Health Highlights: Aug. 22, 2018

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

Trump Plan to Relax Coal-Fired Power Plant Rules Could Lead to 1,400 Deaths a Year

The Trump administration’s plan to relax pollution rules for coal-fired power plants will increase carbon emissions and cause up to 1,400 premature deaths a year, according to details released Tuesday.

The new plan issued by the Environmental Protection Agency is meant to replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to speed up closures of coal-burning plants — one of the main sources of greenhouse gases — and promote cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind, The New York Times reported.

The Trump administration proposes minor efficiency improvements at coal-burning plants and will permit states to ease pollution rules for plants that require upgrades, meaning they will remain open longer.

“Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance,” Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the EPA, said in a statement Tuesday.

However, technical analysis included with the proposal shows that emissions from coal-burning plants will increase and pose a risk to Americans’ health, The Times reported.

The analysis states that “implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.”

It predicts between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths a year by 2030 because of increased levels of microscopic airborne particulates (PM 2.5), which are linked with heart and lung disease and chronic problems like asthma and bronchitis, The Times reported.

The Obama administration said that by 2030, its plan would prevent between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths a year, lead to 180,000 fewer missed school days per year by children due to ozone-related illnesses, and significantly reduce asthma problems.

Under Trump’s plan, there would be 48,000 new cases of exacerbated asthma and at least 21,000 new missed days of school annually by 2030, the EPA documents show.

“With the Trump dirty power plan we see again that the Trump administration cares more about extending the lives of coal plants than the American people,” Conrad Schneider, advocacy director of the environmental nonprofit group Clean Air Task Force, told The Times.


FDA Extends EpiPen Expiration Dates to Tackle Shortage

The expiration dates of certain batches of EpiPens have been extended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in an effort to reduce shortages of the life-saving devices.

They auto-inject the drug epinephrine in order to reverse life-threatening allergic reactions.

The FDA said Tuesday that it has extended by four months the expiration dates of specific lots of 0.3 milligram EpiPens that are expired or close to expiring. The extension beyond the approved 20-month shelf life is based on data provided by EpiPen maker Mylan and reviewed by the FDA.

The devices with the extended expiration dates have already been distributed to patients and should have been, and continue to be, stored as labeled, the FDA said.

“We’re hopeful this action will ensure patients have access to this important medication and provide additional peace-of-mind to parents as the agency works with the manufacturer to increase supply,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release.

EpiPens are still available in the U.S., but are in limited supply in certain areas due to factors such as supply disruptions and manufacturer issues, according to the FDA.

It said it’s working closely with Mylan on EpiPen production and supply, and also has contacted other manufacturers of epinephrine auto-injectors about their supply.

The FDA recently approved the first generic version of EpiPen.

Mylan has a customer service number, posted on the FDA website, to help pharmacies and patients locate EpiPens. Information on the supply of other approved epinephrine autoinjectors can also be found on the website.

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