Center for Science in the Public Interest

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2008

Integrity in Science Watch

Week of 01/28/2008

U.S. Censors Arctic Oil and Gas Report

U.S. and Swedish government officials eliminated numerous recommendations for curbing environmental dangers from oil exploration in the Arctic in a new report from the eight-nation Arctic Council, the London Independent reports. The Arctic Council Oil and Gas Assessment released last week, excluded 60 passages that called for governments to conduct thorough environmental reviews before initiating oil exploration in sensitive areas such as the Chukchi Sea. A lead author of the report said that the censorship was linked to the U.S.’s imminent plans to sell leasing rights to industry for oil and gas development of 30 million acres of the Chukchi sea. A scientist with the Arctic Council said the key message of the original report was “to be more careful . . . before you drill for oil and gas in the Arctic.”

Ag Industry Sways State Pesticide Decision

Scientists at Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences convinced the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to double the allowable river concentration of an agricultural weedkiller despite an internal review calling for tougher standards, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The state agency conducted a three-year review of acetochlor, a cornfield herbicide toxic to some native aquatic plants, after finding high concentrations of the chemical in popular trout streams. MPCA was about to set water quality limits for the chemical last summer when industry scientists provided the agency with six studies that they said proved that the draft limit was too strict. The agency agreed last month. The new standard will result in the removal of three streams formerly considered “impaired” by acetochlor from the polluted list. “I can't fathom how quickly a state agency would bend over backwards to a chemical giant like Monsanto,” said Paul Wotzka, a former hydrologist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. A spokeswoman for the agency says that the six additional studies that went into the final decision were performed by independent researchers not connected to the pesticide industry and had been overlooked by the agency in its original review.

One Hospital Says “No Thanks” to Drug Industry Gifts

One Midwest hospital operator is taking radical steps to limit drug industry freebies, the online newsletter FDAWebview (subscription required) reports. SMDC Health System, which is responsible for four hospitals and 17 clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is donating to charity all drug company gifts, including pens, coffee cups, clipboards, clocks, mouse pads, note pads, and other items. Administrators rounded up the items, which filled 20 shopping carts, and donated them to a local church that operates three hospitals and several rural health centers where the heavily advertised drugs are not available. SMDC said it chose to purge its facilities of drug companies’ gifts to help demonstrate to patients that its doctors are making unbiased medical decisions.

Study Refutes Basis of NTP Report on BPA

A new paper in the journal Reproductive Toxicology is challenging the findings of a federal panel’s report on the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which had been widely criticized for its reliance on industry-funded studies. The paper shows that levels of BPA are the same in the bodies of animals exposed to the chemical, regardless of the route of exposure. Members of the National Toxicology Program panel that issued the criticized report said that they weighted studies by industry-funded scientists more heavily because those studies exposed animals to the chemical through oral routes, which the panel said more accurately reflects the route by which human exposure occurs. Michael Shelby, the NTP official who was in charge of convening the BPA panel, said his program will consider all new publications before preparing a final report on the chemical. "We recognize that there are concerns about the issue of route of exposure," Shelby said. Meanwhile, Health Canada is conducting studies to determine how much BPA may be leaking out of baby bottles and other containers lined with the compound.

Odds and Ends

The Center for Science in the Public Interest last week urged six journals that carried articles by Weill Medical College researchers Claudia Henschke and David Yankelevitz to print corrections after confirming reports in The Cancer Letter that the lung cancer researchers failed to disclose patent applications in published articles. . . . An American Heart Association press release urging caution before discontinuing use of Vytorin failed to disclose that the non-profit received $2 million from the Merck/Schering-Plough joint venture that made the drug, the New York Times reported. . . . The investigation by two Congressional committees into the EPA’s denial of California’s Clean Air Act waiver request has confirmed that EPA staff warned the agency’s administrator against denying the waiver. Documents viewed by staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reveal that agency experts told EPA Administrator Steven Johnson that California had the “compelling and extraordinary conditions” to justify a waiver, and that refusal to grant the waiver would expose the agency to lawsuits it would likely lose.

Cheers and Jeers