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Integrity in science watch   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Posted by Susan Lillard  
Saturday, 22 April 2006

By Merrill Goozner


Integrity in Science Watch

The prestigious Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) last month failed to disclose two physicians' roles as insurance company defense experts in their scientific review "The Medical Effects of Mold Exposure," which downplayed risks to human health from household mold. According to court documents obtained by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Dr. Abba I. Terr, Stanford University School of Medicine, and Dr. Andrew Saxon, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, were paid up to $600 an hour for testimony in cases brought by homeowners alleging their illnesses were caused by mold. JACI, the journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), requires authors to disclose conflicts of interest to the editor, who then has discretion in publishing them. In a letter to editor Donald Leung, CSPI urged AAAAI to make disclosure mandatory and prevent authors who fail to disclose conflicts of interest from publishing in the journal for three years.


EPA Administrator Headlines Political Fundraiser Attended by Regulated Firms

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen Johnson, who previously held the top science job at the EPA, earlier this month spoke at a Republican Congressional fundraiser in Colorado attended by top officials from El Paso Natural Gas, the Colorado Mining Association and other regulated industries, the Denver Post reports. The affair first came to light when Greenberg, Traurig, the law firm that organized the event, sent corporate clients an email that used Johnson as a draw. The email included his title, which is forbidden under federal election laws. His name on the official invitation, however, did not contain his title and Johnson attended the event on his own time, an EPA spokesman told the newspaper. "At a certain level of government, you don't get your own time," noted Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group.


"Was Confusion Over Global Warming a Con Job?"

The oil, coal and other carbon-emitting industries deliberately sought to confuse the public about the implication of global climate change, ABC News reported Sunday. "Victory will be achieved when average citizens (recognize) uncertainties in climate science," a 1998 American Petroleum Institute memo said. ABC then interviewed Patrick J. Michaels, professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and, the report said, one of the "friendly scientists" funded by carbon-emitting industries to sow confusion. The ABC report is part of a recent media trend to point out how global warming skeptics are financially tied to carbon-emitting industries. Michaels, frequently quoted in the press, has extensive ties to industry going back over two decades. In a related development, NASA issued new guidelines this week allowing climate scientists to speak out on global warming issues as long as they say they are speaking personally and not representing the agency.


Is Medical Economics for Sale?

Researchers who looked at nearly 500 medical cost-effectiveness studies published between 1976 and 2001 found that industry-funded studies were more likely than independent- or government-funded studies to justify costly medical interventions, a new study says. Using a commonly accepted ceiling of $50,000 for adding one quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) to a patient's life, the study found that industry funded studies were three times more likely to fall below that level and therefore recommend the use of that particular drug, medical device or diagnostic test. While cautioning that other biases may be in play since only 18 percent of the studies were funded by industry (a third could not be determined) and two-thirds of all studies fell below the $50,000 benchmark, "our results support concerns about the presence of significant and persistent bias in both the conduct and reporting of cost effectiveness analyses," the authors wrote in the British Medical Journal last week.


DoD Cripples EPA in Long-Term Battle Over TCE

Since a 2001 risk assessment by the EPA showed trichloroethylene was 40 times more likely to cause cancer than the EPA previously believed, the departments of Energy and Defense, a major TCE polluter, have undermined the EPA's ability to set more stringent standards, the Los Angeles Times reported. Tougher restrictions would raise the Pentagon's clean-up bill to an estimated $6.5 billion. A National Academy of Sciences report on the issue is expected this summer. That panel, selected in 2004, has at least two scientists who have conducted research for TCE users or producers, but none that have conducted research for environmentally-oriented foundations or think tanks.


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