A grim anniversary: A year has passed since a gunman killed 58 people on the Las Vegas strip, and state lawmakers have had mixed success in passing new gun control measures, an Associated Press analysis found. Consider the outcomes in Florida versus Ohio. Following the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida lawmakers banned bump stocks, an accessory that allows a rifle to fire continuously like a machine gun. They also raised the gun-buying age to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and empowered local authorities to seize guns from people thought to be a threat to themselves or others. But in Ohio, Ryan J. Foley writes, a panel on gun reform convened by Republican Gov. John Kasich produced legislation that went nowhere. Kasich said that gun control advocates are not as unified as the people who fight them. “You have disparate groups going against a force that totally knows what it wants,” he said.
- Also: Bump stock maker Slide Fire announced in April that it was going out of business, but its wares are still on the market, Alex Yablon of The Trace reports. –– Orlando first responders had special equipment and a protocol for responding to mass shootings, but neither were deployed during the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, Abe Aboraya reports for WMFE and ProPublica. — The gun violence prevention movement is working to put gun control front and center this election season in Nevada, where gun laws are notably lax, Kara Voght of Mother Jones writes.
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Bees harmed by Roundup: Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s widely used Roundup herbicide, damages the gut bacteria that honeybees need to fight off harmful bacteria and could contribute to the collapse of bee colonies. The study was performed by exposing bees from a single hive to the chemical. Bayer, the pharmaceutical giant that recently acquired Monsanto, said it was “questionable whether the concentrations of the substance tested could at all be absorbed by bee populations in the open over a relevant period of time.” Erick Motta, the study’s lead author, told Vanessa Romo of NPR that the results suggest a need to rewrite guidelines for glyphosate use, which assume that the chemical does not harm bees. “Our study shows that’s not true,” he said.
- Also: A journal that published an “independent review” of glyphosate safety related to human health says it is working to correct the record: Monsanto scientists were involved in the research. — Glyphosate residue was found in about two-thirds of corn and soybean samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration, but none had levels that exceeded legal limits, according to the latest Pesticide Monitoring Report based on 2016 data. Ten percent of imported human foods (the agency also tested animal foods) were not compliant with federal pesticide residue standards.
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A flu for the ages: We knew last winter’s flu season was bad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed just how bad: An estimated 80,000 people died of influenza or complications of the flu, making it the most deadly flu season in at least four decades, Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press reports. The flu season was dominated by a dangerous strain of influenza and complicated by a vaccine that didn’t work very well. Health officials have begun the annual routine of urging people to get vaccinated this year.
- Also: Despite the fact that the elderly make up the vast majority of deaths from influenza, health personnel in long-term care facilities have significantly lower rates of flu vaccinations than health care workers in all other settings.
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U.S. trails on tobacco warnings: The world is making “tremendous progress” in changing cigarette packaging to warn consumers about the hazards of smoking, a report from the Canadian Cancer Society found. Today, 118 countries and territories require picture warnings on cigarette packaging that clearly and graphically convey the risks, up from 100 in 2016. Twenty-five countries have adopted or are implementing “plain packaging,” which reduces cigarette appeal by eliminating promotional materials and standardizing the shape of the package. The report ranks efforts in 206 countries. So, how is the U.S. doing? It’s tied for dead last. A federal judge recently ordered the FDA to get to work in implementing a long-delayed law requiring cigarette makers to include graphic health warnings, with yet another study published this month showing their effectiveness.
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Something in the water: The likely culprit of this spring’s E. coli outbreak — which killed five people, caused kidney failure in 27 and sickened dozens more — was eventually identified. The same strain of E. coli was found in a canal used to irrigate crops in Yuma, Arizona, a major winter lettuce-growing region. Could the outbreak have been avoided? Six months before the outbreak, the Trump administration stopped the scheduled implementation of a law that would have required produce growers to test the safety of the water used on their crops, Elizabeth Shogren and Susie Neilson report for Reveal. The law passed in 2011, after other high-profile outbreaks linked to food safety. Most Arizona growers of leafy greens previously signed a voluntary agreement to test their irrigation water, which is a well-known factor in disease outbreaks, but the reporters write that this spring’s outbreak demonstrates the limits of a voluntary program against a particularly dangerous pathogen.
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Reconsidering human health at the EPA: Two key positions for protecting human health are being undermined or eliminated at the Environmental Protection Agency. The New York Times reports that the Office of the Science Advisor is set to be dissolved. The current science advisor, Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, has been with the agency since 1981 and is an expert on chemical risks and human health, Coral Davenport writes. In an emailed statement, Orme-Zavaleta said the change was an effort to “eliminate redundancies.” Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists called it “a colossally bad idea.” Also last week, the head of the agency’s Office of Children’s Health Protection was put on leave. In a leaked email obtained by BuzzFeed News, Dr. Ruth Etzel wrote that the administration is acting on “their plan to ‘disappear'” her office. The office has played a key role, write Davenport and reporter Roni Caryn Rabin, in strengthening regulatory standards to protect children. Their developing brains and bodies are particularly sensitive to pollutants and chemicals in the environment – things like mercury, a neurotoxin, and contributors to smog, which is linked to childhood asthma.
- Also: The Trump administration wants to change the way it calculates the benefits of environmental regulations in a way that would make it easier to release more pollutants, The Washington Post reports. First up: mercury.
Dire outlook for beloved spaces: Within the next century, many national parks could become testaments to what has been lost to climate change, a study published last week revealed. Alex Horton of The Washington Post explained it this way: “Climate change could kill most of [Joshua Tree National Park’s] iconic trees, wildfires may transform the towering conifer forests at Yellowstone National Park into scarred grasslands, and once-mighty ice sheets in the north will probably melt and flow into the sea, making Glacier National Park both an obsolete name and a hard lesson about environmental degradation.”
- Also: As the Trump administration unravels Obama-era climate policy, the the role of state leadership in determining the fate of renewable energy projects is growing. Marianne Lavelle and Dan Gearino of InsideClimate News look at how the issue is shaping gubernatorial races across the country.
Easing up on offshore oil: The Trump administration has rolled back rules for offshore oil and gas production put in place after the 2011 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Reuters reports. The move eases requirements such as having an independent third party certify devices, and changes rules about when and how much operators must report to the government on equipment failures. The Interior Department described the requirements, which were put in place in 2016, as “unduly burdensome.”
- Also: Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill requiring the state public health agency to notify workplace safety officials when workers test for high blood lead levels. The bill was prompted by a Capital & Main story that found California companies were not being held to account even when workers were repeatedly poisoned. — Politico reports that the USDA has pushed through a policy change that allows poultry processors to increase line speeds, a change safety advocates worry will lead to more worker injuries. — After an employee’s arm was crushed, American Excelsior Company of Ohio has been cited for failing to install locking devices to prevent machinery from starting up while being cleaned or maintained. It faces proposed penalties of $213,411.
Chelsea Conaboy is a FairWarning contributor and freelance writer and editor specializing in health care. Find more of her work at chelseaconaboy.com.