Wednesday

Toyota Recalls 6.4 Million Vehicles, Raising New Questions About Its Quality Controls

Five defects spur world’s No. 1 automaker to launch massive recall. The action announced today by Toyota Motor Corp. involves nearly 6.4 million vehicles worldwide and 27 models, including the RAV4, Corolla, Yaris, Matrix and Highlander. The recalls were prompted by defects with seat rails, cables connected to air bags, engine starters, steering column brackets and windshield-wiper motors. Engine-starter defects led two vehicles in Japan to catch fire, but Toyota said it wasn’t aware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities caused by the problems. The most widespread problem is with the spiral cable assembly attached to air bags, an issue affecting 3.5 million vehicles. The recalls are a fresh blow to Toyota’s reputation for quality, and follow the company’s agreement last month to pay a $1.2 billion criminal penalty to settle a U.S. investigation. The Wall Street JournalBloomberg

GM gets slapped with a $7,000-a-day fine — and a warning about possible Justice Department action. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told General Motors in a letter that it was imposing the fine, retroactive to April 3, because the company still hasn’t provided enough answers about its ignition switch recall. NHTSA also warned that it could refer the case to the Justice Department as early as today because of GM’s “failure to fully respond” to the agency’s 107 questions about events leading to the recall. The Justice Department already is conducting a criminal investigation into GM’s handling of the recall. Authorities are looking into why GM took more than a decade to recall 2.6 million vehicles with defective ignition switches, which the company has linked to 13 deaths. USA TodayThe Wall Street Journal

World Health Organization urges a “concerted effort” to cut the cost of new hepatitis C drugs. In its first-ever treatment guidelines for the disease, the WHO strongly recommended new drugs from Gilead Sciences and Johnson & Johnson — with a big caveat on their cost. Treating the approximately 150 million people in the world living with the liver-destroying chronic hepatitis C infection is a new battlefront in the global struggle to provide access to medicines. As with AIDS 15 years ago, modern drugs are transforming the ability to fight hepatitis C. Yet Gilead Science’s Sovaldi costs $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment. “These drugs are fantastic – they are a real breakthrough,” said Markus Peck-Radosavljevic, secretary-general of the European Association for the Study of the Liver. “But the prices are too high.” ReutersKaiser Health News/NPR

Concerns rise in communities plagued by industrial polluters as the EPA plans cutbacks. The Environmental Protection Agency intends to curtail the inspections and enforcement cases it brings nationwide over the next five years. The agency says its plan calls for focusing on “high impact cases,” such as criminal cases “having the most significant health, environmental, and deterrence impacts.” In its strategic plan for 2014-2018, the EPA says it would cut inspections and evaluations by 30 percent from 2012 levels.  The planned shift has raised concerns among some environmentalists, who say their communities depend on the EPA because of a lack of state environmental enforcement. The Center for Public Integrity

White House climate initiative draws fresh attention to “cow of the future.” The biggest source of the nation’s methane — a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — are cows, which release far more of the substance than landfill sites, natural gas leaks or fracking. The Obama administration’s launch last month of a plan to curb methane emissions has given fresh relevance to climate-friendly technologies for cattle. Experts are looking into options such as dietary supplements to cut methane production. However, financial barriers are hampering the adoption of tools to limit methane from cattle, as was the case with early technologies to curb pollution from power plants and motor vehicles. Financial Times

Job accidents that left one worker with a crushed hand and another with a partial hand amputation spur charges. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Precision Custom Coatings for 14 violations, including one willful offense, the agency’s most serious charge. Proposed fines total $185,400. OSHA said the Precision failed, among other things, to provide required machine guards at its fabric plant in Totowa, N.J. With proper machine guards, Precision “could have prevented these needless, life-altering injuries,” an OSHA official said. OSHA started investigating in September after being told by police that a machine operator’s hand was crushed while the worker moved materials through a roller machine. During the probe, OSHA learned about the second accident, suffered by an employee doing machine maintenance. OSHAThe Record

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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