Concerns About a Battery Recycler’s Lead Emissions Prompt a Massive Blood-Testing Program

Los Angeles County, spurred by residents’ health worries, will offer free lead poisoning evaluations. The plan follows concerns that Exide Technologies’ battery recycling plant in Vernon, Calif., may have jeopardized the health of hundreds of thousands of residents in southeast Los Angeles County. Residents and officials for years have worried about lead emissions from the plant, one of the largest battery recycling operations in the U.S. Health authorities said they are not testing people for the carcinogen arsenic, which also has been emitted by the plant, because tests do not provide clear-cut answers. State regulators temporarily shut the plant this year, but Exide won a court ruling allowing it to resume. Exide will pay for the lead tests. Los Angeles Times

The nation’s “other” gun lobby begins to play a bigger role in politics. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, whose 8,000 members are gun and ammunition makers and dealers, has long kept a lower profile than the National Rifle Association. Every year from 1998 through 2010, the NRA spent at least ten times more than the NSSF on direct lobbying. But now those numbers are converging—the NRA has spent $1.7 million so far in 2013, compared to $1.1 million by the NSSF, mostly in efforts to loosen state rules for concealed carry permits. The NRA still boasts the political muscle to sway the outcome of major legislation, but its intervention is conspicuous and an NRA campaign contribution can sometimes be a political liability. The Atlantic

Two recalls renew questions about Johnson & Johnson’s quality controls. The company’s pharmaceutical unit, Janssen, informed doctors and patients on Wednesday that it is recalling one lot of Risperdal Consta, an injectable antipsychotic treatment, after routine testing turned up evidence of mold. And last week, J&J recalled 200,000 bottles of liquid Motrin for infants because they may contain tiny particles of plastic. In both cases, the recalls involved products or ingredients made by outside companies. But some experts said the new recalls raised questions about how well the company has improved its oversight after a string of manufacturing problems threatened its image as one of the world’s most trusted brands. The New York Times

Wal-Mart Stores says it will require suppliers to phase out about 10 hazardous chemicals. The chemicals are in personal care, cosmetic and cleaning products. The retailing giant also will require suppliers to disclose other chemicals in the products. The moves follow a pledge this month by Procter & Gamble, the world’s No. 1 consumer product maker, to eliminate phthalates and triclosan from its beauty products by 2014. In 2012, Johnson & Johnson pledged to eliminate phthalates, triclosan, formaldehydes and parabens from its personal care products. Wal-Mart declined to identify the chemicals involved, saying it wants to work with suppliers before making that public. The germ-killing additive triclosan is thought to be on the list. The Associated Press

China announces broad national plan to curb air pollution. The plan released by China’s cabinet would include setting limits on burning coal and taking high-polluting vehicles off the roads to reduce the concentration of particulate matter in cities. The plan filled in an outline that the government had issued this year. It represents the most concrete response yet by the Communist Party and the government to growing criticism over allowing the country’s air, soil and water to degrade to abysmal levels because of corruption and unchecked economic growth. The criticism has been especially pronounced in some of China’s largest cities, where anxious residents grapple with choking smog that can persist for days and even weeks. The New York Times

Nebraska employer accused of failing to protect workers from trench cave-ins. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration charged Taylor’s Drain and Sewer Service of Lincoln, Neb., with 10 violations, including two willful violations, the agency’s most serious offense. OSHA faulted the company’s practices at two jobs sites in Lincoln, including a March incident in which a worker was buried waist-deep when a trench collapsed, causing injuries that required surgery. In a suit, the worker said he was trapped for an hour and suffered internal organ damage, among other injuries. OSHA proposed fines of $194,000 and put Taylor in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Separately, OSHA accused Edsal Manufacturing of nine violations, including a repeat violation of allowing stored materials to impede exit routes, at its Chicago furniture plant. The agency proposed fines of $75,000. OSHA (Lincoln, Neb.), Lincoln Journal Star,  OSHA (Chicago)

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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