Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Lead to 23,000 U.S. Deaths a Year, Report Says

Health officials warn of “potentially catastrophic consequences” if the U.S. doesn’t act quickly to combat superbugs. In a first-ever report on the human toll taken by antibiotic-resistant microbes, federal officials reported that at least two million Americans fall ill, and that at least 23,000 die, from the infections annually. “Without urgent action now, more patients will be thrust back to a time before we had effective drugs,” said Thomas Frieder, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals have taken steps to prevent drug-resistant infections, but less is known about preventing infections elsewhere. There still is little research, for example, on the link between antibiotic use on industrial farms and resistant germs in people.  The Washington Post, The New York Times

Researchers find that gas drilling sites aren’t leaking as much methane as U.S. officials and fracking critics believed. The study, led by University of Texas researchers and published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is likely to ease some concerns about the climate impact of natural gas extraction. Measuring emissions at 190 sites, the study found less “fugitive methane” than previous work by the Environmental Protection Agency and some university researchers, which relied on estimates. Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas. More research must be done on other potential sources of methane leaks, such as pipelines, to definitively assess the climate impact of gas. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Center for Public Integrity/InsideClimate News

Health advocates push to revive programs to protect children from lead poisoning. Congress made deep cuts in spending to prevent lead poisoning in 2012, slashing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead budget by more than 90 percent. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is circulating a petition to restore funding. The CDC estimates that 535,000 American kids are at high risk for lead poisoning, which causes intellectual impairments and behavioral problems. Although lead is no longer used in gasoline or paint, many children are still exposed by living in old housing with peeling paint. As FairWarning has reported, companies that made the lead pigment used in that old, flaking paint are defending themselves in a California case that could mark the last major legal assault by municipalities and states seeking damages to pay for lead removal. USA Today

Report says three of the nation’s four biggest railroads are likely to miss 2015 U.S. deadline for installing safety technology. The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that Burlington Northern Santa Fe was the only one of the four big freight railroads on track to meet the deadline mandated by a 2008 federal law.  At issue is positive train control, or PTC, technology that can prevent deadly accidents by overriding human error. PTC was mandated after the 2008 train crash in Chatsworth, California that killed 25 people. The GAO report recommends that Congress should consider, among other things, giving U.S. officials authority to extend the PTC deadline on a case-by-case basis. As FairWarning reported last year, the industry has pushed hard to relax the PTC requirement and win more time to add the costly technology. The Hill

Safety regulators seek $336,200 in fines against Massachusetts wood framing contractor. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused  Twin Pines Construction of Everett, Mass., of 10 violations, including four willful violations, the agency’s most serious offense. OSHA faulted work sites in Reading and Plymouth, Mass., where in March a worker suffered broken ribs and leg injuries when an unbraced wooden roof truss system collapsed. OSHA accused Twin Pines of exposing workers to fall and impalement hazards, among other charges, and put the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. “The large penalties proposed in these cases reflect the gravity and recurring nature of these hazards, and demonstrate this employer’s knowing, active and ongoing disregard for its workers’ safety,” an OSHA official said. OSHA, The Boston Globe

 Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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