Health Highlights: Sept. 27, 2011

Jewelry Industry Will Self-Regulate Toxin in Kids' Jewelry Obese Now Outnumber Hungry Worldwide: Report U.S. Ranks Last in Preventable Deaths: Report

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

Jewelry Industry Will Self-Regulate Toxin in Kids' Jewelry

U.S. jewelry manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to restrict levels of the toxic metal cadmium in children's necklaces, rings and other products, the Associated Press reported.

The heavy metal has been linked to cancer and other diseases, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which last year recalled some 300,000 pieces of costume jewelry because of high cadmium content, intends to use the voluntary limits to determine if and when product recalls are needed, the AP said.

The agency said voluntary standards, rather than mandatory rules, should be enough to regulate cadmium content in children's baubles. Most of the recalled trinkets were made in China.

The guideline "limits potential exposure to cadmium in children's jewelry in a manner that assures safety without resulting in bans on safe products," said Brent Cleaveland, who helped draft the regulations for ASTM International, a group that sets standards for various consumer goods. Cleaveland told the AP that the new limits, which may take effect in November, are "way more conservative than necessary."

Magnets, lead and other potential jewelry problems are also addressed in the new standard. Experts worry that if kids lick or bite trinkets bearing the metals that high levels might enter their bodies.

Under the new policy, 0.03 percent cadmium would be the content limit for jewelry intended for children 12 years and younger. Products that exceeded the limit in testing would be rejected or referred for additional examination.


Obese Now Outnumber Hungry Worldwide: Report

There are now more obese people than hungry people in the world, but a growing food crisis is increasing the hardship for those who don't have enough to eat, the International Federation of the Red Cross says.

In 2010, there were 1.5 billion obese people and 925 million undernourished people worldwide, the humanitarian group noted in its annual World Disasters Report released Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The figures highlight the disparity between rich and poor, as well as problems caused by recent increases in food prices, according to the Geneva-based organization.

"If the free interplay of market forces has produced an outcome where 15 percent of humanity are hungry while 20 percent are overweight, something has gone wrong somewhere," IFRC secretary general Bekele Geleta said in a news release, AFP reported.


U.S. Ranks Last in Preventable Deaths: Report

The United States ranks last among 16 high-income nations on preventable deaths and could save as many as 84,000 lives a year if it lowered its preventable death rate to that of the top three nations, a new study says.

Between 1997-98 and 2006-07, other nations lowered their preventable death rates an average of 31 percent. The U.S. rate declined only 20 percent, from 120 to 96 per 100,000.

By the end of those 10 years, the preventable death rate in the United States was nearly twice that of France, which had the lowest rate (55 per 100,000), according to the Commonwealth Fund-supported study. Australia and Italy had the second and third lowest rates.

The United States' poor ranking may be due to "the lack of universal [health insurance] coverage and high costs of care," said the study authors, who analyzed deaths before age 75 from causes such as treatable cancer, diabetes, childhood infections/respiratory diseases, and complications from surgery.

The study appears in the November print issue of the journal Health Policy.

"This study points to substantial opportunity to prevent premature death in the United States. We spend far more than any of the comparison countries -- up to twice as much -- yet are improving less rapidly," Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen said in a Commonwealth news release.

"The good news is we know lower death rates are achievable if we enhance access and ensure high-quality care regardless of where you live. Looking forward, reforms under the Affordable Care Act have the potential to reduce the number of preventable deaths in the U.S. We have the potential to join the leaders among high-income countries," she added.

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