EWG Challenges Paustenbach to Come Clean

EWG Challenges Paustenbach to Come Clean

Thursday, June 28, 2007

August 4, 2006

Dr. Dennis Paustenbach
President and Founder
25 Jessie Street at Ecker Square
San Francisco, California 94105

Dear Dr. Paustenbach:

We were stunned to read in The Scientist your rationale for hiding the funding source of the chromium-6 article under the names of JianDong Zhang and ShuKun Li in the April 1997 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (JOEM).

Essentially your defense is, "Everybody does it."

Especially given the renewed concerns about conflicts of interest arising from corporate influence in scientific research, this is a dismissive response to a very serious matter with real public health consequences. It captures perfectly your cavalier disregard for basic ethical standards which demands censure by the Society of Toxicology for violating its code of ethics. When a supposed standard bearer for the profession stoops to this defense, it raises very legitimate concerns about the erosion of ethical standards in the entire field of toxicology.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) believes strongly in the integrity and power of scientific knowledge, and we will do everything in our power to stem the erosion of ethics that your outrageous practices appear to endorse.

As reported in The Scientist:

Paustenbach, however, told The Scientist that ChemRisk scientists are not the only contributors who have been less than forthcoming. "If the Journal was using those rules over the last 10 years, I think they'd find dozens of papers to have inadequacies in disclosure."

In fact, the Journal has been using those rules for the past 10 years. If you are willing to state publicly that others have concealed funding sources at the JOEM, then clearly you have an ethical obligation to provide any information you have about this breach to the Journal's editors.

We ask you to promptly answer two important questions:

(1) Have you, for any reason, hidden funding sources of other research?

(2) Do you have knowledge of research produced by others that was funded by sources that were kept secret from scientific journals?

We note that you further defend your decision to hide that the study was written by ChemRisk and paid for by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) as a somehow heroic act to protect Chinese scientists from their government's disapproval of collaboration with Western researchers.

This statement is little more than an admission that ChemRisk deliberately concealed its role and PG&E's funding. More telling is the fact, corroborated by the JOEM editors, that the lone surviving Chinese "author" of the 1997 study supports the JOEM decision to retract the article. Surely the "author" would not support retraction if she felt the article were ethically and scientifically defensible.

The field of toxicology plays a critical role in the protection of the public health from environmental contaminants, as evidenced by your attempts to influence government decisions with your fraudulent and now-retracted study. The issue here is not so much whether you or any of your staff committed fraud, but whether failures to disclose conflicts of interest are so common in the field of toxicology and environmental consulting that a scientist of your prominence and reputation can dismiss them in such cavalier fashion.

We remind you of the serious public health issues at stake in this matter and look forward to your reply.


Richard Wiles
Sr. Vice President
Cc: Dr. James A. Popp, President, Society of Toxicology
      Dr. Paul W. Brandt-Rauf, Editor, Journal of Occupational
      Environmental Medicine


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