Monthly Archives: July 2008

US Senator Bill Nelson Calls on Raytheon to Clean Up Toxic Waste

US Senator Bill Nelson plans to hold a news conference this morning at the Azalea Adult Community Center in St. Petersburg, Florida regarding the toxic plume in the Azalea neighborhood. During the press conference, Nelson is expected to call on Raytheon to clean up the neighborhood toxic spill as well as ask the federal government to get involved. “The plume is now at the front door of the elementary school,” Nelson said in a news release. “We have to make sure the kids and everybody else aren’t exposed.”
Raytheon plans to extend its testing to include air quality in the surrounding homes and apartments. The spill occurred in 1991 but area residents didn’t know about it until a news investigation uncovered the toxic plume. At the time, the plant in question was owned and operated by E Systems. Raytheon purchased the plant and operation after the spill occurred but in so doing inherited the problem from E Systems as well as the responsibility to clean it up and inform residents of the possible dangers.

Raytheon Toxic Waste Found in Creek Class Action Lawsuit

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has found toxic waste in a creek near the Raytheon property in St. Petersburg. The toxin found, 1,4-dioxane, is one of the toxins discovered in the plume of underground contamination in the Azalea neighborhood. This is the first finding of groundwater contamination related to the toxic waste associated with the Raytheon site. However, this groundwater contamination has no known connection to the previously discovered contamination in the underground aquifer. The DEP has asked Raytheon to investigate in order to determine the source of the contamination.
This new finding will surely be a topic of much discussion this evening when the DEP and Raytheon hold a public meeting to discuss the problem. The DEP has told Raytheon to sink test wells near Azalea Elementary School. Officials at the school have been notified and have been instructed to inform parents of the issue.

Class of Antibiotics Receive Black Box Warning for Tendon Ruptures

Bayer AG’s Cipro and Johnson & Johnson’s Levaquin will receive black box warnings from the FDA after evidence has shown that the antibiotics contain a risk of tendon ruptures. The antibiotics in question belong to the same class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones.
While the ruptures occur most frequently in the Achilles tendon, they are also know to occur in the shoulders, biceps, hands, and thumbs. Six months ago, the advocacy group Public Citizen sued the FDA in order to obtain the black box warning, the FDA’s strongest warning label that is used to warn consumers and doctors about the potential dangers and adverse effects of drugs.

Bhopal Toxic Spill Still a Disaster

Twenty five years after one of the worst industrial spills ever, the people of Bhopal continue to suffer the consequences of the toxic poisons that remain in their soil. The toxins that remain in the soil have filtered into the water yet no one seems to know the extent of the toxicity. What is clear from the aftermath of the toxic spill is that a second generation of Bhopal residents are now suffering the effects fo the industrial accident that was never cleaned up-from cleft palates to mental retardation.
On December 3, 1984, a tank at the Union Carbide facility in Bhopal leaked 40 tons of the poisonous and lethal methyl isocyanate gas, killing approximately 3,000 people while they slept. More than 500,000 people were said to be effected by the toxic leak and they were to receive compensation of $550 each. However, some people have yet to receive any compensation.
This is where the Bhopal tragedy turns tricky. Union Carbide was sold to Dow Chemical in 1991. But Dow claims no responsibility for the cleanup or remediation of the site since it passed through the hands of the Madhya Pradesh State government in June 1998. Dow remains committed to the story that it did not know the accident site remains unremediated and won’t take any responsibility for remediation citing potential further liability.
So, in the meantime, due to government ineptitude and possible corporate malfeasance Bhopal remains a toxic waste dump. Its people continue to suffer from an accident that happened 25 years ago. An Indian doctor expresses it best, ““Had the toxic waste been cleaned up, the contaminated groundwater would not have happened,” says Mira Shiva, a doctor who heads the Voluntary Health Association, one of many groups pressing for Dow to take responsibility for the cleanup. “Dow was the first crime. The second crime was government negligence.”

Zyprexa Judge Urges Eli Lilly to Settle Lawsuit

The federal judge in the Zyprexa litigation is asking Eli Lilly to settle legal claims and lawsuits arising out of its off-label marketing of Zyprexa as well as hiding its side effects. In his 291 page draft order Judge Jack Weinstein argued, “”There is sufficient evidence of fraud under RICO to go to a jury,” He added: “There is evidence that off-label use of Zyprexa was excessive and may have been encouraged by Lilly.”
While the order is not in final form, it is significant and will add pressure to settle the Zyprexa claims. It also is important regarding other pharmaceutical companies’ marketing techniques, especially the so-called off-label usage.

