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Health Highlights: Sept. 29, 2009

Appeals Court Upholds U.S. Military Anthrax Vaccination FDA Delays Cervarix Decision Neocate Infant Formula Recalled: FDA EPA Warns About PCBs in School Window/Door Caulking Senate Committee Discusses Dietary Supplements Regulation Food Workers Heaviest Smokers: Study

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

Appeals Court Upholds U.S. Military Anthrax Vaccination

The U.S. military can require personnel to be vaccinated against anthrax, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The court upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a case brought by eight members of the military who argued against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's stance that the vaccine was effective, the Associated Press reported.

In addition, the plaintiffs challenged the Defense Department's requirement that personnel at risk for anthrax exposure must be vaccinated.

In its decision, the appeals court said the plaintiffs didn't provide any scientific evidence to prove the vaccine was ineffective, the AP reported.

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FDA Delays Cervarix Decision

A decision about whether to approve the Cervarix vaccine for cervical cancer has been delayed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An announcement about a decision had been expected Tuesday.

The drug has been approved in nearly 100 other countries, but its approval has been delayed in the United States since 2007, when the FDA requested addition data from drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, the Associated Press reported. Cervarix blocks the two main viruses that cause cervical cancer.

Another vaccine, Gardasil, has been available in the United States since 2006.

Also on Tuesday, it was reported that a 14-year-old English girl died after receiving the Cervarix vaccine. Her death appears to have been caused by an extremely rare, severe reaction to the vaccine.

The girl became ill soon after receiving the vaccine and died in hospital a few hours later, the AP reported.

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Neocate Infant Formula Recalled: FDA

A blending error has prompted a recall of some cans of Neocate specialized infant formula, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

About 3,700 cans of the formula contain protein levels lower than that declared on the label, United Press International reported. Short-term use of the recalled formula would be unlikely to cause nutritional problems for infants, but long-term consumption may affect growth in certain infants, said Nutrica North America Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md.

The FDA said the recalled 14-ounce cans were distributed to pharmacies, healthcare professionals and consumers nationwide. The recall includes cans with "Lot#P91877" printed on the bottom of each can. The lot number also appears on the right hand side of the case label, UPI reported.

For more information, consumers can call the company at 800-365-7354, options 8-6061.

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EPA Warns About PCBs in School Window/Door Caulking

Schools across the United States need to check window and door caulking to see if it contains potentially cancer-causing PCBs, says the Environmental Protection Agency. If significant amounts of PCBs are found, the caulking should be removed.

Although an exact number isn't known, PCBs may be present in many schools that were built or renovated before the chemicals were banned in the late 1970s, said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, according to the Associated Press. The danger to students is uncertain.

"We're concerned about the potential risks associated with exposure to these PCBs, and we're recommending practical, common sense steps to reduce this exposure as we improve our understanding of the science," Jackson said in a news release.

The agency plans to conduct research into the link between PCBs in caulk and in the air and will conduct tests on PCBs in schools, the AP reported. The EPA has set up a PCBs-in-caulk hot line (1-888-835-5372) and Web site at www.epa.gov/pcbsincaulk.

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Senate Committee Discusses Dietary Supplements Regulation

Government regulation of dietary supplements will be discussed at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday. The issue is being looked at because steroids and other banned substances are turning up in over-the-counter bodybuilding products.

The dietary supplements industry was deregulated by Congress in 1994.

"We're looking at whether there's adequate protection for consumers from getting these supplements, which have steroids or steroid-like substances," Sen. Arlen Specter, D.-Pa., who convened the committee hearing, told the Associated Press. "These tainted products can cause life-threatening injuries, such as kidney failure and liver injury."

The lack of dietary supplement regulation is a major problem for amateur and professional athletes who use OTC supplements, because they can be suspended if they test positive for a banned substance, said Don Fehr, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"Players, like everyone else, have no idea what they're taking," Fehr told the AP. "I'm sure there are some good supplement products in the market that are safe, effective and accurately identified. I hope these products can be protected. But as of now, there is no way a player or anyone else can know with certainty that what they are taking is accurately described on the label."

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Food Workers Heaviest Smokers: Study

Food preparation and food serving workers are the heaviest smokers among people with full-time jobs, according to a new U.S. report.

The study of 2006-08 data found that 33.6 million full-time employees ages 18-64 smoked cigarettes in the past month.

Smoking was reported by 44.7 percent of food preparation/serving workers, followed by 42.9 percent of construction and mining/extraction workers. The lowest smoking rates were among people in education, training and library occupations (12.3 percent) and those who worked in the life, physical and social sciences area (15.4 percent), according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study.

Among the other findings:

  • Unemployed people ages 18 to 64 had a much higher percentage of past-month cigarette use than full-time workers -- 45.4 percent vs. 28 percent.
  • Among full-time workers, the rate of past month smoking was higher among those ages 18 to 25 (40.1 percent) than those ages 26 to 34 (33.9 percent), ages 35 to 49 (26.7 percent), and ages 50 to 64 (20.7 percent).
  • Overall, men with full-time jobs were more likely than women to have smoked in the past month, but women with community and social services, healthcare, and technical occupations had higher smoking rates than men in those occupations.

"The study provides important insight and updated information that can be used to assist in developing or refining smoking cessation efforts for specific workplace groups," SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick said in a news release.

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