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Health Highlights: Nov. 23, 2011

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

New Baseball Deal Limits Players' Use of Smokeless Tobacco

Major League Baseball's new contract limits players' use of smokeless tobacco but doesn't ban it during games.

Players won't carry tobacco packages and tins in their back pockets or use tobacco during pregame/postgame interviews or at team functions, according to a baseball union summary obtained by the Associated Press.

But the deal does not ban the use of chewing tobacco during games, something that was called for by public health groups and others who said a ban would protect impressionable children watching games on TV.

"Our members understand that this is a dangerous product, there are serious risks associated with using it," union head Michael Weiner told the AP. "Our players felt strongly that those were appropriate measures to take but that banning its use on the field was not appropriate under the circumstances."


Baseball Players Will be Tested for Human Growth Hormone

Professional baseball players will be tested for human growth hormone beginning next spring.

Under the new Major League Baseball contract, each player will have a blood test for HGH in spring training, but the testing will not continue during the regular season. It will resume after the season ends, The New York Times reported.

Owners and players will then decide whether to conduct HGH testing during the 2013 regular season.

HGH, which cannot be legally used without a prescription, can help athletes recover quickly and build muscle mass, according to experts. Over the past decade, dozens of baseball players have been tied to HGH, The Times reported.

Major League Baseball will be the first professional sports league in North America to test players for HGH.


Low Levels of Arsenic Common in Apple Juice: FDA

Low levels of the toxic heavy metal arsenic were found in most samples of apple juice tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to new data released by the agency.

The FDA said 95 percent of the 160 apple juice samples collected between 2005 and 2011 had arsenic levels below 23 parts per billion (the agency's "level of concern"), and nearly 88 percent of the samples had levels less than 10 ppb, ABC News reported.

Eight samples of apple juice contained high levels of arsenic.

The FDA said it has increased its monitoring of arsenic levels in apple juice and will continue to collect samples for analysis. The agency also plans to establish what level of arsenic is considered safe and will be able to take action against juice makers who fail to meet that standard, ABC News reported.


Group Issues Annual List of Unsafe Toys

A Sesame Street Oscar doll, a plastic book for babies, and a wooden blocks set are among the toys that could harm children this holiday season, according to the U.S. Public Research Interest Group's 26th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report.

The document lists just over a dozen toys on store shelves that violate federal safety standards for lead and chemicals called phthalates, or that could pose a choking hazard for small children, the Associated Press reported.

Toys that are too loud and could damage hearing, as well as balloons, were also cited as potential dangers by PIRG. Balloons cause more choking deaths than any other children's product.

Toy recalls in the United States have declined in recent years and PIRG credits a 2008 law that set stricter standards for children's products, the AP reported.


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Posted: November 2011