Health Highlights: June 13, 2008

HealthDay SHARE
  • Care of Female Veterans Lags at Some VA Hospitals: Report
  • Shower Curtains May Affect Health: Study
  • Infrared Sauna Rooms Pose Fire Hazard
  • Bosch Hammer Drills Recalled
  • More Underweight Babies Being Born in U.S.
  • Marijuana Potency Increasing

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

Care of Female Veterans Lags at Some VA Hospitals: Report

U.S. female veterans aren't receiving the same quality of care as men at about one-third of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, according to a VA review obtained by the Associated Press.

While the VA has created women's clinics at many hospitals, more clinicians need to be trained in women's care, and there's a need for more equipment focused on women's health, the document states.

The review, mandated by Congress, seems to support criticism by advocates and some members of Congress that the health care system needs to do more to help female veterans, the AP reported.

Any discrepancies in care are unacceptable and the agency is aggressively tackling the issue, said Dr. William E. Duncan, associate deputy undersecretary for health for quality and safety at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We're striving to understand the reason for these health disparities and to eliminate differences in veterans' health care based on personal characteristics," Duncan told the AP.

Currently, women account for about five percent of the VA's population. But that percentage is expected to nearly double in the next two years as more female veterans return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the wire service said.

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Shower Curtains May Affect Health: Study

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shower curtains and liners release into the air 108 toxic chemicals that can affect the lungs, central nervous system, liver and kidney, according to a study by the Virginia-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice. It wants the federal government to recall and ban all PVC shower curtains and liners.

The researchers examined shower curtains and liners bought at retailers Bed Bath and Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart, the New York Daily News reported.

"The familiar 'new curtain smell' may be toxic to your health," said Mike Schade, the center's PVC campaign coordinator. "It's really surprising that retailers are manufacturing products that contain and release harmful chemicals in our homes."

But a spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission dismissed the center's demand for a recall and ban of the products.

"There's no justification whatsoever for the agency to take any kind of action," Julie Vallese told the Daily News. "The claims being made about the dangers of shower curtains are phantasmagorical. It's ridiculous."

Consumers needn't be worried, said a New York pediatrician who specializes in environmental exposure. Dr. Joel Forman, an associate professor of community and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, recommended airing out a new plastic curtain for a week before hanging it in the shower.

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Infrared Sauna Rooms Pose Fire Hazard

About 225 Sauna By Airwall infrared sauna rooms are being recalled because the heating unit and fuse can fail, leading to overheating and risk of a fire, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

Sauna By Airwall Inc. of Bellflower, Calif. has received four reports of fires that resulted in property damage. There have been no reports of injuries.

The recalled sauna rooms include the following model numbers: IC, I, IC II, IC III, IC IV, and IC V. The model number is found on the serial plate located on the back of the machine, in the lower right hand corner. The sauna rooms were sold nationwide from November 2006 through April 2008 for between $600 and $4,000.

Consumers with the recalled sauna room should stop using it and disconnect it from the power source, the CPSC said. Owners can contact Sauna By Airwall collect at 562-630-2283 for more information.

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Bosch Hammer Drills Recalled

About 9,700 Bosch hammer drills are being recalled because they can continue to operate after the trigger has been released, posing a danger to users and bystanders, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said. No injuries have been reported.