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Health Highlights: Dec. 21, 2009

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

Cell Phone Warning Pushed by Maine Legislator

Although no proof exists that cell phones can harm your health, a Maine legislator wants them to bear warnings that their use can cause brain cancer.

According to Maine Rep. Andrea Boland (D-Sanford), the legislature will consider her proposal in the 2010 session, which starts in January, the Associated Press reported. The concern is that electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones poses a cancer risk.

The cell phone industry disputes the claims. A spokesman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry group, said scientific evidence "overwhelmingly" indicates no health risk, the AP said.

The news service also said the Federal Communications Commission doesn't require cell phone makers to reveal radiation levels, although it sets a standard for the "specific absorption rate" of radio-frequency energy.

Boland uses a speaker with her cell phone to distance it from her head. If her proposal gets passed, Maine would be the first U.S. state with such cellphone legislation, although some countries require warnings about cell phone hazards, the National Conference of State Legislators said.


Is Facebook Anonymous in Your Teen's Future?

For some teenagers, the social networking site Facebook is so seductive that they must take extreme measures to releases themselves from its addictive grip.

According to The New York Times, teens, mainly girls, are forming support groups, attempting to set personal time limits, asking others to change their passwords or deactivating their accounts altogether in an attempt to break the time-consuming habit.

"It's like any other addiction," psychologist Kimberly Young, the director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Penn., told The Times. "Its hard to wean yourself."

Without computer-addiction programs to help them, addicted Facebookers must devise their own strategies. "A lot of them are finding their own balance," Young said. "Its like an eating disorder. You can't eliminate food. You just have to make better choices about what you eat. And what you do online."

Industry experts say Facebook's reach among teens nearly doubled in the past year. According to the Nielsen Company, Facebook was used by 54.7 percent of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 in October, an increase from 28.3 percent a year earlier, The Times noted.

Facebook doesn't make it easy to say goodbye. Before the struggling teens can deactivate their Facebook accounts, they must check off six reasons why they want to quit. And if they change their minds, they are welcomed back using their original login and password information.


Senate Democrats Reach Agreement on Health- Care Reform Bill

Moving the ambitious plan to overhaul the nation's health-care system ever closer to reality, Senate Democrats announced on Saturday that they have reached agreement on a bill that is still on track to be approved by Christmas.

Although Senate Republicans staunchly oppose the bill, the Senate Democrats said they now have the 60 votes needed to overcome any potential filibusters on the Senate floor, according to the New York Times.

The critical 60th vote finally came after Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), gave his backing following 13 hours of intense negotiation Friday, the Times reported.

"Change is never easy, but change is what's necessary in America," Mr. Nelson said during a Saturday morning news conference. "And that's why I intend to vote for health care reform."

If the bill passes the Senate, it will still have to be reconciled with a House version of the bill that was adopted last month, and Nelson stressed that if any changes were not to his liking, he would withdraw his backing, the Times reported.

The highly ambitious bill would extend health benefits to more than 30 million uninsured Americans by expanding Medicaid and by providing subsidies to help moderate-income people purchase private insurance.


Louisiana Residents Happiest in U.S.

People in Louisiana are the happiest Americans, while those in New York are the least cheery, according to researchers who analyzed four years of data from 1.3 million people surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other sunny, outdoorsy states -- Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona -- rounded out the top five happiest places, which also tend to score well on rankings of crime rates, climate, air quality and schools, the Associated Press reported.

Long commutes, congestion and high prices around New York City may help explain why New York ranked at the bottom of happiness, said study co-author Andrew J. Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick in England, the AP reported.

Rounding out the bottom five were Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana and New Jersey. The study was published Friday in the journal Science.

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Posted: December 2009