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Health Highlights: July 25, 2002

States Sue Diet Supplement Makers Stop-Smoking Efforts Falling Short Pesticides Inadequately Reviewed by EPA, Says Panel E coli is Most Common Preemie Infection Eight Players Died From Football Injuries Last Season: Report Toddler Activity Sets and Puzzles Recalled

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

States Sue 'Andro' Makers

Lawsuits were filed by attorneys in six states today against makers of a popular dietary supplement that is promoted as an alternative to anabolic steroids.

The 20 companies that make dietary supplements containing androstenedione, widely known as "andro," are being accused of fraud, because, say the lawsuits, their claims that the product boosts muscles have been shown in numerous studies to not be true.

And if andro did offer such results, it would not be allowed on the market as a dietary supplement, say the lawyers. "We believe the makers and sellers of andro are caught in a Catch-22," said Vincent Lynch, a co-counsel for plaintiffs. "If andro works, they are criminally liable, and if andro doesn't work, they are liable for civil damages."

Suits seeking class-action status are being filed in Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, California and Colorado, and a seventh suit is expected to be filed soon in Illinois, reports CNN.

Andro hit the U.S. market in 1996; it gained wide exposure several years later when then-St. Louis Cardinals star Mark McGwire admitted he used the product.


Stop-Smoking Efforts Falling Short

Although seven in 10 smokers want to quit, Americans aren't meeting the government's stop-smoking goals. And the reasons include persistent smoking by younger people and not enough help for lower-income and minority people.

Those are the conclusions of a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today, reports HealthDay.

Overall, the report found, smoking has declined somewhat, from 25 percent of adults in 1993 to 23.3 percent in 2000. But that isn't enough to meet the government's goal of getting the incidence below 12 percent by 2010, says Terry Pechacek, the CDC statistician who compiled the numbers.

"We're seeing an overall decline in prevalence in adults 18 and older, but we're not seeing a decline in the younger age groups," Pechacek says. The incidence of smoking is highest among people in their 20s, the numbers show.


Pesticides Inadequately Reviewed by EPA, Says Panel

The Environmental Protection Agency prematurely deemed 28 pesticides to be safe without adequately considering their safety in regard to children's health, says a new report.

The report, conducted by an independent panel of scientific advisers, faults the EPA for using an inadequate margin for safety for fetuses, infants and children when it gave its approval for 28 of 30 organophosphorus pesticides.

Instead of using a ten-fold default safety factor that is generally required by the Food Quality Protection Act, the EPA only used a three-fold factor, says the report from the five-member panel that was made public this week.

Specifically, the EPA's review failed to determine wither the pesticides are particularly harmful when combined, reports the Associated Press.

The review of the cumulative risks of organophosphorus pesticides was conducted as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought against the EPA by the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.


E coli Is Most Common Preemie Infection

E coli has overtaken strep as the most common infection among premature infants, says the Associated Press of a report in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

The study funded by the National Institutes of Health says the trend is alarming because E coli can be even more deadly than Group B streptococcus bacteria. Ironically, the researchers note, the upswing in E coli infections may be a direct result of trying to routinely prevent strep among such infants.

The report says during the 1990s, women were commonly given the drug ampicillin to ward off strep passed to infants during delivery. But overuse of this antibiotic may have bred resistant E coli. Cases of E coli infection reportedly doubled among preemies during the decade.

E coli infection can overwhelm a premature infant's immune system, possibly causing mental retardation, hearing and vision loss, and death, the report says.


Eight Players Died From Football Injuries Last Season: Report

Eight young American football players died last season as a direct result of injuries suffered on the field, according to an annual survey from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.

The deaths included those of seven high school players and one in a Pop Warner league. Three others died of heatstroke during the 2001 season, and 12 others died in ways not directly tied to the game but more from natural causes attributed to vigorous exercise, the report says.

Of the three players who died of heat-related causes, one occurred in high school, one in college, and one in the National Football League. The report says 20 players have died from heat-related causes since 1995.

Six of the "direct" deaths resulted from brain injuries, one from a fractured neck, and one from a ruptured spleen, according to the report, which UNC has compiled since 1965.


Toddler Activity Sets and Puzzles Recalled

Lauri Inc. of Phillips-Avon, Maine, is recalling 110,000 "Toddler Tote" activity sets and 11,000 "Familiar Things" toddler puzzles. The dog puzzle included with both products can tear into small pieces, posing a choking hazard to children, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says. Lauri has not received any reports of injuries.

The "Toddler Tote" sets have three animal puzzles, seven stacker pegs of various colors, a geometric shapes puzzle and four basic-shape mini-puzzles. The contents are packaged in a blue box with a rubber handle that acts as a carrying tote. Written on the 9-inch square box are the words "Lauri" and "LR-2116."

The "Familiar Things" puzzle set includes 12 two-piece puzzles, among them cut-outs of fish, planes, boats and cars. The purple box has "First Puzzles for Little Ones" and "LR-2113" written on it.

Specialty toy stores, Web retailers and school supply catalogs sold the products from January 1999 to July 2002. Toddler Totes sold for about $15 and Familiar Things sold for about $20.

Consumers should take the toys away from children immediately and call Lauri for free replacement pieces. Contact Lauri toll-free at 1-800-451-0520 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

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