1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2019
  4. February

Current Events in February 2019

Browse Current Events by year

2019

Browse Current Events by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

    By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    Century Products recalls 4 million infant child seats

    The handle on the seats can crack and break

    Century Products is recalling 4 million rear-facing infant child seats that have a "type 1" handle and manufactured between January 1, 1991, and July 31, 1997.

    The handle on the seats can crack during normal use outside a motor vehicle, which can lead to an unexpected break.

    If the handle unexpectedly breaks, the child could fall to the ground possibly causing serious injuries.

    What to do

    To prevent future cracking or failure of the child seat handle, Century will provide owners with an improved handle and installation instructions.

    Owners should contact Century at (800) 345-4109, to obtain the free replacement handle.

    Century Products is recalling 4 million rear-facing infant child seats that have a "type 1" handle and manufactured between January 1, 1991, and July 31, 1...
    Read lessRead more

    Lime admits a software glitch is causing scooters to suddenly brake

    Riders were tossed off e-scooters that decelerated without warning

    Electric scooters being dropped off on city streets by companies like Bird and Lime can reach speeds as fast as 25 MPH and are typically driven on the road alongside cars. But is the software that powers the scooters safe enough to be operating what is essentially a motor vehicle?

    In a company blog post, Lime admitted Saturday that “some riders have been injured” due to a software glitch in which its scooters unexpectedly brake.

    “...we diagnosed the issue in a laboratory environment and determined that in very rare cases -- usually riding downhill at top speed while hitting a pothole or other obstacle -- excessive brake force on the front wheel can occur, resulting in a scooter stopping unexpectedly,” Lime said in a statement.

    Dangerous glitch

    Lime, which is backed by Uber and valued between $2 and $3 billion, says that the defect is very rare. Lime acknowledges that “some riders have been injured” though it claims that most of the injuries have been “bumps and bruises” and nothing too serious.

    But reports from abroad suggest that the glitch may be more problematic than Lime is letting on. The city of Auckland, New Zealand reportedly voted to suspend the company following 155 cases of sudden braking. And in January, Lime also stopped service in Switzerland due to reports of sudden braking. In one Swiss case, a rider broke his elbow, and in another, the rider reportedly suffered a dislocated shoulder as a result of the crash.

    A class-action lawsuit that injured riders and bystanders filed against Bird, Lime, and other e-scooter operators last October said that the industry as a whole is marked by defective technology and “a wanton disregard for the safety of others.”

    It’s not the first technical glitch that Lime has reported. Last November, Lime recalled 2,000 scooters that were at risk of suddenly catching fire due to a problem in their batteries.

    Electric scooters being dropped off on city streets by companies like Bird and Lime can reach speeds as fast as 25 MPH and are typically driven on the road...
    Read lessRead more

    Bayer facing second trial over glyphosate in Roundup

    California resident Edwin Hardeman alleges that Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

    Bayer, the company that purchased Monsanto in June, is facing a second trial today over the controversial active ingredient in its weed-killing product Roundup.

    The trial comes six months after Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, won a lawsuit alleging that the glyphosate contained in the herbicide causes cancer.

    Now, California resident Edwin Hardeman is taking Bayer to federal court over the same allegations. Hardeman began using Roundup in the 1980s to control poison oak and weeds on his property, according to court documents. He says he regularly sprayed “large volumes” of the product on his property for many years.

    In 2015, Hardeman was diagnosed with the same type of cancer that is affecting Johnson. However, Hardeman has a history of hepatitis C, which is a risk factor for developing lymphoma. Bayer also said in court filings that most non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma incidents have no known cause.

    Found to be carcinogenic

    Earlier this month, a new meta-analysis concluded that glyphosate increases the cancer risk of heavily exposed individuals by 41 percent. Bayer argued that the findings provide “no scientifically valid evidence that contradicts the conclusions of the extensive body of science demonstrating that glyphosate-based herbicides are not carcinogenic.”

    The company said the analysis employed the use of "statistical manipulation" and that it contained "serious methodological flaws.” Bayer has maintained at every turn that “hundreds of studies indicate glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer” despite the existence of thousands of lawsuits alleging otherwise.

    In 2015, The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer published research claiming that glyphosate is a “probable” carcinogen. Glyphosate is currently an active ingredient in weed killers made by several companies.

