That Smelly Rat Isn’t In Denmark Anymore

Remember that “alarming” Center for Disease Control report that hit the news only because a watch dog group exposed that it had been suppressed from publication for more than half-a-year? Well, now that Congress has called for an inquiry the Canadian Press reports that the head of research at the CDC is claiming the report was not hidden from public view but held because of questions regarding the methodology. The CDC has also admitted to deleting (key?) data from the report.

Dr. Henry Falk oversees CDC research on environmental health hazards and he told the Canadian Press that critics found problems in the report that needed fixing including the use of data that could imply an unproven cause-and-effect relationship between toxins and illness in the area. The report makes flawed correlations between countywide health data and environmental measures drawn from areas larger or smaller than a county, according to Falk. Also, the latest version has omitted material deemed “irrelevant or misleading” such as countywide health statistics. Hmmm.

Interestingly, the authors of the 400-page study emphasized in writing that the study does not determine cause-and-effect but presses home the point that more research is crucial. Since 2004, the CDC’s senior scientists, the EPA, university scientists and state and federal government officials have reviewed various drafts of the study. Dr. Peter Orris, a professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, was one of the original experts tasked with critiquing the research, called for the release of the report in a December 2007 letter saying, “This report, which has taken years in production, was subjected to independent expert review by the IJC’s Health Professionals Task Force and other boards, over 20 EPA scientists, state agency scientists from New York and Minnesota, three academics (including myself), and multiple reviews within ATSDR. As such, this is perhaps the most extensively critiqued report, internally and externally, that I have heard of.”

Now the CDC is awaiting the review of the report by the Institute of Medicine. The CDC is also looking for feedback from the general public and then it will produce the final draft. This is HOW’s opportunity to weigh in on this mess and demand further scientific research into the higher levels of cancer, premature birth and dangerous health concerns in counties where AOC’s are located. The report is posted for comment at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/grtlakes.

The International Joint Commission originally requested the study in 2001 – it is now 2008 and we still have few answers but a real sense that there is significant reason for concern.

Oh, and the Canadian Press story failed to say anything about the fact that the director of the CDC’s division of toxicology and environmental medicine, Christopher De Rosa, who pushed for the report to be released was subsequently demoted. But this hasn’t escaped the US Congress, which continues to investigate the debacle. US Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) chairs the House committee tasked with oversight of this issue and promised the panel would continue to make the CDC account for the handling of the report and the deletion of the county-level data.

“The revised draft begs the question of why the CDC is just now seeking public comment on a watered-down third draft of a report that was commissioned seven years ago,” Stupak told the Canadian Press. I’m with Stupak on this one. We need to demand thoughtful, well researched answers and we need to demand them now. The information could go a long-way toward informing the debate for the Great Lakes Legacy Act and getting the full amount of funding needed. As we all know, at the current rate of funding, our children’s children will still be cleaning up the sites 150 years from now.

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