Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
The U.S. government this week issued its first rules limiting toxic emissions from power plants. Congress authorized the rules in 1990. The Department of Health and Human Services this week sought to limit release of details on a new, lab-engineered bird flu virus. The virus spreads easily between mammals. The officials said details on how it was made could help terrorists. French officials this week advised women with one type of breast implant to have them removed as a precaution. About 1,000 implants have ruptured.
This Issue: EPA Issues 1st Power Plant Pollution Standards U.S. Asks Scientists to Withhold Parts of Bird Flu Study French Advise Removal of PIP Breast Implants
In the News:
EPA Issues 1st Power Plant Pollution Standards
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week issued the first U.S. standards to limit power plant emissions of mercury and other toxic chemicals. Congress ordered the EPA to create the rules in a bill passed in 1990. The George W. Bush administration had proposed regulating these pollutants through an emissions trading program. But a court threw out that policy. The new standards have a three-year deadline for power plants to comply. Plants that have trouble meeting the deadline may be granted a one-year extension. Republicans criticized the new rules. Some said they could raise the cost of power and make it less reliable if plants close. Closings also could cost jobs, they said. Some industry executives have asked for more time to meet the standards. But others say they have had plenty of time to prepare. Environmental activists said the standards are long overdue. The EPA said the rule will prevent 11,000 early deaths a year and reduce heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks. The New York Times News Service wrote about the new rules.
U.S. Asks Scientists to Withhold Parts of Bird Flu Study
The U.S. government this week asked scientists not to publish the full details on how they made a bird flu virus that also spreads easily between mammals. The virus was made from H5N1 bird flu. Some humans have become sick with natural H5N1 flu after close contact with infected chickens or other birds. The death rate among these patients has been high. But the virus does not spread easily from person to person. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded two studies to find out more about what kind of changes might occur that could cause the virus to spread widely among humans. Scientists engineered a version that spread easily between ferrets in the laboratory. Ferrets and humans have a similar response to flu. The government's biosecurity advisers read the study results. At their request, the Department of Health and Human Services asked the scientists and the journals Science and Nature not to publish complete results. Officials said they feared that some details could help terrorists to create a biological weapon. But they agreed that general information about the study should be published. They said it could help scientists working on new treatments. Editors of the journals expressed concern about the extraordinary request. They were evaluating how to proceed. The Associated Press wrote about the issue.
French Advise Removal of PIP Breast Implants
French health officials recommended this week that women who have one type of breast implant get the implants removed. The silicone gel implants were made by the French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP). About 30,000 French women have the implants. Officials say more than 1,000 of the implants have ruptured. They ordered the PIP implants off the market last year after finding out that they contained cheaper industrial silicone instead of medical silicone. The French National Cancer Institute also has been studying whether the ruptured implants are linked to cases of cancer. The health minister said that removing the implants would be "preventive" and not urgent. The government will pay for removing any implants. It will pay to replace them only for the 1 out of 5 women who got them for medical reasons. Most of these implants were done after breast cancer surgery. Women who got implants for non-medical reasons would have to pay for any replacements. The Associated Press wrote about the issue.
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