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Makers of Antibacterial Soaps Will Be Required to Show Their Products Are Safe

Amid concerns about health risks, regulators seek more information about antibacterial soaps. The Food and Drug Administration issued a new rule today that will require manufacturers of the products to either demonstrate that they are safe for long-term use or reformulate them. The FDA said that some data suggested that long-term use of certain ingredients in the soap that give it antimicrobial qualities — triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects. Some soaps labeled “deodorant” may also contain the ingredients. The FDA rule will require makers of the antibacterial products to also demonstrate that the items are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of infections. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

United Nations-backed alliance says electronic waste is surging worldwide. The Solving the E-Waste Problem, or StEP, initiative reported that the overall amount of e-waste is expected to grow 33 percent in the next five years, from 48.9 million tons last year to 65.4 million tons in 2017 — equivalent in weight to 200 Empire State Buildings. StEP also reported that China and other emerging countries have, for the first time, overtaken the West in producing e-waste. The new assessment looks at the growing environmental issues, and the potential health problems for scrap workers, caused by such e-waste as discarded computers, cell phones, refrigerators and electronic appliances. Time, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters

Two U.S. Senate Democrats call Federal Railroad Administration “woefully” underfunded. Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut held a news conference to urge that the bipartisan budget deal making its way through Congress include a $15 million boost in transportation safety funding to help prevent tragedies such as the recent deadly Metro-North train derailment. A Government Accountability Office report released last week found that the FRA, which oversees railways, can inspect less than 1 percent of all railroad operations every year. “FRA is a small agency with limited resources available to execute the large scope of its oversight responsibility, especially compared to the size of the industry it regulates,” the GAO report said. Newsday, The Washington Times, The Middletown (Conn.) Press

State officials have only fiddled since the West, Texas fertilizer plant burned. In the weeks after the West Fertilizer Co. disaster, investigators identified ways the explosion might have been prevented, or at least mitigated. Yet eight months after 15 people died and hundreds were injured, no significant measures have been adopted by state government to keep something like it from occurring again. The Texas Legislature, though it was in session when the plant blew up, did little beyond holding hearings. Gov. Rick Perry has been silent on specific changes in Texas’ laws or regulatory approach. What’s more, Texas hasn’t taken steps to adopt a statewide fire code or to tighten rules for storing ammonium nitrate, the chemical that exploded at West. The Dallas Morning News

U.S. health inspectors confirm 50 cases of bladder cancer among workers at a New York plant. The unpublished research on employees at the Goodyear chemical plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y., showed the cancer occurring at nearly three times the rate that would have been expected in the state’s general population. The likely trigger in most cases, investigators concluded, was a chemical still used by Goodyear and others called ortho-toluidine. The disease emerged in 1972 and continues to worry workers at the 67-year-old Goodyear plant. The long-running episode underscores the limits of regulation and points up the insidious nature of occupational illnesses, which by one estimate take more than 50,000 U.S. lives annually. The Center for Public Integrity/WXXI/Innovation Trail

Two-decade campaign by drug companies fostered boom in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The drug companies have paid doctors who publish research and deliver presentations encouraging physicians to make ADHD diagnoses more often. Many doctors also have portrayed ADHD medications as benign — “safer than aspirin,” some say — even though they can have significant side effects and are regulated like morphine and oxycodone because of their potential for abuse and addiction. The drug companies also have financed large parts of the operating budgets of patient advocacy groups that try to get the government to loosen drug regulations. Meanwhile, the number of children on ADHD drugs has soared to 3.5 million, up from 600,000 in 1990. The New York Times

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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