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MT Weekly: Deadly Coronavirus Enters U.S., FDA Endorses Cosmetic Asbestos Testing

Fifth U.S. Case of Wuhan Coronavirus, More Than 80 Deaths in China

On Sunday, a fifth U.S. case of Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed in Arizona, adding to two confirmed cases in Southern California and one case each in Illinois and Washington state. All five infected individuals had recently traveled to Wuhan. Nearly 2,800 coronavirus cases and 81 deaths are confirmed in mainland China as the disease spreads with more than 45 cases across 9 Asian countries, France and Australia. Chinese Health Minister Ma Xiaowei announced Sunday that coronavirus is contagious prior to the appearance of symptoms, making the disease much more difficult to contain. Passengers arriving from Wuhan are being screened for signs of the virus at the only five U.S. airports, in Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Chicago (O’Hare), San Francisco and Atlanta, currently accepting flights from Wuhan.

Coronavirus, which physicians believe may be spread through the eyes, includes symptoms such as runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and an overall feeling of being unwell. Infants, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems are at risk of developing pneumonia or bronchitis.

FDA Panel Endorses Stringent Asbestos Testing of Cosmetics and Talcum Powder

An expert panel convened by the Food and Drug Administration broke ranks with industry by challenging long-standing industry product-safety assertions and endorsing asbestos testing for cosmetics and talcum powder, as reported by Reuters. Asbestos is a highly carcinogenic mineral often found near talc, the main ingredient in talcum (baby) powder. The panel went further, asserting that all mineral particles small enough to enter the lungs should be viewed as potentially harmful. Because there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, the panel recommended use of the most sensitive asbestos detection methods available.

In October, Johnson and Johnson voluntarily recalled 33,000 bottles of its talcum powder after the FDA found asbestos in a single bottle. The company is currently facing approximately 17,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging that their cancer was caused by the company’s talcum powder.

For the First Time, Corrupt U.S. Opioid Executives Are Going to Jail

Former billionaire John Kapoor, 76-year-old co-founder of opioid manufacturer Insys Therapeutics, was sentenced Thursday in a federal court to five-and-a-half years in jail. Kapoor and four other Insys executives were convicted in May of a racketeering conspiracy involving physician kickbacks to boost sales of the company’s lucrative prescription drug Subsys (fentanyl), an opioid credited with taking the company’s value to a high of $3.2 billion in 2015, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Two additional Insys executives pleaded guilty prior to the May trial and testified against the others. The other four convicted executives have already been sentenced to between one and three years in prison, according to Vox.

Arizona-based Insys is shutting down due to the burden of lawsuits from local and state governments.

In 2016, prescription fentanyl claimed the lives of more than 4,000 Americans.

Residing Near Major Roads and Highways Linked to Major Neurological Disorders

A study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Health found an increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and non-Alzheimer’s dementia in individuals living closer than 54 yards from a major road and less than 164 yards from a highway. Researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed data for metropolitan Vancouver area residents ages 45 to 84 who’d registered with the provincial health insurance plan and remained in Vancouver during the study period, approximately 678,000 individuals out of a population of 2.5 million.

Increased air pollution was linked to a higher incidence of non-Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s, with women somewhat more impacted than men, but not with multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease for either gender. Noise pollution was not associated with an increased risk of disease, while living near green spaces, which correlates with less air pollution, was found to have some protective effects for Parkinson’s and non-Alzheimer’s dementia, albeit less for NAD.

Surgical Gown Shortage Delays Surgeries Nationwide

Cardinal Health voluntarily recalled its Level 3 surgical gowns mid-month due to manufacturing quality concerns, a move the Food and Drug Administration supported in a Jan. 16 statement. According to CNN, more than 9 million gowns were recalled due to concerns they weren’t sterile, including 7.7 million already sent to 2,807 facilities, causing surgical delays around the country. It’s uncertain when the supply issue will be resolved. Surgical gowns are classified into four levels of fluid barrier protection. Level 3 gowns provide moderate protection and are used in emergency rooms, for inserting IVs and arterial blood draws, and in procedures such as heart surgery and knee replacements.

By Carah Wertheimer

Carah Wertheimer is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her areas of specialization include food, health, environment, social justice and community reporting. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, The Denver Post, The Daily Beast, the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and other publications.

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