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GM Is Refusing to Name the Crash Victims Whose Deaths Are Linked to Faulty Ignition Switches

Secrecy by GM is frustrating families of victims and their lawyers. General Motors has twice adjusted the number of deaths it says are linked to an ignition switch defect, but still refuses to disclose publicly the list of the confirmed victims, now said to be 13. The enduring mystery has left scores of families playing a guessing game. It also makes it more difficult for the families and their lawyers to challenge the automaker. Because many of the cars and their so-called black boxes were damaged or destroyed, there may not be enough evidence left to prove what happened. Since 2003, GM has reported more than 75 deaths and 1,500 injuries involving early models of the now-recalled cars. Though the records mention potentially defective components, it is unclear exactly how many of these crashes were related to the ignition defect. The New York Times

Internal watchdog faults EPA for failing to consistently disclose health risks to human test subjects. In a report, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General said the agency has sometimes withheld information about cancer risks from participants in studies on pollution hazards. The report found that the agency obtained the proper approvals from participants before exposing them to airborne exhaust and diesel pollutants in 2010 and 2011. However, the consent forms were inconsistent in their disclosures and did not warn of potential long-term risks from exposure to the gases.  The inspector general said the EPA was silent on the issue because it considered the risks minimal, but that it believes “the agency should inform study subjects of any potential cancer risks.” The Hill, Bloomberg

U.S. made more than $200 million in wrongful death payments to nearly 1,000 grieving families in the decade after 9/11. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ payments went to the families of decorated Iraq War veterans who shot or hanged themselves after being turned away from mental health treatment and to Vietnam veterans whose cancerous tumors were identified but allowed to grow. Other cases involved missed diagnoses, botched surgeries and fatal neglect of elderly veterans. The revelations come as the VA faces intense scrutiny from members of Congress over the number of preventable deaths at its facilities. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has scheduled an April 9 hearing on preventable deaths. The Center for Investigative Reporting

Lowe’s Home Centers to pay $18.1 million to settle charges of illegally disposing hazardous wastes in California. The agreement settles a civil investigation by 31 district attorneys and two city attorneys in California, along with the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. State authorities alleged that more than 118 Lowe’s stores in California unlawfully handled and disposed of hazardous wastes for 6½ years. They said the stores routinely sent items such as spilled or returned paint or damaged batteries to local landfills that were not permitted to receive the materials. State officials also said the stores took used batteries and old fluorescent light bulbs collected from its recycling programs and threw them in the trash. Bay Area News Group, The Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle

Developer in upstate New York faces proposed fine of $2.36 million for allegedly exposing workers to asbestos and lead. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration charged the developer, Olivet Management, with 45 willful violations, the agency’s most serious offense. OSHA in October began investigating renovation work by Olivet employees and contractors at a former state hospital in Dover Plains, N.Y. “Olivet knew that asbestos and lead were present at this site, yet the company chose to ignore its responsibility to protect its own workers and contractors,” U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a news release. Olivet, which earlier was ordered to halt its work by U.S. environmental and state labor regulators, issued a statement saying it is cooperating with authorities, but wouldn’t indicate whether it will appeal OSHA’s charges. OSHA, Poughkeepsie Journal

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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