Drugs Found in Lake Michigan Called ‘Significant Threat’ to Great Lakes’ Health

Researchers find antibiotics, diabetes drugs and other pharmaceuticals in Lake Michigan. Twenty-seven chemicals used in medicine and personal-care products were detected miles from Milwaukee’s sewage outfalls, suggesting the lake is not diluting the compounds as most scientists had expected. The chemicals found in highest concentrations were the diabetes drug metformin, caffeine, the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole and triclosan, an antibacterial compound used in soaps, toothpaste and other products. In all, 14 of the chemicals found pose medium to high ecologic risk, researchers said. Pharmaceuticals have not been found in Milwaukee’s drinking water, which is drawn from the lake. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers pharmaceuticals an “emerging concern” and says they may pose risks to humans or wildlife, though there are no federal regulations of the compounds in waste or drinking water. Environmental Health News

Eight patients at a New Hampshire hospital may have been exposed to a rare, fatal brain disease. The patients underwent brain surgery using equipment that had been used on another patient with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal condition similar to mad-cow disease with symptoms including failing memory and blindness. The equipment, rented from Medtronic by the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., may have also been used on five other patients in other states, the company said. Most medical devices are sterilized using heat, but exposure to caustic chemicals may be needed to kill the abnormal proteins that cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In 2004, 98 brain and spinal surgery patients may have been exposed to the disease at a Georgia hospital. CNN, The Boston Globe, Reuters

Safeway will pay $600,000 to settle air pollution charges. The agreement follows allegations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the nation’s second-largest grocery chain violated the Clean Air Act by failing to properly repair leaks of a refrigerator coolant gas that contributes to depletion of the protective ozone layer. The company was  also accused of keeping inadequate equipment maintenance records. Under the settlement, Safeway will reduce emissions at 659 of its 1,400 stores. An EPA official said the settlement will keep an estimated 33,000 pounds of ozone-depleting gas out of the atmosphere annually. A depleted ozone layer allows higher levels of the sun’s ultraviolet rays to strike Earth, resulting in increased risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and other health problems, according to the EPA. San Francisco Chronicle

Chicago meat processor accused of 10 serious job safety violations. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Vienna Beef failed to train and evaluate industrial vehicle operators, provide walking surfaces that were in good repair and conduct a workplace hazard assessment to identify possible safety issues at its plant on Chicago’s North Side. The company was also charged with exposing workers to amputation injuries, improperly using electrical cords and failing to secure equipment such as grinders and mixers so they don’t turn on during cleaning. OSHA has proposed fines of $53,000 against Vienna Beef, which produces hot dogs, sausages, soups and deli meats. OSHA, Crain’s Chicago Business

Chobani announces recall of moldy Greek yogurt cups. The move comes a week after the company tried to quietly remove the yogurt from store shelves without alerting the public, a strategy the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called “unusual”. Customers have complained the product tasted runny and fizzy and some have reported illnesses. The company said the illness claims prompted the recall, though a spokesperson said the mold was unlikely to cause ill health effects. The company, which has plants in Idaho, New York and Australia, said the problem affected less than 5 percent of its production and that 95 percent of the tainted cups have been identified. The FDA is assessing the level of risk and whether the company was communicating appropriately with the public. ReutersFood Safety News


Compiled by Bridget Huber

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