Tribune watchdog update
The Tribune keeps you informed, from doctors' misdeeds to DNA mishaps
Do Duc Diu, 58, and his daughters Do Thi Nga, 15, and Do Thi Hang, 19, were featured in a Tribune series on the lingering effects of agent orange spraying during the Vietnam War. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi)
—Jason Grotto and Tim Jones
What we found: A company led by a luminary in the world of alternative treatments for autism was selling a compound originally developed as an industrial chemical meant to treat polluted wastewater in mining operations. Called OSR#1, the product was being sold as a toxicity-free antioxidant supplement. The company Web site listed pharmacies and physicians who specialize in autism, and the compound was being promoted on popular autism Web sites. It has never been proven safe and effective in clinical trials.
What's happened since: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June sent a warning letter to the maker of the product, retired University of Kentucky chemist Boyd Haley. The letter stated OSR#1 is an unapproved new drug, not a supplement, and that Haley's own limited animal studies found potential side effects. The letter detailed five violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Last week, several pharmacies told the Tribune they were halting sales of OSR#1 after receiving an e-mail from Haley informing them OSR#1 would not be available after July 29. But at least one online pharmacy still sold the product as of Wednesday. Haley has yet to respond to the FDA's letter.
— Trine Tsouderos
'Green' tire burner
What we found: Legislation before Illinois lawmakers contained a provision that would have allowed a tire incinerator with a long history of pollution problems to qualify as a provider of renewable, green energy. The policy change would have made the cash-strapped tire burner in south suburban Ford Heights a player in the state's growing market for renewable power.
What's happened since: After we wrote about the plan, lawmakers killed the idea.
— Michael Hawthorne
Eye doctor under fire
What we found: Dr. Nicholas Caro, a Chicago ophthalmologist who was sued 50 times by patients who said he botched their Lasik eye surgeries, was still operating despite a recommendation from the state's chief medical prosecutor that Caro's medical license be "suspended, revoked, or otherwise disciplined."
What's happened since: In February, about eight months after the Tribune first ran a story about Caro, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation found that Caro had engaged in unprofessional conduct and gross negligence. The agency barred him from performing procedures aimed at changing the curvature of the cornea, including Lasik surgeries, and suspended his medical license for 30 days, placed him on probation for a minimum of 3 years and fined him $10,000, the maximum allowed per violation. Caro also was ordered to stop performing intraocular procedures in his medical office, which include cataract surgery, corneal transplantation and refractive lens exchange or clear lens extraction.
—Deborah L. Shelton
What we found: The Tribune ran several stories on meals served to children in Chicago Public Schools, noting that Pop-Tarts, nachos, doughnuts, sugary cereals, and packaged cakes and cookies were staples of the menus.
What's happened since: The district announced plans to overhaul its menus, saying that for the coming school year nacho service would be reduced in high schools from every day to once a week and in elementary schools to once a month. Doughnuts and Pop-Tarts would be stricken from breakfast menus, and sugary cereal with candy themes would also be removed. Daily desserts of cakes and cookies were to be reduced to a once-a-week treat.
Mercury in skin creams
What we found: Laboratory testing by the Tribune found some skin-lightening creams contained extremely high amounts of mercury.