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Health Highlights: May 19, 2015

Takata to Announce Huge Recall Over Defective Airbags FTC Takes Action Against 'Sham' Cancer Charities U.S. Announces Plan to Boost Bee Populations

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

Takata to Announce Huge Recall Over Defective Airbags

Japanese airbag maker Takata will declare that nearly 34 million vehicles in the United States have defective airbags and announce a recall, sources tell The New York Times.

The announcement was expected Tuesday and was to be made with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials.

The agency has been pushing Takata since last last year to make the declaration, but the company has resisted, and at one point said the NHTSA could not force it to issue a recall, The Times reported.

Six deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to defect in Takata's airbag inflaters, which can explode violently when they deploy and spray metal fragments into a vehicle's passenger compartment.


FTC Takes Action Against 'Sham' Cancer Charities

Four cancer charities are "sham charities" that deceived donors and spent more than $187 million in donations on personal expenses, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and state officials.

The FTC said Tuesday that the charities -- the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society were created and controlled by the same network of people and led by James Reynolds Sr., The New York Times reported.

In direct mail and telemarketing campaigns to solicit donations, the charities outlined specific uses for the money, including buying pain medication for children and transporting patients to and from chemotherapy sessions.

"These were lies," according to government officials. Instead, the donations were used by those running the charities for personal items such as gym memberships, college tuition and dating website subscriptions, The Times reported.

On Monday, the FTC and attorneys generals from all 50 states and the District of Columbia filed suit against the charities in the U.S. District Court for Arizona. Reynolds and some of his relatives were named as defendants.

Between 2008 and 2012, the charities spent less than 3 percent of donations on cancer patients, the FTC said.

The agency said two of the charities -- the Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society -- agreed to settle the charges before the complaint was filed on Monday and will be dissolved, The Times reported.


U.S. Announces Plan to Boost Bee Populations

The U.S. government is introducing measures it hopes will reverse declining honeybee populations.

The plan includes restoring 7 million acres of bee habitat on federal lands over the next five years, boosting spending on bee research from $34 million to $82.5 million in the upcoming budget year, and taking a closer look at neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been temporarily banned in Europe, the Associated Press reported.

Bees play a crucial role in the pollination of many crops and contribute more than $15 billion in value to the U.S. economy, but their numbers have been falling due factors such as pesticides, disease, mites and declining nutrition, according to scientists.

A federal survey found that beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their colonies last year, but later recovered their bee numbers by dividing surviving hives, a federal survey found, the AP reported.

The measures show that the federal government finally understands that land use is crucial for healthy bee populations, University of Montana bee expert Jerry Bromenshenk said.

"From my perspective, it's a wake-up call," Bromenshenk wrote in an email to the AP. "Pollinators need safe havens, with adequate quantities of high-quality resources for food and habitat, relatively free from toxic chemicals, and that includes pollutants as well as pesticides and other agricultural chemicals."

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