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Health Highlights: Oct. 1, 2009

Michael Jackson Healthy Before Death: Autopsy Report EPA to Create New Greenhouse Gas Regulations Drug Deaths Outnumber Traffic Fatalities In 16 States: CDC Swine Flu-Related School Closings Could Cost $47 Billion: Report

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

Michael Jackson Healthy Before Death: Autopsy Report

Michael Jackson was in good health before he died of an overdose June 25, according to his autopsy report.

The 50-year-old pop star was 136 pounds -- within the acceptable range for a 5-foot-9 man -- and his heart was strong with no sign of plaque accumulation. His kidneys and most other major organs were normal, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's report. The full autopsy hasn't been released publicly but the Associated Press obtained a copy.

Health issues noted in the autopsy include arthritis in the lower spine and some fingers and mild plaque buildup in his leg arteries, the AP reported. Jackson's lungs were chronically inflamed and had reduced capacity that may have resulted in shortness of breath. But the lung condition wasn't serious enough to be a direct or contributing cause of death.

"His overall health was fine. The findings are within normal limits," Dr. Zeev Kain, chairman of the anesthesiology department at the University of California, Irvine, told the AP. Kain wasn't involved in the autopsy but reviewed the copy of the autopsy obtained by the AP.

The autopsy report also said that Jackson's face and neck were scarred, his arms were covered with punctures, and he had tattooed eyebrows and lips.

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EPA to Create New Greenhouse Gas Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has started to move toward new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, to fight climate change.

"We are not going to continue with business as usual. We have the tools and the technology to move forward today, and we are using them," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson told reporters in a conference call Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

The proposed regulations could take effect as early as 2011, with the greatest focus on hundreds of power plants and industrial facilities that each emit at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year and account for nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation.

The announcement that the EPA plans to introduce new greenhouse gas regulations could help prod U.S. lawmakers to introduce legislation, The Times reported. It may also convince other nations of the United States' seriousness to deal with climate change in advance of a United Nations meeting in December intended to produce an international climate change agreement.

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Drug Deaths Outnumber Traffic Fatalities In 16 States: CDC

Drugs now claim more lives than traffic crashes in 16 states, a new federal government report shows.

Traffic crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, but drug-related deaths roughly doubled between the late 1990s and 2006, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Associated Press reported.

The number of states in which drug-related deaths outnumber traffic deaths has increased from eight in 2003, to 12 in 2005, and 16 in 2006 -- Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The CDC said illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine continue to be major killers, but prescription painkillers such as methadone have accounted for most of the increase in recent years, the AP reported.

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Swine Flu-Related School Closings Could Cost $47 Billion: Report

It would cost between $10 billion and $47 billion to close U.S. schools and day-care centers because of swine flu, a new report claims.

Keeping children home from school would mean that parents would have to stay home from work, including some who are health-care workers, said the paper issued by the Brookings' Center on Social and Economic Dynamics, the Associated Press reported.

Among the other estimates:

  • The value of lost class time would be $6.1 billion.
  • The cost of sweeping school closures in specific cities would be $65 million for Washington, D.C., $1.5 billion for Los Angeles, and $1.1 billion for New York City.
  • Large-scale school closures would cause 12 percent of workers to be absent from their jobs. Workplace absenteeism could be higher in lower-income households with only one employed person.

Schools are being told to close only as a last resort, such as when large numbers of students or staff have swine flu, the AP reported. As of Monday, at least 187 schools across the United States had closed, affecting nearly 80,000 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

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