Slurping down an oyster: Eve Andrews of Grist has written a long-read about an all-woman expedition to collect air, water and sand samples from around the North Pacific to log plastic contamination in the region. Within it, is this concise explanation of how tiny plastic particles in the ocean can affect human health: “If you slurped down an oyster that had caught a plastic microbead, it would probably pass through your system and continue on its merry way. But a five-micrometer fiber in that oyster — perhaps shed from a jacket — is small enough to slip through the throat tissue, for example, and lodge in your body,” Andrews writes. “And now, you may have acquired a very, very, very tiny pollutant-soaked sponge.”
- Also: Anastasia Telesetsky, a professor of international environmental law who studies marine ecosystems, argues in The Conversation for a binding global ban on single-use plastics, similar to the largely successful 1987 ban on ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons.
Lemon laws leave car buyers feeling sour: All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books protecting car buyers who purchase a defective vehicle. But not all lemon laws are created equal, according to the Center for Auto Safety. The nonprofit consumer advocacy group updated its rankings of the laws using 10 categories, including ease of documenting the defect, whether manufacturers face any liability for willful violations of the law, and which parties are required to cover legal fees. New Jersey and Washington ranked highest. Colorado and Illinois were rated the worst. Thirty-one states received D or F grades. “Today, in an era when new vehicles average over $36,000, the ability to return a lemon is more important than ever for consumers who are put in a frustrating situation, through no fault of their own,” Jason Levine, the center’s executive director, said in a press release. Christopher Jensen notes in the New York Times that the Federal Trade Commission in 1996 considered requiring all states to mark the titles of a lemon so that automakers couldn’t resell the vehicle without disclosing its history. The auto industry pushed back, and the FTC dropped the matter.
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Brain boost, busted: The Food and Drug Administration has warned 17 supplement companies to stop promising that their products can cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. “Dietary supplements can, when substantiated, claim a number of potential benefits to consumer health, but they cannot claim to prevent, treat or cure diseases like Alzheimer’s,” Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release. “Such claims can harm patients by discouraging them from seeking FDA-approved medical products that have been demonstrated to be safe and effective for these medical conditions.” FairWarning has reported on how supplements that promise to boost brain health have been especially lucrative, capitalizing on people who are living longer and are desperate to avoid dementia. Gottlieb also asked Congress to consider strengthening the law that gives his agency authority to regulate the $40 billion supplement industry, which markets some 50,000 to 80,000 products. “People haven’t wanted to touch this framework or address this space in, really, decades, and I think it’s time we do it,” Gottlieb told Sheila Kaplan of The New York Times.
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Bug burden: Intensive agriculture, climate change and chemical pollution of all kinds is driving a widespread decline of insect populations, one that’s occurring at eight times the rate that mammals, birds or reptiles are disappearing, according to a new paper reviewing dozens of studies. “It is becoming increasingly obvious our planet’s ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these dreadful trends. Allowing the slow eradication of insect life to continue is not a rational option,” Matt Shardlow of the British advocacy group Buglife told BBC News. He noted that it’s not only pollinators important for sustaining agriculture that are disappearing, but also dung beetles that help to recycle waste and dragonflies that propagate life in wetlands. Meanwhile, the reviewers found that populations of adaptable, fast-breeding species such as cockroaches may be on the rise.
- Also: A small study–it included just four families–found that switching from a diet of conventionally grown foods to one of organic foods significantly reduced exposure to a wide array of pesticides. –– Not only are bug bombs ineffective at eradicating the cockroaches and other household pests they’re meant to kill, but researchers have found that they deposit a significant amount of insecticides on surfaces where people are likely to come into contact with them, including tabletops, kitchen counters and floors, Eli Wolfe of FairWarning reports.
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In duck boat disasters, a verdict and an indictment: A Washington jury has awarded about $123 million to the victims of a 2015 crash in which a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle traveling on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle crossed the centerline and struck a bus carrying international students. Five of those students were killed and 60 people were injured. If the verdict survives possible appeals, the 40 plaintiffs in the civil case will each receive between $40,000 and $25 million. Dozens of people have died in duck boat accidents in the past two decades, including 17 people killed on a lake in southwest Missouri last year. The captain of that vehicle was indicted last month on 17 charges of misconduct, negligence and inattention to his duty–one for each person killed when the vehicle on Table Rock Lake sank in severe weather, NPR reported. Several other people involved with duck boat operator Ripley Entertainment are likely targets of a criminal investigation, The Kansas City Star reports.
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Workers, by the hundreds, unpaid: A California subcontractor cheated more than 1,000 workers out of pay, “habitually and routinely” withholding between 10 and 25 percent of earned wages, according to the state Labor Commissioner’s Office. The state has ordered RDV Construction, a framing and drywall company based in City of Industry, to pay nearly $12 million in back wages and penalties. The company issued checks that bounced due to insufficient funds, and workers waited months for proper payment only to receive part of what they were owed, investigators found. The state also alleges that, over a four-year period and across 35 construction sites, some workers were not paid the minimum wage and workers routinely put in nine-hour days without required breaks and without receiving proper overtime pay. This represents the largest wage theft case that the state has ever brought against a single employer, the Los Angeles Times reports.
- Also: The Louis Berger Group and its subcontractors have paid nearly $5.6 million in back wages and benefits to 993 workers who provided support in restoring power after hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico, according to a Department of Labor press release. –– El Grande Supermarket in Tampa, Florida, will pay $198,039 in back wages and damages to 17 employees after investigators found the company failed to pay minimum wage and required overtime.
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Avoidable outbreak: A measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest has sickened dozens of people and has public health officials concerned that it could spread quickly, fueled by some of the lowest rates of childhood vaccination in the country. “You know what keeps me up at night?” Clark County Public Health Director Alan Melnick told The Washington Post. “Measles is exquisitely contagious. If you have an under-vaccinated population, and you introduce a measles case into that population, it will take off like a wildfire.” Still, anti-vaccine activists turned out in force to protest a proposal in Washington that would make it more difficult to parents to refuse vaccinations for their children, eliminating personal or philosophical exemptions.
Chelsea Conaboy is a FairWarning contributor and freelance writer and editor specializing in health care. Find more of her work at chelseaconaboy.com.