Study Links Autism to Traffic-Related Air Pollution

Researchers find that babies exposed to lots of air pollution are more likely to become autistic. The findings, which focused on the impact on babies in the womb and in their first year of life, support previous research linking how close children live to freeways with their risk of autism. The new study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, analyzed 500 California children. Researchers stressed that their study does not definitively prove that pollution is the cause of autism. “Autism is a complex disorder and it’s likely there are many factors contributing,” said the study’s lead author, Heather Volk, of the University of Southern California. U.S. authorities say one in every 88 children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  Time, Reuters 

For second time in eight months, U.S. Supreme Court rejects cigarette makers’ appeals. The high court refused to hear an appeal from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and the Liggett division of Vector Group, rebuffing the tobacco industry’s latest effort to derail thousands of Florida lawsuits. The justices let stand a jury’s decision that held the two companies responsible for the 2003 death of a smoker and awarded $20 million. But the broader concern of the tobacco companies is a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision that decertified pending class-action litigation and opened the door to a wave of lawsuits against cigarette makers. In all, 8,000 cases are pending in Florida courts. About 65 such cases have gone to trial, with awards exceeding $300 million. The Winston-Salem JournalBloomberg

Federal regulators shut peanut butter plant linked to salmonella outbreak. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended Sunland Inc.’s registration, marking the first time the agency took such action with authority provided by the 2011 Food Safety and Modernization Act. Inspectors found widespread salmonella contamination at the company’s New Mexico processing plant after 41 people in 20 states were sickened by peanut butter made there and sold at the Trader Joe’s grocery chain. The suspension bars Sunland from producing or distributing any food until the FDA deems the company’s manufacturing practices safe and returns its registration. The company had planned to reopen its plant today and hoped to resume sales by Dec. 31. The Associated PressABC News 

Libertarian think tank teams with conservative lawmaker group to reverse renewable energy mandates. The Heartland Institute, which challenges climate change science, is working with the American Legislative Exchange Council, whose members include lawmakers from all 50 states. Together, the groups will write model legislation to repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable sources. In all, 29 states and the District of Columbia have such standards, which have become the subject of intense political battles. The Heartland Institute received $736,500 from Exxon Mobil from 1998 to 2006, but denies that such donations are the reason it wants to repeal renewable energy mandates. The Washington Post

Mississippi fertilizer company cited for 40 safety violations after deaths of two workers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration also proposed $165,900 in penalties against Mississippi Phosphates’ operations in Pascagoula, Miss., in connection with the fatal accidents in May and June. In both cases, the workers were fatally struck by flying metal debris while they were starting steam turbines. Many of OSHA’s charges involved the failure to protect workers against the hazards of overpressurization.  “Employers need to be proactive to ensure that all operating equipment is properly maintained and functional,” an OSHA official said. “Had this employer done so, these tragic events could have been prevented.” The Mississippi PressOSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein and Bridget Huber

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