood levels of lead. Proposed penalties total $48,600. OSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein and Bridget Huber

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