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Health Highlights: Feb. 27, 2019

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

Obama Era Air Pollution Standard Stands: EPA

An air quality standard for sulfur dioxide pollution from coal-powered power plants and other industrial sources will remain unchanged, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

The American Lung Association and other groups wanted the EPA to lower emissions from 75 parts per billion of sulfur dioxide in ambient air to 50 parts per billion, the Associated Press reported.

The current standard was established in 2010. The American Petroleum Institute wanted it relaxed.

The EPA's decision puts millions of people at increased risk of asthma attacks, warned Janice Nolen, vice president of the American Lung Association, the AP reported.

In its decision, the EPA said research shows that people with asthma can suffer problems after just five minutes of exposure to air with elevated sulfur dioxide levels, but the agency said the current standard provides "an adequate margin of safety" for the risk to health, the AP reported.


Senators Grill Drug Company CEOs Appear on High Drug Prices

The CEOs of seven major drug companies faced questioning Tuesday from U.S. Senators about high prescription drug prices.

Some of the companies had asked for a private meeting to explain their pricing policies, but lawmakers insisted the CEOs appear in public or risk subpoenas, the Associated Press reported.

"You pharma executives are here because the way you do business is unacceptable and unsustainable. Ten companies accounted for half of all profits in the health care sector last fall. Nine of those ten were drug manufacturers," ranking Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon said in his prepared statement.

In statements submitted to the committee, the CEOs said drug development is a risky and expensive process and that prices reflect investment in research and development, the AP reported.

Tuesday's hearing is the first time lawmakers have called on top drug company executives to account for rising prices that cause difficulties for millions of Americans and are a drain on Medicare and Medicaid.

The public hearing suggests that Congress and the White House are moving toward legislation this year to control drug costs, according to the AP.


Roundup Cancer Lawsuit Could Be 'Bellwether' Case

A "bellwether" trial to determine whether a California man's cancer was caused by Roundup weed killer is underway in San Francisco.

Attorneys for Edwin Hardeman, 70, say his case could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits involving Monsanto's weed killer, the Associated Press reported.

The case in federal court began on Monday and will be decided by a jury.

In August, a San Francisco jury in awarded another man $289 million after deciding that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A judge later cut the award to $78 million, and Monsanto has appealed.

Hardeman's trial is before a different judge, U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and considers Hardeman's case and two others "bellwether trials," the AP reported.

"If we are able to succeed here then it really sends a signal to Monsanto and specifically to Bayer that they have a real problem," said Hardeman's attorney, Brent Wisner.

Thousands of other Roundup lawsuits are pending in state courts nationwide, the AP reported.

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