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Health Highlights: May 26, 2009

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

Court Rules 'Light' Cigarettes Duped Smokers

By labeling some cigarettes as "light," the tobacco industry deceived smokers into believing these brands were less harmful than others, a U.S. Federal Appeals Court ruled Friday.

The court confirmed an August 2006 ruling by a lower court that found tobacco makers lied for years about the dangers of such cigarettes. The ruling also upholds an earlier decision ordering tobacco companies to remove statements such as "light" or "natural" from product packaging, the Agence France Presse reported.

The case pitted the U.S. government against big tobacco manufacturers including Philip Morris and Reynolds, who, the AFP reported, will likely appeal the decision before the U.S. Supreme Court.


BPA From Bottles Shows Up in Urine: Study

People who drink from plastic bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA) have elevated levels of the chemical in their urine, says a Harvard School of Public Health study that confirms what health experts have long suspected, the Boston Globe reported.

The chemical is used in hundreds of products, including baby bottles.

The Harvard team found a 69 percent increase in BPA levels in the urine of people who drank for one week from clear plastic polycarbonate bottles. The study, published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to definitively show that BPA from plastic bottles leaches into people's bodies, according to the team.

"If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher. This would be of concern since infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA's endocrine-disrupting potential," said senior author Karin B. Michels, an associate professor at the School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, the Globe reported.

An American Chemical Council official said the Harvard study doesn't show that products with BPA pose a health risk.


Illinois Company Recalls Ground Beef

Nearly 96,000 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with the potentially deadly bacterium E. coli 0157:H7 have been recalled by Valley Meats LLC of Coal Valley, Ill., the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

Federal officials classified the recall as "Class One," which means that eating the meat poses a high health risk, CNN reported.

An outbreak of illness linked to the meat was first reported by the Ohio Department of Health on May 13. Illnesses have also been reported in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

The recalled products were produced on March 10 and packaged under a variety of labels. A list of recalled products is posted at, CNN reported.

E. coli 0157:H7 -- which can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea, and kidney failure -- poses the greatest danger to the very young, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, says the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service.


No Decline in Pregnant Women's Alcohol Use: CDC

The number of American women who drink alcohol while pregnant didn't decrease between 1991 and 2005, despite warnings from the Surgeon General about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study has concluded.

During that 15-year period, about 1 in 8 women drank any amount of alcohol while pregnant and about 1 in 50 pregnant women engaged in binge drinking. Rates of alcohol use and binge drinking among women of childbearing age remained steady.

The study was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the CDC.

Alcohol use during pregnancy continues to be an important public health concern, said the study authors. They added that health care professionals play an important role in education women about this issue and should routinely ask all women who are pregnant or of childbearing age about their alcohol use, inform them of the risks of alcohol use while pregnant, and advise them not to consume alcohol while pregnant.


Chronic Ills Common Among Adults With Public Insurance: Study

Nearly two-thirds of adult Americans under age 65 covered by public insurance in 2005-06 had at least one chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, says a U.S. government study.

About 57 percent of people with private insurance and 36 percent of those without insurance had at least one chronic condition, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings:

  • 45 percent of the those with public insurance, 32 percent of those with private insurance, and 17 percent of the uninsured had at least two chronic illnesses.
  • Health expenditures for treatment of adults with two or more chronic illnesses averaged $6,455 for those with public insurance, $1,987 for the uninsured, and $3,598 for people with private insurance.
  • People with public insurance with two or more chronic illnesses had lower average annual out-of-pocket expenses than those without insurance -- $708 vs. $1,040.
  • Among adults with public insurance, chronic diseases accounted for 57 percent of medical care spending, compared with 46 percent for the privately insured, and 47 percent for the uninsured.
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Posted: May 2009