Unusually Warm Caribbean Sets Off Bleaching of Coral

Unusually warm temperatures in the Caribbean have caused severe coral bleaching in recent weeks that could permanently damage many reefs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA, which monitors corals in 24 shallow coral reef systems across the globe, has issued bleaching alerts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since early September, water surface temperatures in parts of the Caribbean have been averaging 2 degrees Fahrenheit above historic monthly maximums.

Warm sea surface temperatures subject corals to extreme stress, which prompts them to expel the symbiotic microalgae that live in their tissues and provide them with food.

Losing the algae deprives the coral of color and makes it appear bleached; bleaching that lasts longer than a week can kill corals.

"Puerto Rico is experiencing the worst bleaching event ever," said Ernesto Weil, a University of Puerto Rico professor. "Bleaching is both widespread and intense, with colonies representing 42 species completely white in many reefs. In our surveys, 85 to 95 percent of coral colonies were bleached in some reef areas."

FDA Orders Phaseout of Abbott ADHD Drug Cylert

Liver problems linked to Abbott Laboratories Inc.'s discontinued attention deficit drug Cylert and generic versions make it too dangerous for the market, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

But agency officials stopped short of recalling the drug, which has been sold since 1975. Cylert will remain available until current supplies run out, the FDA said, angering consumer advocates who have been arguing the drug is too dangerous to be sold.

In March, Abbott said it would no longer make the 30-year-old drug because of declining sales. Generic makers also agreed to halt sales. The FDA said it received 13 reports of liver failure that led to death or an organ transplant.

Public Citizen said the new warning did not go far enough and urged a full recall.

Statins Not Found to Protect

Against Breast Cancer

Statin drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol levels have no effect on women's risk of developing breast cancer, a study said.

Some previous studies have suggested statins may protect against cancers of the breast, colon, pancreas, esophagus and liver, according to the report published in yesterday's issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

But an analysis of data from 79,000 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study found no link between use of the best-selling drugs and breast cancer.

"In the present study, the largest to date, no association was observed, even with more than four years of [statin] use," wrote study author Heather Eliassen of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Of 3,177 breast cancer cases included in the 12-year study, 1,727 of the women took statins, which are designed to lower elevated blood cholesterol levels linked with heart disease.

-- From staff writer Juliet Eilperin

and news reports