Health Highlights: Aug 21, 2015

Health Highlights: Aug 21, 2015

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

EPA Downplays Mine Spill Threat, State Health Officials Still Concerned

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is downplaying the dangers from a mine spill that contaminated waterways in several Western states, but state health officials are concerned about the long-term effects.

On Aug. 5, EPA workers accidentally released more than 3 million gallons of contaminated water while investigating an inactive mine near Silverton, Colorado. The spill caused rivers in the region to turn yellow-orange and triggered the shutdown of public drinking water systems, the Associated Press reported.

Sediment contamination in affected rivers is returning to pre-spill levels and no longer poses a threat to water treatment plants or recreational water users, according to the EPA.

However, state health officials remain concerned about the long-term threat that heavy metals and other contaminants left by the spill may pose to aquatic life and private drinking wells, the AP reported.


Significant Rise in Organic Food Recalls: Report

There has been a sharp rise in recalls of organic food products in the United States this year, a new report says.

So far, organic food products have accounted for 7 percent of all food units recalled, according to Stericycle, a company that handles recalled for businesses. It uses data from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture, The New York Times reported.

Last year, only 2 percent of total units of food recalled were organic, and the percentage was 1 percent in 2012 and 2013.

Growing consumer and business demand for organic ingredients contributed to increase in recalls, according to Kevin Pollack, a vice president at Stericycle.

‘What’s striking is that since 2012, all organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination, like salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A, rather than a problem with a label,” he told The Times.

“This is a fairly serious and really important issue because a lot of consumers just aren’t aware of it,” Pollack added.

However, the Organic Trade Association said the problem is not as bad as suggested by Stericycle.

“A key point to keep in mind is that an overall increase in organic recalls between 2012 and 2015 would not be surprising — not because organic food is less safe, but because of the dramatic increase in organic food sales and purchases that we’ve been seeing in this country,” Gwendolyn Wyard, senior director of regulatory and technical affairs at the trade group, told The Times.

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