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Scientific journal adds fuel to ongoing chromium debate


The JOEM retraction, signed by editor Dr. Paul Brandt-Rauf, states that the article did not comply with the journal's policy because "financial and intellectual input to the paper by outside parties was not disclosed."

Brandt-Rauf began investigating the paper after being alerted by the The Wall Street Journal and Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, that the paper was actually compiled and written by employees of a consulting company called ChemRisk, rather than the Chinese physicians JinDong Zhang and ShuKun Li, who were listed as sole authors. ChemRisk's founder, Dennis Paustenbach, has acknowledged he helped revise it.

The resulting paper essentially reversed Zhang's finding 10 years earlier that chromium-tainted water caused stomach cancer and other problems in 155 Chinese villagers.

Questions about the validity of the 1997 study have been raised for years, including in The Star-Ledger in 2004 and the Wall Street Journal in December 2005. Since its publication, the fake article has influenced regulatory decisions on chromium, including being used by a scientific panel for a 2001 report which forced California health officials to revise a recommendation for how much chromium-6 should be allowed in drinking water.

New Jersey is home to some 200 known chromium sites, where waste from three long-shut plants in Jersey City and Kearny was used as fill. The revelation comes amid mounting questions about whether New Jersey's cleanup standards are strong enough to protect the thousands of people who live near chromium sites.

The state relaxed its chromium cleanup standards dramatically in the past 15 years as the companies responsible for the pollution and their hired scientists argued it did not cause cancer by ingestion,  but two recent papers -- and the retraction -- support suspicions that it does.

Related Studies

Jian-Dong Zhang, Xi-Lin Li, Chromium pollution of soil and water in Jinzhou,
Zhonghua Yufang Yixue Zazhi, 21/5 (1987) 262-264

Jin-Dong Zhang, Shu-Kun Li, Cancer Mortality in a Chinese Population Exposed to Hexavalent Chromium in Water, J. Occup. Environ. Med., 39/4 (1997) 315-319. DOI:10.1097/00043764-199704000-00008

D.J. Paustenbach, B.L. Finley, F.S. Morwat, B.D. Kerger, Human health risk and exposure assessment of chromium (VI) in tap water, J. Toxicol. Environ. Health Part A, 66/17 (2003) 1295-1339.  DOI: 10.1080/15287390306388

Max Costa, Catherine B. Klein,Toxicity and Carcinogenicity of Chromium Compounds in Humans, Crit. Rev. Toxicol., 36/2 (2006) 155-163
DOI: 10.1080/10408440500534032

Related information

David Egilman, Corporate Corruption of Science—The Case of Chromium(VI), Int. J. Occup. Environ. Health, 12 (2006) 169–176. DOI: 10.1179/oeh.2006.12.2.169

Related News

EWG, June 2, 2006: Real-Life Epilogue To "Erin Brockovich": Medical Journal Retracts Fraudulent Chromium/Cancer Study - EWG Investigation Exposes Fakery of Firm Headed by Bush Appointee
US Today, June 2, 2006: PG&E critic Erin Brockovich doubtful about legal settlement
BusinessWire, December 6, 2006: Wall Street Journal Accused of Wrongdoing on Erin Brockovich Story Credited as Key to $295 Million Settlement, Says Scientist Dr. Shukun Li
The Scientist, December 22, 2006: Chromium paper retracted unfairly, author says

last time modified: June 21, 2020


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