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Health Highlights: July 19, 2019

Last Updated: July 19, 2019.

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

EPA Won't Ban Pesticide Linked to Brain Harm in Children

Even though the pesticide chlorpyrifos has been linked to brain harm in children, it will not be banned in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.

The agency said data highlighting health concerns about the pesticide was "not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable," and added that it would continue to monitor the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2022, The New York Times reported.

In 2015, the Obama administration said it would ban chlorpyrifos after EPA studies showed that the pesticide could damage brain development in children. That ban was reversed by the Trump administration in 2017, which triggered legal challenges.

In April, a federal appeals court gave the EPA a July deadline to issue a final ruling on whether to ban chlorpyrifos, The Times reported.

One of the groups that challenged the 2017 Trump administration decision on chlorpyrifos was Earthjustice, which acted on behalf of farmworker organizations and others.

"By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump's EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children's brains," Patti Goldman, a lawyer for Earthjustice, said in a statement.

She said the groups would continue their legal challenge, The Times reported.

Hawaii banned chlorpyrifos in 2018, and California and New York are considering similar measures. Consumers and environmental groups are urging the European Commission to ban the pesticide.

In the United States, the chemical industry and farmers have lobbied to continue using chlorpyrifos, saying it's needed to protect crops, The Times reported.

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U.S. Drug OD Deaths Fall for First Time in Three Decades

For the first time in three decades, drug overdose deaths in the United States fell last year, preliminary federal government data suggests.

Provisional numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show nearly 68,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018, and the agency expects that even if the final confirmed number is higher, it will be below 69,000, the Associated Press reported.

Overdose deaths have risen each year since 1990, reaching a peak of 70,000 in 2017.

The reason for the decline in 2018 was fewer deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers, but there were continuing increases in overdose deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine and psychostimulants like methamphetamines, the AP reported.

While a decline or stabilization in overdose deaths would be welcomed, the U.S. drug overdose death rate remains about seven times higher than a generation ago.

"We're still in a pretty sad situation that we need to address," Rebecca Haffajee, a University of Michigan researcher, told the AP.

The current drug overdose crisis in the U.S. has been the deadliest in the nation's history, with overdose deaths increasing by 5,000 or more a year from 2014 to 2017.


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