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Health Highlights: Oct. 18, 2017

New National Cancer Institute Director Sworn In Five Types of Phthalates Banned From Children's Products Calorie-Counting App Pulled by Google Talcum Powder/Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit Award Overturned U.S. Fatal ODs in 2016 Outnumbered Americans Killed in Vietnam War

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

New National Cancer Institute Director Sworn In

Dr. Norman Sharpless was sworn in Tuesday as director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

He succeeds Dr. Harold Varmus, who stepped down as director in March 2015. Dr. Douglas Lowy has been NCI's acting director since April 2015.

"Dr. Sharpless is an outstanding scientist, clinician, and administrator, and we are very fortunate to have him join the NIH leadership team," National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said in a government news release.

"I look forward to his insight, influence, and partnership at NCI, as cancer research is experiencing an unprecedented era of rapid progress," Collins added.


Five Types of Phthalates Banned From Children's Products

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted Wednesday to ban five types of harmful phthalate chemicals from plastic used in children's toys and child care articles such as teething rings.

In a 3-2 vote, the agency finalized its rule in response to a legal settlement approved by a judge in a lawsuit launched against the CPSC last December by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.

"This will especially protect children who face overlapping exposures to phthalates in their communities, in household products, and even in the toys they play with," Michele Roberts, national co-coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, said in a news release from the groups.

Phthalates are used as a plastic softener in children's toys and child care articles, but research has linked phthalates exposure to interference with hormone production and reproductive development, especially in young children.

In response to those risks, the CPSC proposed in late 2014 to ban five types of phthalates in children's toys and child care articles, but did not finalize that rule until now.


Calorie-Counting App Pulled by Google

A heavily-criticized calorie-counting app has been removed from Google Maps.

While some viewed the feature on Google's iOS app as promoting exercise by pointing out how many calories people would burn if they walked somewhere rather than driving, others said it was dangerous and insulting, The New York Times reported.

People might fixate on the number of calories, a potentially dangerous habit, according to Stephanie Zerwas, the clinical director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina.

"We've gotten into this habit of thinking about our bodies and the foods we take in and how much activity we do as this mathematical equation, and it's really not," she told The Times.

"The more we have technology that promotes that view, the more people who may develop eating disorders might be triggered into that pathway," Zerwas added.

Instead of focusing on calories, an app could prompt people to walk on nice days, she suggested.

"Let's encourage it because it's fun, it feels good, it helps you think and you can enjoy the gorgeous weather," Zerwas said.

If Google wanted to promote walking, it could have done so "in terms of strength and how it makes you feel," Claire Mysko, chief executive of the National Eating Disorders Association, told The Times.


Talcum Powder/Ovarian Cancer Lawsuit Award Overturned

A $72 million award in a lawsuit linking talcum powder with ovarian cancer has been overturned by a Missouri appeals court.

The lawsuit was filed by Jacqueline Fox, 62, of Birmingham, Alabama. She alleged that talcum powder and other Johnson & Johnson products contributed to her cancer. Fox died of ovarian cancer in 2015, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

She won her lawsuit in 2006, but the Missouri Eastern District court ruled Tuesday that Missouri was not the proper jurisdiction for the lawsuit. The court cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that there must be a strong connection between the plaintiff and the state where a lawsuit is filed.

Fox's case has 65 plaintiffs, but only two live in Missouri. Three other juries have ruled against Johnson & Johnson in similar lawsuits in Missouri. A Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman said the company believes Missouri has no jurisdiction in cases involving non-residents and "we expect the existing verdicts that we are appealing to be reversed,"CBS/AP reported.

In August, a Los Angeles jury awarded $417 million to a California woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer due to long-term use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder.


U.S. Fatal ODs in 2016 Outnumbered Americans Killed in Vietnam War

More Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016 than were killed in the Vietnam War, and most of those deaths were caused by opioids, new figures show.

Last year, 64,070 people died from drug overdoses, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Vietnam War claimed 58,200 American lives, CBS News reported.

Overdose deaths rose 21 percent between 2015 and 2016, and about three-fourths of overdose deaths are caused by opioids, which include prescription painkillers, heroin, and synthetic drugs such as fentanyl.

In a new report, the Police Executive Research Forum compared the 64,070 overdose deaths in 2016 to the Vietnam War and other major causes of American deaths.

There were 35,092 motor vehicle deaths in 2015. There were 50,628 AIDS-related deaths in 1995, the worst year of the AIDS crisis. The most homicides occurred in 1991, when 24,703 people were murdered. Suicides have been rising for nearly 30 years and totaled 44,193 in 2015, CBS News reported.

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