Thursday

Imported Rice Contains ‘Harmful Levels of Lead’

An analysis of rice imported to U.S. found higher levels of lead than considered safe. Researchers tested rice from eight countries and found all samples exceeded the levels set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rice from China and Taiwan had the highest levels of lead, said the Monmouth University researchers, presenting their results at the American Chemical Society Meeting. Asian children, who are most susceptible because of age and average rice intake, could be exposed to 120 times more lead than the FDA considers safe, the group calculated, while non-Asian adults could be exposed to 20-40 times the safe level. Researchers said part of the problem is that rice in some countries is irrigated with untreated sewage and industrial effluent. Lead harms the central nervous system and can cause developmental problems in children. The U.S. imports about 7 percent of its rice. BBC, TIME

Federally funded study of preemies failed to disclose risks to parents. More than a thousand families participating in a study of oxygen levels for extremely premature infants were never told that its risks included increased chances of death or blindness. The study, conducted by 32 universities including Stanford and Yale, involved 1,300 babies, assigning some to a high oxygen group and others to a low oxygen group. Those receiving high oxygen were more likely to develop eye disease and blindness, while those who got low levels were more likely to die, according to the federal Office for Human Research Protections. But the consent form signed by parents mentioned only the risk of skin abrasion from a monitoring device and said there was a possible benefit for participants. In all, 130 babies in the low-oxygen group died and 91 in the high-oxygen group developed an eye ailment that can lead to blindness, though very premature babies are already prone to death and eye disease. The New York Times

National study suggests doctors are prescribing too many antibiotics. U.S. physicians prescribe enough antibiotics to dose 4 out of 5 Americans each year, an analysis of national drug data by Centers for Disease Control researchers shows. While there is no consensus on the appropriate amount of the drugs to use, some experts said the results pointed to excessive use. Overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock is thought to have led to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. Researchers found large geographical differences: in Alaska, Oregon and California there were around 600 antibiotics prescriptions per 1,000 people in 2010. But in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, about 1,200 antibiotic prescriptions were written for every 1,000 people. Researchers said that could be due to cultural factors or because Southerners have higher diabetes rates which could cause more infections. The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report

Oil giant shelves plans for offshore drilling in Alaskan Arctic. ConocoPhillips blamed unclear federal regulations for its decision to halt plans for exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea on Alaska’s northern coast. The announcement was yet another setback for the energy industry’s plans to drill in the region, which is thought to contain vast oil reserves — in February, Shell suspended its plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2013 after multiple problems with its rigs. A Conoco spokeswoman said the company does not know when it will resume its effort, though it will continue onshore drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve adjacent to the Chukchi Sea. Agence France-Presse, The Wall Street Journal

Federal regulators fine coal mine operator $110,000 for “quintessentially flagrant” electrocution hazard. The Mine Safety and Health Administration said a worker in a mine owned by Rox Coal was shocked when changing a fuse on a high-voltage switch whose safety switch had intentionally been disabled by the mine’s chief electrician. Another miner at the southwestern Penn. site was working within inches of a 7,200 volt live line, regulators said. An administrative law judge said the 2007 incident was “significant and substantial and highly likely to result in permanently disabling injuries.” The mine employed 70 workers at the time of the incident and produced nearly 300,000 tons of coal. MSHA, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Compiled by Bridget Huber

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