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Another Dead Scientist: Can't Testify

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posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 12:35 PM
JianDong Zhang died conveniently - in the middle of an international legal controversy based on his research linking hexavalent chromium exposure to cancer. No information can be found on the Net regarding the actual date or circumstances of his death. Zhang was retired by 1995 but his reported demise is quite convenient - the truth may never be revealed without his testimony.

The Sequence of Events:

In 1987, JianDong Zhang published a study showing that exposure to chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium) was associated with high rates of cancer in five Chinese villages. Zhang's study earned him a national award in China.

In 1993, residents of Hinkley, California sued Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) for releasing chromium-6 contaminated wastewater into the town's groundwater. Zhang's study was submitted as supporting evidence after American scientists translated it into English; US regulatory agencies then acknowledged that a form of chromium-6 might cause cancer if ingested.

PG&E consultants McLaren/Hart-ChemRisk then tracked down Zhang, who by that time had retired from his position with China's JinZhou Health and Anti-Epidemic Station. In April of 1995, Zhang signed a $250 a month contract with McLaren/Hart-ChemRisk, to provide "document review and consultation regarding epidemiology, groundwater contamination and health effects of chromium."

In December 1995, just seven months later, an already-translated second article based on the original research was submitted to two journals in the West as co-authored by JianDong Zhang and ShuKun Li, with 'JianDong' misspelled as 'JinDong.' Zhang's original conclusions were reversed in the new article, which omitted the data showing that the contaminated villages had higher levels of cancer than the surrounding province. The article was accepted by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) and the Archives of Environmental Health in May 1996; it was published under Zhang's byline in JOEM in April 1997.

This second article concluded that 'factors other than chromium' likely caused the higher rate of cancer deaths.

That study didn't deny that the polluted area had a higher rate of cancer deaths. But it said factors other than chromium were the likely cause. This was a statement that Dr. Zhang, now dead, had explicitly disputed in a letter to the consultants (his employers). Yet he and a Chinese colleague appeared, to anyone reading the report, to be its sole authors. The litigation consultants didn't disclose their role to the journal that published it.

Many suspect that the second article may have been written in its entirety by scientists from PG&E consultants ChemRisk, not Zhang and Li.

The USA's EPA and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry then used the second article published under JianDong Zhang's name, misspelled, as evidence that chromium-6 in drinking water does not cause cancer.

In August 2001, scientist Jay Beaumont reviewed the 1997 JOEM article and found "several notable limitations and oddities" - specifically, that stomach cancer rates in the contaminated villages were much higher than in the surrounding province. Beaumont also learned that Zhang was dead.

No information can be found on the Net regarding the date or circumstances of Zhang's death. Zhang was retired by 1995 but his reported demise is quite convenient - the truth may never be revealed without his testimony.

Scientists say the science has been manipulated and clouded yet again by special interests, for economic gain and to the detriment of public health.


On December 23, 2005, The Wall Street Journal published an expose of the story titled
Study Tied Pollutant to Cancer: then Consultants Got Hold of It.

A giant smelter was spilling large amounts of chromium waste into the groundwater. Well water was turning yellow. People were developing mouth sores, nausea and diarrhea. Dr. Zhang spent the next two decades treating and studying the residents of five villages with chromium- polluted water.

In 1987, he published a study saying they were dying of cancer at higher rates than people nearby. He earned a national award in China for his research. In America, federal scientists translated it into English, and regulatory agencies began citing it as evidence that a form of the metal called chromium-6 might cause cancer if ingested.

Then in 1997, Dr. Zhang, in retirement, appeared to retract his life's work. A "clarification and further analysis" published under his name in a U.S. medical journal said there was no cancer link to chromium in the villages after all. This new conclusion, like the earlier one, soon found its way into U.S. regulatory assessments, as evidence that ingested chromium wasn't really a cancer risk.

Full Free Text: Study Tied Pollutant to Cancer: then Consultants Got Hold of It

In June of 2006, JOEM retracted Zhang's revised paper they published in 1997: Medical
Journal Retracts Fraudulent Chromium/Cancer Study: Environmental Working Group Investigation Exposes Fakery of
Firm Headed by Bush Appointee

ChemRisk's founder and CEO, Dennis Paustenbach, is a Bush Administration appointee to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control advisory panel on toxic chemicals and environmental health. His firm holds a lucrative contract with the CDC and the Energy Department to investigate radioactive and toxic releases from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

In this case, ChemRisk was working for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), a San Francisco-based utility whose dumping of the industrial chemical chromium-6 had contaminated the drinking water of the small town of Hinkley, Calif. Hinkley residents' lawsuit against the company, which PG&E eventually paid $333 million to settle, was the basis for the film "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts as the legal investigator who uncovered the dumping.

PG&E hired ChemRisk to conduct a study to counter Hinkley residents' claims of cancer and other illnesses from chromium-6 in their water. ChemRisk tracked down Zhang, a retired Chinese government health officer, and paid him about $2,000 for his original data. ChemRisk distorted the data to hide the chromium-cancer link, then wrote, prepared and submitted their "clarification'" to JOEM under Zhang and Li's byline, and over Zhang's written objection.

