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August 28, 2006

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Integrity in Science Watch

Week of 08/28/2006

Did Harvard Whitewash Colgate Consultant's Ethics Breach?

Harvard University's dismissal of an ethics complaint against Dr. Chester Douglass for misrepresenting the results of a study linking fluoride to bone cancer in boys has drawn a strong rebuke from the Environmental Working Group, which brought the alleged ethics breach to light. Douglass, who moonlights as editor of the Colgate Oral Health Report, in recent years told the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and a National Research Council committee that a 2001 Harvard Ph.D. thesis by Elise Bassin did not link water fluoridation to cancer. But the thesis, which was finally published last April in Cancer Causes and Control, a publication of the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention, in fact found a five- to seven-fold increase in risk of osteosarcoma for boys exposed to elevated levels of fluoride between the ages of six and eight. The Harvard investigation into the EWG ethics complaint, released in early August, found Douglass "did not intentionally omit, misrepresent or suppress research results" of the Bassin fluoride-bone cancer study. "Whether or not Dr. Douglass intentionally suppressed and misrepresented these data is irrelevant," said EWG vice president Richard Wiles. "He deceived the public and health officials about critical research findings for years, and hundreds of boys suffered the consequences."

Journal Fails to Disclose Editor's Ties to Electronics and Power Industries

The June editorial in Radiation Research, the peer-reviewed journal of the Radiation Research Society, downplayed the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. But now, Microwave News reports that the journal failed to disclose that editorial co-author John Moulder, a senior editor at Radiation Research, received hundreds of thousands of dollars to appear as an expert defense witness for companies like Minnesota Power Co. and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. In addition, Microwave News found that over the last 16 years, nearly all papers on genotoxic effects of microwave radiation published in Radiation Research reported no ill health effects. Microwave News said that much of this research was sponsored by Motorola and the U.S. Air Force. Other journals during the same time published a large number of studies showing that this type of radiation can affect biological systems. "It is astonishing that in this time of heightened concern over potential conflicts of interest at leading biomedical journals, that the Radiation Research Society, the publisher of the journal, allows these conflicts to continue," said Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News.

If It Is on His Business Card, It Must Be True

Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine's administration has disavowed global warming skeptic Patrick J. Michaels' long-running claim that he is the state's official climatologist. In a letter sent in mid-August to University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III, the secretary of the Commonwealth wrote that there has never been "evidence that any governor since 1980s had made such an appointment." Michaels, a University of Virginia environmental sciences professor and a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, has been funded over the years by numerous firms that use or produce fossil fuels. In July, the Associated Press reported Michaels had recently received "at least $150,000 in donations and pledges" from Colorado-based electric utilities, including the Intermountain Rural Electric Association. That story also referred to Michaels at the Virginia state climatologist.

Connecticut Stem Cell Researcher Applies to His Own Committee for Funding

State stem cell research programs are jettisoning conflict of interest rules in their haste to step into the void left by the federal government. In Connecticut, a scientist who sits on the state board that will award grants has applied for funding from that same committee, the Hartford Courant reported last week. Xiangzhong "Jerry" Yang, the prominent state stem cell researcher who succeeded in creating the first cloned cow in 1999, has requested $5 million in research funding to create cloned human embryos. He probably won't be the last since more than two-thirds of the board is involved in stem cell research. Last January, the Connecticut General Assembly exempted the grant-awarding committee from state conflict-of-interest laws. Board members also do not have to disclose individual financial interests.

Environmental Group Wants Paustenbach Reprimanded

The Environmental Working Group has asked the Society of Toxicology to issue a written reprimand for industry consultant Dennis Paustenbach for violating the society's code of ethics. "Some price (has) to be paid for deliberate fraudulent activity and then using fake science to weaken public health protections," the EWG letter said. Paustenbach's consulting firm in 1997 published an article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, that manipulated data purchased two years earlier from a Chinese scientist, whose original research showed a connection between chromium-6 and cancer in Chinese villages. The re-worked article, which was recently retracted, was published under the Chinese scientist's name and reversed his conclusion. It was later used to weaken California regulations on chromium in water.

FDA's Latest Waiver: Major Stockholder Votes on Device Panel

The Food and Drug Administration granted a waiver to a device panel member last week. Michael J. Olding, M.D., member of the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel, voted on Thursday in favor of Radiesse, an injectable facial device used for two aesthetic applications for HIV-positive patients made by BioForm Medical, Inc. Olding owns between $50,000 and $100,000 in stock in one of the company's competitors. The panel voted 5 to 2 to approve Radiesse.

Odds and Ends

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking for asbestos experts for a new review panel. Applications are being accepted through September 12 . . . The EPA's review of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico will proceed without two scientists on the EPA short list who drew protests from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mississippi River Basin Alliance for their anti-environmentalist stances. . . The Environmental Protection Agency has pushed ahead with libraries closures, cutting off public access to vital research material, on the assumption that Congress will approve President Bush's proposed budget cuts, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility . . .Charles Nemeroff, the editor of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology,is stepping down after he wrote a review in favor of a new shock device for treating depression that didn't disclose his financial ties to the device's maker.