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Would you buy an asbestos study from this man?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

He's back. Dennis C. Paustenbach, a.k.a. Dr. Evil, the science-for-hire consultant who rarely met a chemical he didn't like, is on the short list of potential appointees to the EPA Science Advisory Board Asbestos Panel. The panel has a crucial task: advising EPA's upcoming risk assessment for airborne asbestos, a killer that takes 10,000 American lives a year. Disturbingly, a number of names on the short list, including Paustenbach, have been paid defense witnesses for corporations in lawsuits over asbestos exposure. But Paustenbach's record of mercenary science goes far beyond that.

Paustenbach, you may recall, is president of ChemRisk, a San Francisco environmental consulting firm that specializes in defending big polluters. Working for Pacific Gas & Electric in the Erin Brockovich case, Paustenbach soaked in a hot tub full of water contaminated with chromium-6, the chemical PG&E had dumped in the drinking water of a small town, to try to show it was nothing to worry about. In 2005, separate investigations by EWG and The Wall Street Journal found that while on PG&E's payroll ChemRisk monkeyed with a Chinese study showing a link between chromium-6 in drinking water and stomach cancer, rewrote it to show no connection, and published it in a peer-reviewed journal under the original author's name. In 2006, the journal retracted the article because "financial and intellectual input to the paper by outside parties was not disclosed."

(UPDATE: Today a National Institutes of Health report concluded that chromium-6 does indeed cause cancer when ingested.)

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