    Last August, a jury found that Monsanto acted with "malice" and that its weed killers Roundup and Ranger Pro contributed "substantially" to Johnson's illness. The jury awarded Johnson nearly $300 million in damages, later reduced to $78 million.

    Hardeman’s complaint alleges that Bayer "knew or had reason to know that Roundup was defective and unsafe" and that exposure to the product "could result in cancer and other severe illnesses and injuries."

    Hardeman’s lawyers argue that information disseminated by Monsanto was “inaccurate, false, and misleading,” and as a result, did not provide consumers with adequate warnings regarding the product’s safety.

    Bayer, the company that purchased Monsanto in June, is facing a second trial today over the controversial active ingredient in its weed-killing product Rou...
    Read lessRead more

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

      By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

      Seatback cameras give airlines the ability to watch passengers

      Airlines say the cameras on the new entertainment systems aren’t turned on

      Whether you’re at home or cruising at 30,000 feet you could be in the range of a microphone or camera. Even if someone isn’t watching or listening, they could be.

      The latest potential encroachment on consumers’ privacy is contained in a new entertainment system being installed on major airlines. At least three major carriers -- American, United, and Singapore Airlines -- have installed new seatback entertainment systems that contain a camera.

      The camera was discovered by an observant passenger on a Singapore Airlines flight who tweeted: “Just found this interesting sensor looking at me from the seat back on board of Singapore Airlines. Any expert opinion of whether this a camera? Perhaps @SingaporeAir could clarify how it is used?”

      It turned out to be a camera. But why would an entertainment system on an airliner be equipped with a camera?

      According to American Airlines, there’s an innocent explanation. The manufacturer of the equipment has included the capability for passengers in different parts of the plane to video chat with each other.

      Cameras aren’t turned on

      All three airlines told the British newspaper The Independent they’ve never activated the seatback cameras and don’t plan to in the future. Even so, travelers on those three airlines might feel a little better if they carry a piece of tape on board the flight and place it over the lens.

      Consumers who have purchased smart speakers for their homes have gotten used to the idea that the speaker also has ears and is always listening. As we reported in 2017, hackers have found a way to exploit a vulnerability in the Amazon Echo that can turn it into a live microphone.

      Researcher Mark Barnes said at the time that the attack is limited because it requires physical access to the device. However, he pointed out that product developers shouldn’t take it for granted that customers won’t expose their devices to uncontrolled environments.

      Just forgot to mention

      Just last week, Google Nest Secure users were surprised to learn that the home security system has a built-in microphone which had not been disclosed in any of the product literature. The company said that it was not trying to keep the microphone a secret, it just neglected to mention it.

      As for the cameras on airplanes, it is possible that more carriers will have the seatback cameras if they install the new entertainment system on their aircraft. You can locate the camera lens by looking directly below the video screen. It is a small circular lens in the middle of a larger circle.

      Whether you’re at home or cruising at 30,000 feet you could be in the range of a microphone or camera. Even if someone isn’t watching or listening, they co...
      Read lessRead more

      Investors are making a big play in reversing food waste

      Don’t blame restaurants or farmers. Most of the squander happens right in our own homes

      Waste not, want not.

      The fact that consumers are focusing on reducing food waste isn’t lost on the investment community. A new report by non-profit coalition ReFed says that companies fighting food waste have pulled in some $125 million in venture capital and private equity funding in 2018.

      And, like most everything else these days, consumers have technology to thank for the forward movement on keeping food products fresher for longer.

      As an example, ReFed points to Walmart. In its perishables supply chain, the big box retailer recently experimented with smart labeling technology where electronic devices are attached to produce shipping containers and crates in an effort to monitor spoilage. While the technology wasn’t part of its existing bailiwick, Walmart saw enough long-term potential in reducing inventory loss to make the investment.

      “Investors are seeing that food waste is a big business opportunity,” Michelle Masek, head of marketing at Apeel Sciences, told Bloomberg News. Apeel recently formed a partnership with a major European supplier of avocados that will use a water-based solution that the company says extends the ripeness for another four days or so.

      The environmental challenge

      “Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen how climate change and resource utilization are closely linked, and food is one of the most important resources in that equation,” wrote ReFed in an analysis of the study.

      “This puts food waste squarely at the center of many global challenges. Reducing food waste would have a game-changing impact on natural resources depletion and degradation, food insecurity, national security, and climate change. As one of the largest economies and agricultural producers in the world, we believe the United States has a major role to play in setting an example and contributing to significant food waste reduction.”

