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Health Highlights: Dec. 9, 2008

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

Diesel Truckers Have Higher Lung Cancer Risk: Report

Diesel truck drivers are more likely to develop lung cancer than other workers, according to U.S. researchers who examined the records of 31,135 workers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Short-haul drivers had a greater risk than long-haul drivers. This may be because long-haul drivers often keep their windows closed while short-haul drivers keep their windows open and have greater exposure to diesel exhaust, said the researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.

Fresh, newly released diesel particles have a greater potential to cause DNA mutations that lead to lung cancer, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study findings will be considered by California's Air Resources Board when it meets Friday to vote on a new regulation to reduce the public health threat posed by diesel truck exhaust, the Chronicle reported.

If the rule is adopted, California would become the first state to require a retrofit or replacement of every privately owned older, heavy-duty diesel truck on the road, the newspaper said.


Pistol Not a Medical Device: FDA

A single-bullet pistol designed to be used as protection by seniors and the disabled will not be approved as a medical device and won't be covered by Medicare, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

The oval-shaped Palm Pistol fits in a person's palm and the barrel sticks out through the fingers. Instead of a trigger, the gun is fired by a thumb- activated button, the Associated Press reported.

The inventor, Matthew M. Carmel of Maplewood, N.J., said an FDA representative advised him to register his company as a medical device facility and list the Palm Pistol as a "recreational adaptor." The registration seemed to go smoothly, but was revoked Monday by the FDA.

Carmel got some bad advice from that agency person, FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey told the AP.


Irish Pork May Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Irish pork that may be tainted with cancer-causing dioxins has been removed from sale in Europe and Asia.

The Irish government ordered all pig meat products made since Sept. 1 to be withdrawn after dioxins were found in slaughtered pigs believed to have eaten tainted feed, Agence France Presse reported.

Authorities are investigating a feed company suspected of being linked to the contamination and up to 100,000 pigs from affected farms will be slaughtered.

Contaminated meat may have been shipped to 12 European Union countries and nine nations outside of Europe, AFP reported. Japan, Singapore and South Korea have suspended imports of Irish pork products.


Commentary Supports Brain Stimulant Pills

In a controversial commentary article, a group of experts argues that healthy people should be able to use stimulants to give their brains a boost. They said using pills to increase brain function is no more morally objectionable than eating right or getting a good night's sleep.

The commentary in the journal Nature calls for more research into this area and steps to manage any risks, the Associated Press reported.

"I would be the first in line if safe and effective drugs were developed that trumped caffeine," article co-author Michael Gazzaniga, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in a an e-mail.

While some health experts agreed this is an area that deserves attention, Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics disagreed.

"It's a nice puff piece for selling medications for people who don't have an illness of any kind," Turner told the AP.

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Posted: December 2008