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Health Highlights: Oct. 12, 2007

U.S. and China Discuss Product Safety Sen. Kennedy Has Surgery for Artery Blockage Report Raises Concerns About Lead in Lipsticks 500,000 Women Die Each Year During Pregnancy, Childbirth: Report Nevada Jury Awards Women $134.5 Million in HRT Lawsuit Arthritis Limits Ability to Work: Survey

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

U.S. and China Discuss Product Safety

U.S. officials met with Chinese representatives Friday in an effort to develop a plan to ensure the safety of Chinese foods, drugs and other products exported to the United States, the Associated Press reported.

While he wouldn't disclose any details about measures that China agreed to take to improve the safety of its exports, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach did say that Chinese officials will travel to the United States later this month to finalize details of a "memorandum of agreement" between the two nations.

"They are as concerned about confidence in the quality and safety of food and drugs as we are in the United States," von Eschenbach said, the AP reported.

China has faced intense international criticism due to a large number of serious health and safety problems involving products it exports. On Thursday, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee reported that China's food supply chain does not meet international standards.


Sen. Kennedy Has Surgery for Artery Blockage

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 75, underwent an hour-long operation Friday for a partial blockage in his neck's left carotid artery. The left and right carotid arteries carry blood to the head and blockages can cause a stroke.

A statement from Kennedy's office said the procedure was completed without any complications and Kennedy is expected to be released from Massachusetts General Hospital in several days, the Associated Press reported.

This kind of surgery, called a carotid endarterectomy, is performed on more than 180,000 people in the United States each year.

Kennedy's blockage was discovered during a routine examination of an old back injury he suffered in a 1964 plane crash, the AP reported.

"As part of a routine evaluation of Senator Kennedy's back and spine, MRI studies picked up an unrelated, asymptomatic blockage in the senator's left carotid artery," said the statement from Kennedy's office.


Report Raises Concerns About Lead in Lipsticks

Tests of 33 top-brand lipsticks sold in the United States showed that more than half had detectable levels of lead and 11 exceeded 0.1 parts per million, the federal lead limit for candy, says a report released Thursday by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

"The cosmetics industry definitely has a lead problem," Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the coalition of environmental and public health groups advocating toxin-free products, told the Houston Chronicle.

L'Oreal, CoverGirl, Christian Dior and Maybelline were among the brands found to have high lead levels. For example, L'Oreal Colour Riche True Red had a lead content of 0.65 parts per million, L'Oreal Colour Riche Classic Wine had 0.58 parts per million and CoverGirl's Incredifull Lipcolor Maximum Red had 0.56 parts per million.

The lipstick samples were randomly collected in four cities -- Boston, Hartford, Conn., San Francisco, Minneapolis -- and tested by Bodycote Testing Group in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., the Chronicle reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it's aware of past concerns about lead in lipstick and has no plans to take action in response to the report.


500,000 Women Die Each Year During Pregnancy, Childbirth

Each year, more than half a million women worldwide die during pregnancy and childbirth and that death toll is decreasing too slowly to meet a target set by the United Nations, warns a report released Friday by a number of groups including the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The document noted that 99 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries, Agence France-Presse reported.

In 2005, 536,000 women died of maternal causes, compared to 576,000 deaths in 1990. The rate of decline is far less than the target set out in the UN's Millennium Development Goals, which calls for a 5.5 percent decrease in maternal deaths per year until 2015. The decline in 2005 was less than one percent.

In 2005, the maternal death rate in developing nations was 450 per 100,000 live births, compared to nine per 100,000 in developed countries, said the report. It said more needs to be done to improve women's healthcare and access to reproductive health services in developing regions, AFP reported.


Nevada Jury Awards Women $134.5 Million in HRT Lawsuit

Three Nevada women who claimed the hormone replacement drugs Premarin and Prempro caused their breast cancer were awarded a total of $134.5 million in past and future damages in their lawsuit against New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Wyeth.

The decision by a jury in Reno is the largest award to date against Wyeth, which faces about 5,300 similar lawsuits in state and federal courts across the U.S., the Associated Press reported.

Each of the three women was awarded $7.5 million in past damages. In addition, two women received $36 million each for future damages and one woman received $40 million.

The five-man, two-woman jury, which deliberated for two days before announcing its verdict late Wednesday, will return to the courtroom Friday to consider punitive damages against Wyeth, the AP reported.


Arthritis Limits Ability to Work: Survey

About one-third of working-age American adults with arthritis say the chronic condition limits their ability to work, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released Thursday.

The 2003 survey, the latest data available, found that 33 percent of U.S. workers ages 18 to 64 with arthritis experienced limitations in doing their jobs, the Associated Press reported. Rates ranged from a high of 51.3 percent in Kentucky to a low of 25.1 percent in Nevada.

The survey, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is the first to give a state-by-state overview of the problem, the AP reported.

"These findings show that large numbers of workers in every state are affected by arthritis," Janet Collins, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a prepared statement. "With the increasing number of older Americans in the nation's workforce, it is important that employers, health departments and others take steps that help people with arthritis stay employed or become employed.

Arthritis is the most frequent cause of disability in the United States.

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