      Any way you look at it, food waste is a crisis. Today, the United States spends over $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten.

      Each and every year, more than 50 million tons of food ends up in landfills. On top of that, an additional 10.1 million tons remains unharvested at farms. An even sadder fact is that 49 million Americans have a hard time putting food on their table.

      Clean up your own backyard

      While having garbage pickup is a nice thing for the consumer to have, ReFed estimates that cities actually lose money on the deal. As an example, the coalition cites Baltimore.

      “If it were possible to reduce the cost of collection for composting in the Baltimore area by 10 percent, an annual systemwide net cost of $700,000 to collect and process 140,000 tons of food waste could become a net benefit of $230,000. If it were possible to reduce the cost of collection in the Los Angeles area by 15 percent, an annual system-wide net cost of $5 million to collect and process 800,000 tons of food waste could become a net benefit of $1.2 million.”

      While you might think that farms, manufacturers, and restaurants are to blame for most of that, think again. In the U.S., about 43 percent of all the waste happens at the end of the food chain -- in the kitchen at home, according to an earlier ReFed report. A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found two-thirds of the food wasted at home is edible.

      ReFed says that consumers are fully aware of their shortcomings. They feel guilty, but just not guilty enough to try to make a difference.

      Waste not, want not.The fact that consumers are focusing on reducing food waste isn’t lost on the investment community. A new report by non-profit coal...
      Read lessRead more

      World Mobile Congress showcasing advances in smartphones

      Upgrades to 5G are expected to turn heads at the annual show

      Smartphones, which didn’t really exist 12 years ago, are now dominating the tech world. That’s the underlying message delivered at the World Mobile Congress (WMC), kicking off today in Barcelona, Spain.

      The show, comparable to Las Vegas’ annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is a coming out party for all things mobile. An estimated 2,400 exhibitors from 200 countries will show their latest products.

      Technology writer Jim Harris says the show has taken on added importance recently as smartphones have dominated the tech universe. In 2018, he says 59 percent of all international technology spending was on these devices.

      In recent years, consumers have made the switch from PCs to mobile devices. Research shows we now spend more online time using a phone than a computer. More searches are performed from a mobile platform than from a PC. And most eye-opening, perhaps, is the fact that Android, not Windows, is now the most widely-used operating system.

      Focus on 5G

      Harris says this year’s WMC will likely focus on 5G, the next generation in wireless technology. The first 5G phones will hit the market later this year, but sales will likely be negligible. Sales will explode, however, as providers build out their 5G networks, which Harris says will change everything.

      With a 5G connection, consumers will be able to download a two-hour HD movie in less than four seconds. Throughput will be up to 100 times faster than what consumers get with 4G LTE.

      AT&T has recently taken some criticism for branding its network “5G-E,” with the “E” standing for evolution. But critics say the branding is misleading, since it is only an enhanced version of 4G LTE service and can’t compare to 5G speed.

      5G wireless service will also allow much higher density, with millions more connections than a 4G network can handle. That will allow billions of 'Internet of Things' (IoT) devices to be connected.

      Reduced latency

      Other improvements include a huge reduction in latency, the lag between when a command is issued and when it is carried out. Harris says 5G’s latency is a 50 times improvement over 4G LTE.

      Smartphones’ battery life will also be significantly extended because 5G is much more energy efficient than the current technology.

      Once the show is over, Harris says we’ll know a lot more about what’s in the technology pipeline, including the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in our mobile devices. Harris notes that a $1,000 smartphone now has more raw computing power that IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer of 1997 that cost $100 million, and that these phones are about to become even more powerful.

      Smartphones, which didn’t really exist 12 years ago, are now dominating the tech world. That’s the underlying message delivered at the World Mobile Congres...
      Read lessRead more

      Apple and Goldman Sachs may be launching a credit card

      The new Mastercard would adopt some features from Apple Pay

      A new credit card provided by Goldman Sachs and Apple is reportedly in the planning stages. A report in The Wall Street Journal cites people involved in the project who say it will be a Mastercard product and use elements of Apple’s digital wallet, Apple Pay.

      The sources say the new card is expected to launch later in 2019 around the time Apple upgrades the iPhone. While industry analysts say the card should be a winner for both companies, Arielle O’Shea, NerdWallet personal finance expert, says it could also be good for consumers.

