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Health Highlights: April 15, 2008

Many Uninsured Can't Meet Cost-Sharing Requirements for HSAs Bisphenol A May Be Listed as Dangerous Substance in Canada Model Helicopter Chargers, Batteries Pose Burn Hazard Scientists Create 1st Libraries of Avian Flu Antibodies Possible Link Between Air Pollution and Pneumonia: Study French Bill Would Make it Illegal to Promote Extreme Thinness

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

Many Uninsured Can't Meet Cost-Sharing Requirements for HSAs

Many uninsured American households don't have enough financial assets to cover the cost-sharing in consumer-driven health plans tied to health savings accounts (HSAs), says a Kaiser Family Foundation study that looked at 2004 data.

Researchers looked at the asset levels of households with two or more uninsured members and compared that to the range of cost-sharing features in HSA-qualified health plans. Among their findings: 33 percent of households with at least two uninsured members had gross financial assets of at least $2,000, the minimum deductible for an HSA-qualified family plan in 2004, and only 9 percent of those households had enough assets to cover the out-of-pocket maximum of $10,000.

Overall, the study showed a large gap in terms of financial assets between uninsured and insured households.

"Although lower premiums may increase the ability of the uninsured to buy some coverage, high out-of-pocket liability may leave families exposed to costs that they cannot meet," the study authors wrote in an abstract.

The study was published online by the journal Health Affairs.


Bisphenol A May Be Listed as Dangerous Substance in Canada

Health Canada is expected to declare bisphenol A a dangerous substance, the Globe and Mail reported Tuesday. It would be the first regulatory body in the world to make that determination and to take steps to control human exposure to the chemical.

Bisphenol A is one of the most widely used synthetic chemicals in the world and is found in a wide range of products. Experts are concerned about the use of the hormonally active chemical in food and beverage containers.

"Bishphenol A is in every Canadian home. It threatens the health of every Canadian. Moving against it would be a hugely significant victory for public health and the environment," Rick Smith, executive director of the group Environmental Defence, told the Globe and Mail.

A declaration by Health Canada that bisphenol A is a possible threat will put pressure on American and European regulators to re-consider the status of the chemical.

"If this chemical is listed as toxic (by Health Canada), it will be an internationally significant decision," Smith said.


Model Helicopter Chargers, Batteries Pose Burn Hazard

About 3,200 lithium-polymer battery chargers and lithium-polymer batteries used with model helicopters sold by Hobby-Lobby International Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., are being recalled, because they can ignite while charging and pose a fire hazard.

To date, the company has received three reports of incidents, including one consumer who suffered serious burns to his hand when a battery ignited, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The recall involves the charger and batteries sold with the AT600 Falcon Helicopter kit and any spare charger (Model ATS6046) or spare battery (Model AT600B) purchased for this kit.

The helicopter kit was sold from April 2006 through July 2007 for about $300 per kit, while the spare chargers sold for about $15, and the spare batteries sold for about $45. Consumers should stop using these products and go to the Hobby-Lobby Web site ( for further instructions. Consumers can also phone the company at 866-933-5972.


Scientists Create 1st Libraries of Avian Flu Antibodies

The first libraries of avian influenza antibodies have been created by American and Turkish researchers, who say the achievement could lead to the development of treatments for people infected with the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

The libraries include more than 300 antibodies that work against H5N1. The samples were collected from survivors of bird flu outbreaks that occurred in Turkey in 2005 and 2006, CTV News reported.

To date, the scientists have found that three of the antibodies are effective against both the H1 (common flu) and H5 (avian) subtypes.

"Three global influenza pandemics have occurred within the past 100 years, each with devastating consequences," said Richard A. Lerner, president of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. "Our study holds out the hope that a new outbreak could potentially be stopped at an early stage, and that effective treatment could be available to those infected."

The research appears in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Possible Link Between Air Pollution and Pneumonia: Study

The pneumonia deaths of thousands of people in England in recent years may be linked to high levels of air pollution, according to University of Birmingham researchers who looked at pneumonia deaths in 352 areas between 1996 and 2004.

They compared those deaths with air pollution levels and found a "strong correlation," BBC News reported. The 35 areas with the highest pneumonia death rates also tended to have higher rates of rheumatic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and some cancers.

"High mortality rates were observed in areas with elevated ambient pollution levels. The strongest single effect was an increase in pneumonia deaths," said study author Prof. George Knox.

He noted that vehicles were "the chief source of emissions responsible, although it was not possible to discriminate between the different chemical components," BBC News reported.

The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

More detailed research is needed in order to establish a conclusive link between air pollution and pneumonia, lung experts told BBC News.


French Bill Would Make it Illegal to Promote Extreme Thinness

French lawmakers on Tuesday approved an anti-anorexia bill that would make it illegal for advertisers, fashion magazines, Web sites or anyone else to publicly incite extreme thinness, the Associated Press reported.

The bill was approved by the National Assembly and will go to the Senate in the coming weeks. Valery Boyer, the author of the bill, said encouraging anorexia or severe weight loss should be punishable in court.

The move is opposed by the fashion industry but welcomed by doctors and psychologists who treat patients with anorexia nervosa, the AP reported.

However, it's nearly impossible to prove a link between media images of thin women and eating disorders, said Marleen S. Williams, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Utah who researches the media's effect on anorexic women.

She told the AP that with the new French bill, "you're putting your finger in one hole in the dike, but there are other holes, and it's much more complex than that."

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