The Wall Street Journal published a follow-up article in June 2, 2006, titled Publication to Retract An Influential Water Study.

In August of 2006, EWG made a formal complaint that Dennis Paustenbach, CEO of San Francisco-based consulting firm ChemRisk, violated the Society of Toxicology's Code of Ethics by helping to conceal corporate funding for the paper, and using the paper's conclusions to argue against higher chromium water standards.

An environmental watchdog group is requesting censure of a toxicologist for his role in a recently retracted paper, which disputed a link between toxic chromium and cancer. The scientist, according to the Environmental Working Group, helped to conceal corporate funding for the paper, and then used the study's conclusions to argue against stricter chromium water standards.

In an Email letter sent to the president of the Society of Toxicology (SOT), the EWG said that society member Dennis Paustenbach, CEO of San Francisco-based consulting firm ChemRisk, violated the Society's Code of Ethics.

In December of 2006, six months after JOEM retracted the controversial article, "co-author" Li stepped forward to claim that the retraction was unfair. Critics assume she was 'influenced,' and likely intimated or coerced.

Chromium paper retracted unfairly, says co-author

Six months after the retraction of a controversial paper denying a link between chromium-6 exposure and cancer incidence, the paper's co-author is stepping forward to say that it was withdrawn unfairly.

According to Renee Sharp, an analyst at EWG, it was a surprise to learn that Li is contesting the paper's retraction. "If she was so upset about what they decided to do, why did she wait six months to do anything about it?" Sharp asked. ChemRisk scientists likely "twisted her arm into doing something," Sharp told The Scientist.

Continued next post...

[edit on 24-12-2006 by soficrow]

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 12:37 PM
Li is now getting the kind of coverage that can only be orchestrated by insider lobbyists. She now claims that ChemRisk consultants functioned as peer reviewers and helped get the new article published in America, and that Zhang, who didn't speak English, "approved every word of the article."

Wall Street Journal Accused of Wrongdoing on Erin Brockovich Story Credited as Key to $295 Million Settlement, Says Scientist Dr. Shukun Li

Dr. Shukun Li, a respected Chinese public health scientist, today demanded that the Wall Street Journal retract a front-page story that claimed a 1997 scientific study she co-authored was ghostwritten and the product of scientific fraud. Plaintiffs' attorneys cited the Wall Street Journal story as instrumental in Pacific Gas & Electric's decision to settle a California lawsuit known as "Erin Brockovich II" for $295 million in February, 2006.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Li stated her character and professional reputation, as well as the legacy of her late colleague and 1997 study co-author Dr. JianDong Zhang, had been damaged as a result of the story, "Study Tied Pollutant to Cancer: then Consultants Got Hold of It", published December 23, 2005.

"The Wall Street Journal claim that the 1997 study was conceived and written by the American scientific consultants is completely false," said Dr. Li. "To the contrary, the American scientific consultants functioned as peer reviewers and helped Dr. Zhang and I get the new article published in an American scientific journal. They also took Dr. Zhang's work and translated it into English at Dr. Zhang's request. Dr. Zhang approved every word of the article that was submitted to the JOEM."

So the story is not over, and the questions remain:

Who got to Li, and what did it cost? ($250 a month is peanuts in the new China.) Or is the Chinese government involved too? Is Li under political pressure? Will big government and big business win out over the faceless unnamed little guys, yet again? Or will truth and justice prevail?

Additional References:

Academics' ties to business muddy disclosure decisions
Documents about chromium work, EWG
Full disclosure?

Also of interest:

2003: I have a citation, written in Chinese, that translates, ..."Application of using mixed concrete wall for controlling chromium pollution." ...The article is cited in an article in PubMed, PMID 3443034 (which is also in Chinese): Chromium pollution of soil and water in Jinzhou, Zhonghua Yu Fang Yi Xue Za Zhi 21(5):262-4 1987. ...The above article was quoted in some court hearings (remember Erin Brockovich?), and apparently, an article that was allegedly written by the same authors as an "update" (which showed little effects of chromium) may be a fabrication actually written by others.

posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 12:33 PM
Seems to me that the Chinese government MUST be involved - and putting pressure on Li.

Nobody wants the public to know just how dangerous 'development' is - not even the Communists.

posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 12:49 PM

You have voted soficrow for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have two more votes this month.

This is why I keep coming back to ATS - your post and supporting documentation are what make reading here worthwhile.

Well done indeed!

Now if we could only get those involved in the Alien forum to subscribe to the same standard.


posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 01:55 PM
Great work Soficrow and if my browser would allow me i could actually give you a WATS.
Doing my best but it seems to have set it's mind on resistance...


[edit on 27-12-2006 by StellarX]

posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 04:47 PM
Thanks Shawnna, StellarX.

IMO - this is a VERY important case to watch - and it has conspiracy written all over it...

Of course, these guys spell "conspiracy" differently:

"J U S T G O O D B U S I N E S S"


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