      “If reports are true and the card ends up offering 2 percent back on all purchases, it could directly compete with other top cash back cards on the market,” she told ConsumerAffairs.com.

      O’Shea says Goldman Sachs would like to engage with millennials, and she sees an Apple credit card as an effective way to bond with this next generation of bank customers.

      “The bank is likely hoping to piggyback on Apple's loyal following to convert users of the credit card to long-term Marcus banking customers that turn to the bank for other financial products,” O’Shea said.

      Slow to adopt Apple pay

      Apple Pay is widely used around the world, but the adoption rate among retailers lags far behind credit cards. The new Apple card is expected to go head-to-head with Chase’s Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve travel cards, which are already popular with millennial consumers

      “Given that millennials tend to most value experiences and travel, they may continue to be attracted to travel rewards cards despite Apple's powerful brand,” O’Shea said. “Even the biggest Apple fans shouldn't blindly turn to this card: It's important to compare annual fees and features when shopping for a new card, and make sure it fits your spending habits.”

      The Journal Report makes clear that consumers who are already using Apple Pay may stand to benefit the most. Cardholders may get some special features in Apple Pay such as setting a budget and managing payments.

      A new credit card provided by Goldman Sachs and Apple is reportedly in the planning stages. A report in The Wall Street Journal cites people involved in th...
      Read lessRead more

      Sprint to deploy 5G in four cities in May

      The service will launch in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City

      Sprint has announced that its 5G service will be extended to customers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City in May.

      The coverage will roll out to customers in Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. in the first half of 2019. Collectively, the nine city launch will make 5G available in 1,000 square miles by June of next year.

      "We’re excited to play our part in advancing the next generation of wireless technology as we prepare to debut our mobile 5G service in nine markets," Sprint CEO Michel Combes said in a statement.

      "Even better, when combined with T-Mobile we will be able to roll out 5G in more places, more quickly, building an incredible nationwide 5G network that reaches underserved communities, accelerates competition, and drives new levels of U.S. innovation and progress."

      5G on the way

      In January, Sprint revealed that it will sell smartphones that are compatible with its 5G network. The first device will be the LG V50 ThinQ 5G. Pricing details for the device haven’t been announced yet. Sprint will also start selling the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G later this year.

      All four major wireless carriers are gearing up to launch 5G service throughout the U.S.

      5G boasts several major changes, including the ability to move more data with greater speed, the power to connect more devices at the same time, and more responsive access with lower latency. The network promises to make data speeds 10 to 100 times faster than the current average internet speed.

      Sprint recently slammed AT&T for its controversial “5G E” marketing strategy.

      The “E” in AT&T’s updated logo is supposed to stand for “evolution” to indicate that the devices had received some speed-boosting upgrades. However, Sprint and other carriers have argued that it may be misleading to some consumers.

      “They [AT&T] call it 5G, but we believe it’s not 5G,” Sprint’s President of Business Jan Geldmacher said at CES 2019. “We roll out the real 5G. It’s based on our 2.5 gigahertz spectrum. It’s based on our massive mine of technology, and it’s compliant with the 5G [rules], which we have agreed to.”

      Sprint has announced that its 5G service will be extended to customers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City in May. The coverage will roll out...
      Read lessRead more

      Volkswagen recalls various vehicles with driver's front airbag inflator issue

      The inflator may explode, causing injury or death

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 119,394 model year 2015 Passats, model year 2015-2016 Eos vehicles, model year 2015-2017 CCs, model year 2016-2017 TT Roadsters and TT Coupes, model year 2017 Audi R8 Coupes & R8 Spyders.

      In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver's front airbag, the inflator could explode with metal fragments striking the vehicle occupants potentially causing serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's front airbag inflator free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in March 2019.

      Volkswagen owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at (800) 893-5298; Audi owners may contact Audi at (800) 253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 69S8 (Audi) and 69Y5 (Volkswagen).

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 119,394 model year 2015 Passats, model year 2015-2016 Eos vehicles, model year 2015-2017 CCs, model year 2016-2017...
      Read lessRead more

      BMW recalls model year 2015 X1 sDrive and xDrive vehicles

      The driver's front airbag inflator may rupture

      BMW of North America is recalling 12,880 model year 2015 X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, and X1 xDrive35i vehicles.

