Health Highlights: April 10, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

EPA Rejects Petition to Ban 2,4-D Weed Killer

An environmental group's petition to ban the widely used herbicide 2,4-D has been rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency said the petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council did not adequately show that 2,4-D was harmful under the conditions in which it is used, The New York Times reported.

The herbicide, first approved in the late 1940s, is one of the most widely used weed killers in the world. It is used by farmers and is an ingredient in many home lawn-care products.

In its petition, the Natural Resources Defense Council cited studies suggesting that exposure to 2, 4-D could cause problems such as cancer, genetic mutations and hormone disruption, The Times reported.

While some of the studies did suggest that high doses of the herbicide could be harmful, they did not establish lack of safety, the EPA said in its ruling.

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FDA Delays Decision on Weight-Loss Drug

U.S. regulators will take another three months to decide whether to approve a new obesity drug called Qnexa, drugmaker Vivus Inc. said Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration was scheduled to make a decision by April 17 but that has been changed to July 17 to give the FDA time to assess a new drug safety plan submitted by Vivus, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA rejected the drug in 2010 over concerns that it can cause heart palpitations and birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Vivus resubmitted the drug for approval and an FDA panel of medical advisers voted in February to recommend approval of the drug.

However, the FDA does not have to follow the advice of its expert panels.

If approved, Qnexa would become the first new prescription weight loss pill to reach the U.S. market in more than a decade, the AP reported.

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First Months of 2012 Warmest on Record in U.S.

The United States had record warm temperatures during the first few months of 2012, especially in March.

In the lower 48 states, temperatures were 6 degrees higher than average for the first three months of year, and 8.6 degrees above normal in March, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Associated Press reported.

The warm temperatures in the first three months broke the previous January-March record by 1.4 degrees.

The warm start to 2012 is the result of an unusual combination of La Nina and a number of other weather patterns, according to meteorologists.

The 2011-12 winter was the fourth warmest on record in the United States and the period since last April has been the warmest 12-month stretch on record, NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch told the AP.

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Posted: April 2012


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