Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
Twin births have jumped in the United States since 1980, health officials said this week. In other government news, advisers urged U.S. health officials to change the definition of lead poisoning. They said the current threshold for blood lead in children should be cut in half. This could lead to diagnosis of many thousands more children. Also this week, drug regulators issued their first rules limiting the use of antibiotics in animals raised for food.
This Issue: Twin Births Increase Dramatically since 1980 Much Lower Lead-Poisoning Standard Proposed FDA Restricts Some Antibiotics in Food Animals
In the News:
Twin Births Increase Dramatically since 1980
About 1 out of every 30 babies born in the United States is a twin. So says a new government report released this week. That figure is a major jump from 1 out of 53 babies in 1980. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote the report. They said the main reasons for the increase were later births and infertility treatments. For unknown reasons, women in their 30s are more likely to have twins than younger or older women. But the greatest increase in twins has been among women in their 40s, the CDC said. That's because of infertility treatments. Women in their 40s are more likely to have two embryos implanted during in vitro procedures. From 1980 through 2004, twin births rose about 2% a year, on average, the CDC report said. Since then, the increase has slowed to about 1% per year. The rate of twins doubled for whites. It increased by half for blacks and by one-third for Hispanics. The Associated Press wrote about the report.
Much Lower Lead-Poisoning Standard Proposed
The level of blood lead required for a diagnosis of lead poisoning in children should be cut in half, an expert group said this week. The group provided its advice at the request of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It cited recent research that suggests lower lead levels can be harmful. Currently, lead poisoning in children is defined as at least 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. The expert group said this should be cut to 5 micrograms. Lead has been banned in paint and most forms of gasoline since the 1970s. But it lingers in soil and in paint chips from old houses. The CDC estimates that 250,000 children have lead poisoning under the current standard. This could rise to 450,000 under the proposed new standard. The Associated Press wrote about the advisory group's report.
FDA Restricts Some Antibiotics in Food Animals
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a first step this week to limit use of antibiotics in some animals raised for food. The FDA said it would restrict use of cephalosporin antibiotics. They are injected into some cattle, pigs and poultry just before slaughter. These antibiotics are not used as often in animals as some others. But they are frequently needed to treat serious human infections. The number of infections that "resist" one or more antibiotics has been increasing rapidly. Many experts say one reason is the routine use of antibiotics in animals raised for food. The FDA said in 2010 that this use of antibiotics was "a serious health threat." But this week's action is the agency's first to address the threat. The Associated Press wrote about it.
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