      The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the driver front airbag modules, used as original equipment or replacement equipment, that may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to high absolute humidity, temperature and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's front airbag module, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin March 4, 2019.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 12,880 model year 2015 X1 sDrive28i, X1 xDrive28i, and X1 xDrive35i vehicles.The vehicles are equipped with airbag in...
      Read lessRead more

      Mercedes-Benz recalls various vehicles with steering issue

      The Hands-off-Detection system may malfunction

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 6,200 model year 2018 S450 4MATICs, S560 4MATIC Coupes, S63 AMG 4MATIC Coupes, Maybach S560 4MATICs, S560 4MATICs, S63 AMGs & S63 AMG 4MATIC Cabrios.

      The Hands-off-Detection system may malfunction, causing the Active Steering Assist system to remain engaged despite the driver's hands not being on the steering wheel for a prolonged period of time.

      If the system remains active despite the driver not having his hands on the wheel, the driver's inattention may increase the risk of crash.

      What to do

      Mercedes has notified owners, and dealers will update the software of the steering control unit, free of charge.

      An interim letter was mailed to owners on February 14, 2019 to notify owners of the issue. A second notification will be sent when the remedy is available.

      Owners may contact Mercedes customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA is recalling 6,200 model year 2018 S450 4MATICs, S560 4MATIC Coupes, S63 AMG 4MATIC Coupes, Maybach S560 4MATICs, S560 4MATICs, S63 AMGs...
      Read lessRead more

      Lean Culinary Services recalls ready-to-eat chicken salads

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Lean Culinary Services of Hollywood, Fla., is recalling approximately 223 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

      The following items, produced on February 12, 2019, are being recalled:

      • 14.9-oz. plastic tub packages containing “classic chicken salad Made with Bell & Evans White Meat Chicken” and a Best By date of 2-17-19.
      • 8-lbs plastic bags containing “classic chicken salad Made with Bell & Evans White Meat Chicken” and a Sell By date of 2-19-19 for use behind the deli counter.
      • 7.8-oz plastic tub packages containing “DeliverLean CLASSIC CHICKEN SALAD” and a Use By date of 2/17/19.
      • 5.5-oz plastic tub packages containing “DeliverLean CHICKEN SALAD BENTO BOX” and a Use By date of 2/17/19.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-46167” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Florida.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not to consume them, but discard them or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Tammy Martinez at (312) 805-2230.

      Lean Culinary Services of Hollywood, Fla., is recalling approximately 223 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad products that may be contaminated with Liste...
      Read lessRead more

      The Weekly Hack: Hackers break into Tampa mayor’s Twitter account and post that missiles are headed to Florida

      The medical records of Seattle-area patients were accessible via Google search

      Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn had a dire warning for his constituents.

      “EMERGENCY ALERT,” he posted. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAD INBOUND TO TAMPA BAY AREA.

      SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

      It was not a drill, but it also wasn't real. The “emergency alert” was part of a thread of 60 some-odd posts on Buckhorn’s Twitter account that also included racist messages, child pornography, and a bomb threat against the Tampa International Airport.

      Buckhorn is now back online and thanking Twitter for kicking the hackers out of his account. Tampa police said that the threats were not credible and are currently investigating how the hackers managed to obtain Buckhorn’s password.

      In case anyone was still confused, the mayor’s spokesman sent out a news release yesterday telling followers that the Twitter posts were “clearly not Mayor Buckhorn.”

      Porn site visitors

      Are you using a secret credit card to subscribe to premium access on a porn site? Make sure the password is secret too. Security researchers are warning that user login details on porn websites have become a popular target for hackers, who then resell the information on the Dark Web.

      The New Kaspersky lab counted nearly 850,000 attempts to access user login info on PornHub and XNXX. There is a market for those details on the Dark Web, where some hackers may simply want to enjoy premium porn subscriptions bankrolled by a stranger. But others may use those login details to access credit card information.

      The attackers obtain passwords with fake videos connected to malware, so the researchers say that users should be careful to avoid any videos that don’t seem to fit on the site. In some cases, even people that don’t have premium accounts have been targeted.

      "Users of adult-content websites should keep in mind that such malware can remain unnoticed on a victim’s device for a long time, spying on their private actions and allowing others to do the same, without logging the user out so as not to arouse their suspicion," researchers told The Sun newspaper.

      The University of Washington Medical Center

      Someone in Seattle just wanted to do an innocent Google search on the name of a person they had met. Instead, the search led to the stranger's medical records.

      Megan Flory told the local news that she and a friend were able to access the medical records of strangers through Google searches in December. The records belonged to the University of Washington Medical Center, the county hospital.

