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E-Cigarettes Seldom Help Smokers Quit, Study Finds

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices were designed to help smokers of conventional tobacco cigarettes quit smoking. But do they? According to a new government-sponsored study, the answer is not really. There is no evidence that smokers who use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices are more likely to quit smoking conventional cigarettes than smokers who don’t use e-cigarettes, according to researchers at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products. ... Read More

New EPA rule allows new use of asbestos-containing products

A new rule under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) legally allows manufacturers in the U.S. to make construction-related products using the highly carcinogenic mineral asbestos. The agency’s Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) allows new products containing asbestos to be manufactured on a case-by-case basis. A new EPA report released in May details the agency’s new framework for evaluating the risk of substances. As a result, the EPA will no longer consider the effects or presence of substances like asbestos in the air, ground or water when it conducts risk assessments. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is both strong and ... Read More

Gavilon Grain Faces Sharp Penalties After Grain Engulfment Deaths

An Omaha, Nebraska-based grain company faces more than half a million dollars in penalties after two workers perished in a grain engulfment accident. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it assessed penalties of more than $507,000 against Gavilon Grain LLC for safety failures that led to the grain engulfment deaths of two workers in Wichita, Kansas, last January. Joshua Rasbold, 28, and Marcus Tice, 32, were working in a Gavilon soybean storage elevator when they fell into the grain and were buried under 25 feet of dried soybeans. It took rescuers two hours to pull the bodies ... Read More

BMW Contractor Fined Little After Worker’s Death

After a worker was killed at a South Carolina BMW Manufacturing plant in March, state safety regulators cited the man’s employer, Lodige USA, for four violations and assessed penalties amounting to just under $7,000. As Columbia, South Carolina’s The State notes, the $6,975 in fines amount to less than one-sixth the average value of a new BMW like the ones being made at the German automaker’s Spartanburg, South Carolina facility where the deadly accident occurred. Proposing such inconsequential fines for serious safety violations – those that threaten workers with the risk of injury or death – offer little to no ... Read More

U.S. Fights Opioid Epidemic With New Newark/Philadelphia Strike Force

The federal government is expanding its efforts to combat the nation’s opioid crisis and health care fraud with a new regional Medicare Fraud Strike Force operation for the Newark and Philadelphia areas. The Newark/Philadelphia Medicare Strike Force location is the tenth region-specific operation. All of the Strike Force locations monitor health care activity in a specific region for fraud affecting government health care programs. The growing crisis of opioid abuse and addiction has not just harmed tens of thousands of individuals and their families across the U.S., it has also taken its toll on the Medicare program, which loses billions ... Read More

Maryland Natural Gas Explosion Victims Waiting for Answers

More than two years after a natural gas explosion destroyed a Maryland apartment building, killing seven people and injuring dozens more, residents are still waiting for the results of a federal investigation. Residents of the Flower Branch Apartment complex in Silver Spring, Maryland, complained repeatedly about the smell of natural gas on the premises before one of the buildings exploded just before midnight on Aug. 10, 2016. The natural gas explosion leveled much of the building, killing Saeda Ibrahim, 41; Augusto Jimenez Sr., 62; Maria Auxiliadorai Castellon-Martinez, 53; Aseged Mekonen, 34; Deibi “David” Samir Lainez Morales, 8; Fernando Josue Hernandez ... Read More

FDA expands recall of blood pressure drugs due to cancer-causing impurity

The list of blood pressure drugs recalled because they may contain a cancer-causing impurity has been expanded to include nearly five dozen products from 12 different pharmaceutical companies. On July 13, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first announced a recall of certain valsartan tablets because they were found to contain a chemical known a N-nitrocodimethylamine (NDMA) in levels that exceeded those considered acceptable for public safety. The chemical, which is sometimes found in water supplies and food, is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen – something that can increase the risk of cancer ... Read More

Crane maker cited after three workers die in crane collapse

Shady Grove, Pennsylvania-based crane manufacturing company Manitowoc Co., was cited by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and faces penalties of $14,976, through its subsidiary Grove U.S. LLC, for a Feb. 2 crane collapse that killed three workers. An OSHA investigation determined that the company’s MLC300 crawler crane’s boom and luffing jib collapsed in 40 mph wind, killing Isaac Dean Notz, 38; Chris Robison, 49; and John Marcoux, 66. Two other workers were injured. The workplace safety agency said that Manitowoc Co. placed employee work facilities too close to the crane testing area, “where they were in danger of ... Read More

Whistleblower Key in Mississippi Hospital’s $1.1 Million Medicare Fraud Settlement

A Mississippi public hospital has agreed to pay the U.S. more than $1.1 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit alleging it unlawfully billed Medicare for services patients didn’t need. Grenada Lakes Medical Center, which is operated by the University of Mississippi Medical Center, agreed to settle the government’s False Claims Act allegations accusing the hospital of falsely billing Medicare for medically unnecessary and unreasonable psychotherapy services it provided to beneficiaries of the government health care program. According to the U.S. Justice Department, starting in January 2005 and continuing until April 2013, the Grenada Lakes Medical Center submitted claims for intensive ... Read More

Fentanyl used in death row inmate execution in Nebraska

The state of Nebraska not only carried out its first execution in 21 years, it also was the first death sentence in the country to be carried out using the potent opioid fentanyl. Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid and the most common drug involved in fatal overdoses in the United States, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is typically used to treat severe pain after surgery and chronic pain in patients who are physically tolerant to other opioids. Fentanyl misuse and abuse is a ... Read More