Health Highlights: March 13, 2018

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

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Trump Administration Broke Federal Air Pollution Law: Judge

The Trump administration broke federal law by not meeting a deadline on new smog regulations, a federal judge has ruled.

Specifically, the Trump administration missed the Oct. 1, 2017, deadline to designate which parts of the United States were complying with tighter air quality standards for smog, the Associated Press reported. The tougher standards were issued by the Obama administration.

The ruling, made Monday by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, involved two lawsuits, including one filed by 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Gilliam ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to complete the compliance/non-compliance air quality designations by the end of April. Under the law, polluted regions can be forced to take action to improve air quality, AP reported.

Smog is linked with health problems such as heart disease, bronchitis and emphysema, and the new standards would save hundreds of lives each year, according to the states' lawsuit.

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Cluster of Lung Disease Cases Found Among Dentists

Nine dentists in Virginia developed a chronic, progressive lung disease of unknown cause between 2000 and 2015, and seven of them died, a new government study showed.

The cluster of cases is the first time that dentistry has been linked with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), CBS News reported.

The study, conducted by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, identified 894 patients diagnosed with IPF at a medical center in Virginia. While the nine dentists accounted for just 1 percent of those patients, the number is significant when the number of dentists in the United States is taken into account, according to the researchers.

"A cluster is defined as an aggregation of cases grouped in place and time that are suspected to be greater than the number expected, even though the expected number might not be known," study author Dr. Randall Nett, a medical officer with the U.S. Public Health Service, told CBS News.

"The number of dentists treated for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis [IPF] at this Virginia tertiary care center was about 23 times higher than expected," he noted.

The cause of IPF is unknown, but work-related hazards may play a role, experts say. Previous studies have linked the disease to job-related exposure to dust, wood dust and metal dust. Other possible causes include tobacco smoke and viral infections, CBS News reported.

"Dentists and other dental personnel have unique exposures at work. These exposures include bacteria, viruses, dusts, gases, radiation and other respiratory hazards," Nett explained.

"At this time, we do not know what caused this cluster of IPF cases in dental personnel. However, it is possible exposures at work contributed to this cluster," he said.

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2nd Malfunction Affecting Frozen Embryos Reported

A second U.S. fertility clinic has reported a malfunction that could potentially affect thousands of frozen eggs and embryos.

The Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco said Sunday that on March 4 there was a liquid nitrogen failure in a storage tank holding thousands of frozen eggs and embryos, the Washington Post reported.

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The clinic did not reveal how many eggs and embryos were affected but said the tank contained "several thousand" of them.

Last week, a similar malfunction was reported by the University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center's fertility clinic in Cleveland. The clinic has notified about 700 patients that their frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged, the Post reported.


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