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Health Highlights: Dec. 7, 2016

Last Updated: December 07, 2016.

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

'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill Sent to Ohio Governor

Republican lawmakers in Ohio have sent Gov. John Kasich a bill that would implement the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

The so-called "heartbeat bill" would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks' gestation. The bill does not exempt pregnancies caused by incest or rape, but does exempt abortions to save the life of a pregnant woman, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Currently, the law would be considered unconstitutional and similar laws in North Dakota and Arkansas have been struck down by federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states cannot forbid abortions unless a fetus is viable outside the womb, typically about 24 weeks' gestation.

But some Ohio Republicans believe their abortion law's chances of survival could improve with new federal and Supreme Court appointments by Donald Trump. Other Republicans are skeptical, the Enquirer reported.

Democrats condemned the bill.

"You might as well call me a baby killer," said Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, who previously revealed that she had an abortion after being raped. "There's no (rape) exception to this legislation and you know it."

Gov. Kasich, a Republican, opposes abortion, but has expressed doubts about the heartbeat bill in the past. He declined comment Tuesday, the Enquirer reported.

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EPA Proposes Ban on Dry Cleaning Chemical

A ban on the use of the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) as an aerosol degreaser and as a spot removal agent in dry cleaning is being proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2014, the EPA concluded that TCE poses a number of serious health risks, including including cancer, development and neurotoxicological harm, and liver damage.

The EPA wants to prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution of TCE for use in aerosol degreasing and in spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities.

The agency is also proposing to require manufacturers, processors, and distributors to notify retailers and others in their supply chains of the ban.

"Once finalized, today's action will help protect consumers and workers from cancer and other serious health risks when they are exposed to aerosol degreasing, and when dry cleaners use spotting agents," Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in an EPA news release.

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Brain-Controlled Robotic Hand for People With Quadraplegia

A brain-controlled robotic hand for people with quadriplegia shows promise, according to a new study.

It took just 10 minutes for participants to learn how to use the system to do daily activities such as signing a document or picking up potato chips, the Associated Press reported.

The participants had high spinal cord injuries, meaning they were able to move their shoulders but not their fingers. The small-scale study was published Tuesday in the journal Science.

"The participants, who had previously expressed difficulty in performing everyday tasks without assistance, rated the system as reliable and practical, and did not indicate any discomfort during or after use," according to the researchers, the AP reported.

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Five NYC Babies Born With Zika-Linked Brain Problems

Five babies in New York City have been born with Zika-linked brain developmental symptoms, the city's health department said Wednesday.

In addition to those five babies, eight other infants have tested positive for Zika but have not shown evidence of problems, The New York Times reported.

The health department also said that of about 8,000 city residents who have been checked for Zika, 962 have tested positive for the virus, including 325 pregnant women.

All of the cases were associated with travel, including six that involved sexual transmission of the virus by a partner who had visited regions hardest hit by Zika, The Times reported.

"Today's news is a reminder that Zika continues to be a threat to pregnant women and their babies," city health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.

"We are closely following all babies born to mothers who test positive for Zika infection and will connect parents to available services to improve their child's quality of life," she added, The Times reported.


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