Baltimore Archbishop Unwittingly Reveals Secrecy and Coverup in Catholic Church

In an unprecedentedly frank interview with National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen, Archbishop Edward O’Brien of Baltimore has demanded that the Legionaries of Christ as well as their lay colleagues in Regnum Christi be more accountable and transparent to the Archbishop as well as the wider church. In the wide-ranging interview conducted during the American Bishops meeting a few weeks ago in Orlando, O’Brien stated that he was prepared to remove the controversial religious order from the Archdiocese until three prominent Roman cardinals intervened on the Legion’s behalf. An excerpt of O’Brien’s interview follows,
“But what goes on in the one-on-one counseling … there seems to be a tendency to say, ‘We represent God. You can tell us anything, and you better believe that what we tell you is from God too. If your parents disagree, we know better. We’re in the God business, and they’re really not.’ This is a caricature, but it’s there.
They sponsor father/son weekends. The father drives 14 hours, brings the kid up to New Hampshire and drops the kid off at 11:00 at night. Where’s the farther going to stay? Well, there’s a place about 40 miles away you can stay, so the father’s sleeping in the car overnight. Next day they’re ready for the hike, but no, the fathers don’t go, it’s just the counselors and the kids. That’s the tendency.
Who’s in charge of this? Who’s responsible? Each time you meet with an official, [they say], ‘Oh, no, that didn’t happen, did it? You should have let us know right away. That’s not right.’ But it happens over and over again.”
In light of the sexual abuse charges against the Legionaries late founder and the highly secretive, cult-like behavior of its members, it’s fortunate that a Bishop has acted and spoken somewhat forthrightly about this group.

Pfizer to End Direct Funding of Medical Education Courses

In a move widely seen as an attempt to lessen criticism, Pfizer is halting its funding of medical education courses. The courses which had been funded by Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies were widely seen by industry professionals as a marketing tool during which the drug companies could showcase their line of products under the guise of continued medical education. Fortunately for the consumer, the public outcry reached a level that Pfizer’s public relations machine decided it no longer made sense to offer the courses to the doctors.

St. Pete Mental Health Facility Closed Due to Bed Bugs

A local mental health facility has been temporarily shut down due to an infestation of bed bugs. Personal Enrichment for Mental Health Services, is being monitored by health officials until the bed bug problem is resolved. Bed bugs, unlike roaches or fleas, hide in the mattresses and can cause painful bites.
Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs and their relatives have evolved as nest parasites. Certain kinds inhabit bird nests and bat roosts and await the return of their hosts; others have adapted well to living in the ‘nests’ (homes) of people.
Hatchling bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed, and adults are about 1/4 of an inch in length. From above they are oval in shape, but are flattened from top to bottom.
Their color ranges from nearly white (just after molting) or a light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange. The host’s blood may appear as a dark red or black mass within the bug’s body. Because they never develop wings, bed bugs cannot fly. When disturbed, bed bugs actively seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices. Cast skins of bed bugs are sometimes discovered. Although such a finding confirms that bed bugs had been present previously, it does not confirm that any continue to infest the residence. Thus, inspect carefully for live crawling bed bugs. Because many other kinds of small brown bugs may be discovered, it is critical to ensure that the bugs are correctly identified (more about this below).
Do bed bugs cause harm or spread pathogens (disease-causing germs)?
Bed bugs seek out people and animals, generally at night while these hosts are asleep, and painlessly sip a few drops of blood. While feeding, they inject a tiny amount of their saliva into the skin. Repeated exposures to bed bug bites during a period of several weeks or more causes people to become sensitized to the saliva of these bugs; additional bites may then result in mild to intense allergic responses. The skin lesion produced by the bite of a bed bug resembles those caused by many other kinds of blood feeding insects, such as mosquitoes and fleas. The offending insect, therefore, can rarely be identified by the appearance of the bites. A physician should be consulted to rule out other causes for the lesions and to offer treatment, as needed. The affected person should resist the urge to scratch the bites, as this may intensify the irritation and itching, and may lead to secondary infection. Physicians often treat patients with antihistamines and corticosteroids to reduce allergic reactions and inflammation. Despite what you may have heard or read elsewhere, bed bugs are not known to transmit any infectious agents

Nationwide E Coli Beef Recall Announced

Nebraska Beef Ltd. is recalling 5.3 million pounds of beef due to its connection with E.coli bacteria that has sickened 40 people in Michigan and Ohio. The latest announcement is an expansion of the earlier recall of ground beef. The USDA’s Food and Inspection Service has blamed unsanitary production processes for the food contamination.
Symptoms of E. coli infection can include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. It can potentially be deadly, but most people recover within five to seven days.
Health officials urge people to thoroughly cook hamburger and, if possible, use a digital thermometer to make sure meat has been heated to at least 160 degrees.

Big Pharma Criticizes FDA’s Increased Drug Safety Measures

Certainly it comes as no surprise to industry watchers that large pharmaceutical companies have been highly critical of FDA efforts to increase their monitoring and safety procedures concerning new drugs coming on to the market. The pharmaceutical companies have a singular mission in mind and that is increase their bottom line and profit margins for stock holders. On the other hand, the FDA is charged with protecting the consumer from bad drugs whose harm can potentially ruin lives. What is a bit surprising to this observer is the shameless manner that the drug companies are attacking the FDA efforts. They’re coming right out and saying the FDA is costing them more money (while they are raking in millions of dollars a year from their drugs) and delaying drugs from entering the marketplace.
With all the problems surrounding bad drugs such as Vioxx, Zyprexa, Zetia, Vytorin, just to name a few, I hope the FDA continues to fight off the big monied lobbying campaigns of the drug companies and protect consumers.