      “It clearly said it was UW Medicine,” Flory recounted. She said she found as many 120 names through the Google search, revealing a list of people who had taken tests for HIV. The test results were not published.

      Flory says she immediately reported the breach to UW Medicine. The hospital is just now reportedly distributing letters to patients. Officials estimate that 974,000 people are affected by the breach.

      But hospital staff told KIRO 7 that the breached information did not contain medical records, patient financial information, or social security numbers.

      “UW Medicine became aware of a vulnerability on a website server that made protected internal files available and visible by search on the internet on Dec. 4, 2018,” a spokesman told the local news.

      Medical records are a popular target for hackers. A counseling center in Kentucky recently discovered that 16,000 patients records were accessed, and an American who had lived in Singapore is currently facing criminal charges for allegedly leaking a government-run HIV patient database online there.

      Arizona businesses

      A payment processor that works with numerous business in the Tucson area was hacked, potentially exposing the credit information of customers who shopped at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch, Karichimaka, Tucson Truck Terminal, or Voyager RV Resort, among other potential business. People who notice anything suspicious are urged to contact a local hotline.

      Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn had a dire warning for his constituents.“EMERGENCY ALERT,” he posted. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAD INBOUND TO TAMPA BAY AREA....
      Read lessRead more

      FDA proposal would update regulations for sunscreen products

      Some ingredients would no longer be allowed

      Yes, it’s still February but spring is right around the corner, followed by beach weather. Getting a jump on fun in the sun, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued proposed new rules for sunscreen products.

      The proposed update to sunscreen regulations for over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreen products would align their marketing with the latest science to make sure consumers have access to the latest information and the products meet current safety rules.

      According to the Mayo Clinic, sunscreen products are designed to protect your skin from two types of ultraviolet (UV) sunlight, UVA and UVB. A product that is broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum, can protect you from both.

      UVA can cause faster aging of the skin resulting in both wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays cause burns. Too much exposure to either type can cause skin cancer.

      Sun protection factor

      Sunscreens are rated with a sun protection factor (SPF) that measures the amount of UV rays that penetrate the screen and reach the skin. An SPF 15 rating means that ​1⁄15 of the potentially harmful radiation reaches the skin through the recommended thickness of sunscreen.

      “Broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of at least 15 are critical to the arsenal of tools for preventing skin cancer and protecting the skin from damage caused by the sun’s rays, yet some of the essential requirements for these preventive tools haven’t been updated in decades,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “Since the initial evaluation of these products, we know much more about the effects of the sun and about sunscreen’s absorption through the skin.”

      That knowledge will be used to update the ratings on some sunscreen products. As a result, some of the sunscreen left over from last summer might not be rated as high in the future.

      “Today’s action is an important step in the FDA’s ongoing efforts to take into account modern science to ensure the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens,” Gottlieb said. “The proposal we’ve put forward would improve quality, safety and efficacy of the sunscreens Americans use every day.”

      Evaluating ingredients

      In addition to efficacy, the regulations also examine whether the ingredients in OTC sunscreens are still generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE). Of the 16 current active ingredients, two of them – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – are still GRASE for use in sunscreens.

      However, two other ingredients – PABA and trolamine salicylate – would no longer be GRASE for use in sunscreens due to safety issues. The FDA says there are 12 other ingredients for which there are insufficient safety data.

      At the same time, the rule proposes to raise the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labels from SPF 50+ to SPF 60+.

      The full rule will be published here on February 26, 2019.

      Yes, it’s still February but spring is right around the corner, followed by beach weather. Getting a jump on fun in the sun, the Food and Drug Administrati...
      Read lessRead more

      Soda tax reduces consumption of sugary drinks

      One California city could be setting the stage for other cities to follow in its footsteps

      Several cities across the United States have been imposing taxes on sugary beverages in an effort to encourage consumers to make healthier purchases. According to a new study, Berkeley, California has been successful in its efforts on this front.

      The city enacted its soda tax back in 2015, and based on three years of research, experts have noticed that sugary drink consumption has dropped by over 50 percent.

      “This just drives home the message that soda taxes work,” said researcher Kristine Madsen. “Importantly, our evidence comes from low-income and diverse neighborhoods, which have the highest burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not to mention a higher prevalence of advertising promoting unhealthy diets.”

