That daily cocktail or glass of wine – friend or foe?: When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 47, Stephanie Mencimer asked herself a question many patients face: “Why me?”

“It’s an impossible question to answer definitively for an individual, like trying to prove that a single weather event was caused by climate change,” she writes in Mother Jones. Still, she tried, and the effort led her to another worthy question: Did alcohol cause her breast cancer? She delves deeply into the evidence that alcohol is a carcinogen and one of particular concern for women, explaining how “alcohol-related breast cancer kills more than twice as many American women as drunk drivers do.” The story provides good context for the debate over the health impact of moderate drinking, particularly in light of recent reporting by The New York Times that federal health officials solicited tens of millions of dollars from the alcohol industry to fund a study they said could provide evidence that a daily drink is part of a healthy diet. Those meetings are now under investigation by the National Institutes of Health.

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In ‘heaven,’ grappling with groundwater contamination: Perfluorinated compounds are used to make consumer and industrial products water-, stain- and heat-resistant. Their persistence and tendency to accumulate in the body have made them a difficult foe in communities where the compounds have contaminated drinking water supplies. Brett Walton of Circle of Blue takes a deep look at one, Oscoda, Mich., on the banks of Lake Huron, where perfluorinated chemicals were used in firefighting foam during decades of training exercises at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. “The steady dose of chemicals into the area’s natural riches has upended lives in Oscoda,” he writes. The Defense Department has identified 393 current or former bases where perfluorinated compounds were known or suspected to have been released, and health officials are studying the effects of exposure at military installations.

  • Also: Lead was found in the water of about 70 percent of Chicago homes tested in the past two years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

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Bad eggs, big recall: Rose Acre Farms has recalled a whopping 207 million eggs after state and federal health officials linked them to an outbreak of Salmonella braenderup that has sickened 23 people in nine states. The eggs are from a farm in Hyde County, N.C., and are sold under multiple brand names to restaurant and retail customers. Salmonella infections can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, and can be most severe in young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

  • Also: Thirty-five people in 11 states have been sickened by E. coli that health officials have tracked to bagged, chopped romaine lettuce grown around Yuma, Ariz., though they haven’t identified specific growers or suppliers.

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A slowdown in Atlantic circulation quickens concern: Circulation in the Atlantic Ocean is slowing and, while there’s some disagreement among scientists about just how the change began, the trend has raised fears that a worst-case scenario predicted by climate change models could be happening. Chris Mooney of The Washington Post writes about a paper published in Nature asserting that the strength of the ocean system that carries warmth into the Northern Hemisphere is at a “new record low.” The eastern U.S. is already seeing the effects, with a dramatic rise in sea level in recent years. It’s likely that the circulation will weaken further, study author Stefan Rahmstorf told Mooney, “and I think that’s going to affect all of us, basically, in a negative way.”

  • Also: The Mississippi Delta, Mooney writes, is losing wetlands to sea level rise at a rate of about an acre per hour. — Lyme disease is the first epidemic of climate change, journalist Mary Beth Pfeiffer argues in her new book. Read an excerpt that will make you squirm. — Michael Bloomberg envisions the end of coal and suggests there’s not much President Trump can do to save it. — James Temple of MIT Technology Review offers an interesting lesson on how to change the minds of climate-denying politicians and persuade them to act. — A big global analysis has found that climate change is altering the schedules of predators and prey, leaving some species hungry.
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Wildfires are bad for the heart: Of course exposure to wildfire smoke can cause respiratory problems. Now an assessment of emergency department visits during California’s 2015 wildfire season has found that smoke exposure also puts people at risk for heart attack, heart failure and other cardiovascular and cerebrovascular problems. “The denser the smoke, the higher the risk,” Nicoletta Lanese writes in The (San Jose) Mercury News. That’s especially true for adults age 65 and older. The rate of ER visits for heart attacks among that group increased 42 percent on dense smoke days.

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Judge says Uber limo drivers are contractors, not employees: In a big win for Uber – and perhaps other enterprises shaping the gig economy – a federal judge has ruled that the ride-sharing company’s limousine drivers are independent contractors and not employees entitled to overtime, minimum wage and other protections. Last year, a Florida appeals court said Uber drivers do not qualify as employees, but state agencies in New York and California have said that they do, Reuters reports. The recent Philadelphia case could prove to be a seminal one, said Richard Reibstein, an attorney who represents employers, in a blog post. If the decision is upheld, he writes, it could allow “Uber and other ride-sharing companies to finally breathe easy that their independent contractor business model passes muster under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act” and state laws that follow the federal standard.

  • Also: A bill that would have exempted businesses owned and operated by Native American tribes from federal labor laws failed to pass the Senate. –– An investigation by Reveal and KQED found that Tesla failed to report worker injuries at its Fremont, Calif., electric car plant as required by state and federal laws even as the company touted efforts to reduce on-the-job injuries.

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Pruitt’s post in peril?: Two government reports released Monday detailed misuse of money at the Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Scott Pruitt’s leadership. The Government Accountability Office found that the agency broke the law when it installed a $43,000 privacy booth in Pruitt’s office, exceeding a $5,000 spending cap created by Congress on office improvements. The EPA inspector general sent Pruitt a public memo detailing salary increases for three of his aides that were made despite objections by the White House, raising one person’s salary by 72 percent. And now Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Republican chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, is investigating whether Pruitt has complied with federal records law, after The Washington Post reported that he has used four different email addresses since taking office. Meanwhile, the Senate has confirmed as Pruitt’s deputy – the person who would replace Pruitt, should he be ousted – Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist.

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Look before you lock: It’s a sad but necessary reminder as warmer weather approaches. Heatstroke kills dozens of children left unattended in a vehicle every year in the U.S. Already this year, at least two children — one in Florida and another in South Carolina — have died after being left in a hot car. reminded parents and other caregivers to check the backseat every time they park. Safety advocates have been lobbying Congress to require car manufacturers to create an alert that would remind drivers there may be a child back there. But, as Paul Feldman wrote for FairWarning last year, such a measure would only go so far. It would be years before alert systems were added to most cars, and the alerts wouldn’t help children who venture into cars on their own or those knowingly left by adults who wrongly assume the kids will be safe in a hot car for a few minutes.

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Fake drugs net $34 million penalty for online pharmacy: Canada Drug has been fined $34 million and its founder sentenced to six months of house arrest for importing unapproved and counterfeit drugs. U.S. prosecutors argued that the online pharmacy’s entire business model was built on selling illegal imports from all over the world, including two purported cancer drugs that contained no active ingredient, Matt Volz of the Associated Press reports. Shabbir Safdar, executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a coalition of patient advocates and consumer safety groups, called the sentencing “a slap on the wrist and an insult to the victims of Canada Drugs’ crimes.” He went on: “Instead of allowing Canada Drugs, a multi-million-dollar company, to pay a fee for the damage that they have done, we should ensure that the punishment always fits the crime. This shouldn’t include keeping your pharmacy license and/or house arrest with Netflix.”

  • Also: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for the first time, has approved a medical device that uses artificial intelligence to make a diagnosis – in this case, of diabetic retinopathy – without interpretation from an eye specialist.

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Chelsea Conaboy is a FairWarning contributor and freelance writer and editor specializing in health care. Find more of her work at

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