Health Highlights: Aug. 2, 2007

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

Mattel Recalls Nearly 1 Million Toys With Lead Paint

Toy maker Mattel has recalled nearly one million toys in the United States because they are covered in lead paint. The recall covers 83 different kinds of toys -- many of which feature Sesame Street and Nickelodeon characters -- that were made in China.

By halting product shipments from its distribution centers and by contacting retailers last week, Mattel said it prevented more than two-thirds of the 967,000 affected toys from reaching consumers, The New York Times reported. However, more than 300,000 of the lead-tainted toys have already been purchased by U.S. consumers.

The affected toys, made between April 19 and July 6, may have a date code from 109-7LF to 187-7LF on the product or packaging, said the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

"These recalled toys have accessible lead in the paint, and parents should not hesitate in taking them away from children," Nancy A. Nord, acting CPSC chairwoman, said in a statement.

This is Mattel's 17th recall in 10 years, the Times reported.

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Botulism Victim in Critical Condition

A Texas youngster with botulism from recalled canned food remained in critical condition Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

The youngster's sibling, who also had botulism, was released from the hospital on July 26. Both of them ate Castleberry's Austex Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original for lunch on June 28 and began showing signs of botulism poisoning the next day. The unidentified siblings, both under age 18, are from Abernathy, about 17 miles north of Lubbock.

Potential botulism contamination has prompted a U.S.-wide recall of tens of millions of cans of more than 90 Castleberry Food Co. products, including chili, hash and stew, the AP reported.

So far, there have been four confirmed cases of botulism linked to the products. Along with the two Texas siblings, two people in Indiana have become ill.

In New Mexico, officials are investigating whether a 52-year-old man paralyzed with botulism poisoning ate any of the recalled Castleberry products, the AP said.

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FDA Postpones Field Laboratory Closures

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has postponed the closure of more than half of its field laboratories, Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said Wednesday. He said he's waiting for recommendations from a presidential panel on how to better ensure the safety of imported food and other products, the Associated Press reported.

The panel, the Import Safety Working Group, was established on July 18 and told to offer recommendations within 60 days. Before proceeding with the field laboratory closures, the FDA wants to hear from the panel to ensure the FDA is "doing the right thing and doing it in the right way," von Eschenbach said.

"Once we have the benefit of that information, we can come back again to the more fundamental question of how do we create a field operation that is adapted to and equipped to manage the converging challenges and converging complexities of our ability to ensure the quality of the products that FDA regulates," he said.

Recently, the United States has seen a flurry of recalls of imported food and consumer products, many of which are regulated by the FDA, the AP said.

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Broccoli and Cauliflower May Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Regular consumption of broccoli and cauliflower may reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer by as much as 52 percent, says a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Both are known to contain anti-cancer compounds.

American and Canadian researchers studied 1,300 prostate cancer patients and concluded that eating more dark green and cruciferous vegetables, especially cauliflower and broccoli, lowered the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, BBC News reported.

Men who ate a weekly serving of cauliflower were 52 percent less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer, while similar amounts of broccoli reduced the risk by 45 percent, the study said. Spinach may also offer some protection.

"Broccoli and cauliflower have appeared in other studies as being potentially important in defenses against prostate cancer," Chris Hiley, head of policy and research at The Prostate Cancer Charity, told BBC News. "Whilst waiting for definitive evidence it's clear that men should be eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day."

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U.S. House Votes Health Coverage for Millions of Uninsured Kids

In a 225 to 204 vote Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a major expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program that would provide coverage for four million uninsured children in low-income families.

The program currently covers 6.6 million children. Money for the expanded program would come from increased tobacco taxes and reductions in subsidies to private Medicare plans for older Americans, The New York Times reported.

The bill, which was supported by 220 Democrats and five Republicans and opposed by 194 Republicans and 10 Democrats, would also eliminate co-payments for more preventive care provided to Medicare recipients and increase assistance to low-income Medicare recipients.

President Bush has said he'll veto the bill, which was developed entirely by Democrats. A more modest bipartisan bill is expected to be approved by the Senate this week, but Bush has said he will veto it as well, The Times reported.

At current levels, the federal government would spend $25 billion on the Children's Health Insurance Program over the next five years. The House bill would provide a total of $75 billion over the same period, while the Senate bill would provide $60 billion.

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Accutane Rules Need More Flexibility: FDA Panel

There needs to be slightly more flexibility in rules designed to prevent pregnancies among women taking the acne drug Accutane, advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. Accutane can cause birth defects.

Even though some women taking the drug are still getting pregnant, the advisers recommended minor rule changes that would make it easier for women to access Accutane without increasing the number of pregnancies among women taking the drug, the Associated Press reported.

Under a program called iPledge, women taking Accutane must pledge not to become pregnant. The program is supposed to cover every user of the drug, every doctor who prescribes it, and every pharmacy that sells it.

But administrators of the privately run program told the FDA advisory panel that there were 122 pregnancies in the first year of iPledge, and another 37 pregnancies in the first four months of the program's second year, the AP reported.

Many of those women had abortions or miscarriages, while the program lost track of 35 women. The one child known to have been born so far did not have any birth defects. Officials are monitoring 15 continuing pregnancies.

Posted: August 2007


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