      The success story

      Madsen and her team of researchers have taken to polling local California residents since the tax was first introduced in 2014.

      Since becoming law in 2015, the researchers have continued asking locals of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland about their frequency of consuming artificially-sweetened beverages, getting responses from nearly 2,500 people every year.

      Based on the surveys, Madsen noticed the strongest success in Berkeley’s residents, and the trend was not consistent in any of the neighboring towns.

      According to her findings, sports drinks consumption dropped 60 percent, artificially sweetened teas and coffees consumption went down 70 percent, soda consumption dropped 54 percent, and energy drink consumption dropped 51 percent. Overall, Berkeley residents are drinking 52 percent less sugary beverages than before the tax.

      In addition to encouraging consumers to avoid sugary drinks, the tax is also effective in promoting better overall health.

      “Sugar-sweetened beverages, which are linked to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, cost our nation billions of dollars each year, but they are super-cheap,” Madsen said. “They’d cost much more if the health care costs were actually included in the price of the soda. Taxes are one way of taking those costs into account.”

      Following Berkeley’s success, other states across the country may look to this as an effective way of helping consumers kick their sugary drink habit.

      “[Taxes] are one of many ways to make really clear what we value as a country,” Madsen said. “We want to end this epidemic of diabetes and obesity, and taxes are a form of counter-messaging, to balance corporate advertising. We need consistent messaging and interventions that make healthier foods desirable, accessible, and affordable.”

      Following suit

      Seattle enacted a soda tax at the start of 2018, and by August of last year, the city reported over $10.5 million in earnings, though city officials were unsure how the tax was affecting consumer behaviors.

      When Philadelphia tried to implement a soda tax, the city was sued by the American Beverage Industry, residents, and local businesses, all claiming that the tax would be unconstitutional. Though the bill went into effect in early 2017, lawmakers were still unsatisfied, and were working to overturn the bill.

      However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had the final ruling, upholding the city’s tax on sweetened beverages. After spending nearly two years in the legal system, the city will be using the money generated by the tax to fund pre-kindergarten and community programs.

      Several cities across the United States have been imposing taxes on sugary beverages in an effort to encourage consumers to make healthier purchases. Accor...
      Read lessRead more

      Survey says millennials would take a pay cut to work for an environmentally conscious company

      The big question is who’s going to take responsibility for making America greener?

      Let’s talk trade-offs…

      Would you take a cut in pay to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible? If you said yes, you’re in good company (pun intended) -- and, more than likely, a millennial.

      A new survey by Swytch -- a blockchain-based clean energy platform -- examined workforce sentiments as they relate to employers’ corporate sustainability pursuits.

      In that study, almost 50 percent of all respondents and 75 percent of millennial workers said they would make that trade-off. As a matter of fact, 10+ percent would take a cut in pay between $5,000-$10,000, and slightly more than three percent said they’d be willing to go even further and take a pay cut of over $10,000 a year if they believed the employer had a “green” frame-of-mind.

      Age matters when it comes to making that large of a trade-off, though. The survey found that fewer than 25 percent of Gen Xers (now between 40 and 53 years old) would make the change and that number drops to 17 percent for baby boomers.

      Are we green enough for you?

      Swytch’s study demonstrates that it’s not good enough just to say a company is green -- it needs to demonstrate that time after time, year after year.

      Close to 70 percent of the respondents said that a strong sustainability plan would affect their decision to stay with a company long term.

      And, they mean it. Nearly 30 percent said they’ve left a company because of its absence of a corporate sustainability plan. Eleven percent said they’ve pulled up and left over that factor more than once.

      “As a growing number of employees are eager to see corporations take a stand on environmental responsibility, employers will have to respond accordingly in order to attract and retain top talent,” Evan Caron, co-founder and managing director of Swytch told Medium.

      Red state, Blue state, Green state?

      If you’re thinking that being environmentally proactive is more of a liberal than a conservative thing, you’d be wrong, albeit slightly.

      A formidable number on both sides -- 95 percent of liberals and 89 percent of conservatives -- said that companies should be rewarded for producing and/or consuming renewable energy.

      However, finding the right party to step up and make that forward motion happen is a big question. More than 30 percent of respondents feel that the national government should be in charge of tackling climate change, while only about 25 percent think that large corporations should be responsible.

      Let’s talk trade-offs…Would you take a cut in pay to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible? If you said yes, you’re in good company (pu...
      Read lessRead more