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Health Highlights: June 4, 2010

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

McDonald's Recalls Shrek Glasses

About 12 million "Shrek"-themed drinking glasses sold nationwide at McDonald's are being recalled because the painted designs contain cadmium, a known carcinogen that can also cause bone softening and severe kidney problems.

Consumers should immediately stop using the 16-ounce glasses, warned the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S.-made glasses, which cost about $2 each, are part of a promotional campaign for the movie "Shrek Forever After," and depict characters from the movie. McDonald's plans to post instructions on its Web site regarding refunds.

A pigment in paint on the glasses contained cadmium, said McDonald's USA spokesman Bill Whitman. CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson did not specify the amounts of cadmium that leached from the paint in tests, but said the amounts were "slightly above the protective level currently being developed by the agency," the AP reported.


WHO Flu Advisers Had Ties to Drug Makers: Report

A trio of experts who created the World Health Organization guidelines advising governments to stockpile drugs to prepare for a possible flu pandemic had close links to the drug companies that make the antiviral drugs, a new report contends.

The scientists who wrote the guidelines, issued by the WHO in 2004, had previously been paid for other work from Roche, which makes Tamiflu, and GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Relenza, according to an investigation by the British Medical Journal and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Guardian newspaper in England reported.

The companies made more than $7 billion when governments around the world stockpiled the drugs, according to analysts.

Even though the trio of experts had previously publicly declared their ties to the drug companies, the WHO itself did not publicly disclose any of these connections in its 2004 guidance about the need to stockpile the antiviral drugs, the newspaper reported.


Kellogg Hit for Rice Krispies Health Claims

After being accused by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission of making exaggerated health claims about its Rice Krispies cereals, Kellogg Co. has agreed to expanded restrictions that prohibit the company from making any claims of health benefits of any food unless there's scientific proof.

The FTC went after Kellogg for advertising that Rice Krispies "now helps support your child's immunity," the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new agreement expands a 2009 settlement between the FTC and Kellogg over claims that Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was "clinically shown to improve kids' attentiveness by nearly 20 percent."

"We expect more from a great American company than making dubious claims -- not once, but twice -- that its cereals improve children's health," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, the Journal reported. "Next time, Kellogg needs to stop and think twice about the claims it's making before rolling out a new ad campaign, so parents can make the best choices for their children."


New Sulfur Dioxide Emissions Standard Will Save Lives: EPA

A new standard for sulfur dioxide emissions will prevent up to 5,900 premature deaths and 54,000 asthma attacks a year, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The value of the health benefits of the new standard are estimated to be $13 billion to $33 billion a year. Adopting the new standard will cost industry $1.5 billion over the next 10 years, The New York Times reported.

The new standard uses a one-hour measurement of sulfur dioxide concentrations in order to protect people against short-term exposure to the common air pollutant. The previous standard was based on a 24-hour measurement.

The EPA has also mandated that new monitoring stations be set up by 2013 in areas with the highest concentrations of sulfur dioxide.

Coal-burning power plants are a major source of sulfur dioxide, which has been linked to asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and respiratory distress, the Times reported.

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Posted: June 2010