Environmental News Brief

Junk Science Journals

Two scientific journals known for their industry ties have become go-to publications for researchers who minimize risks from chemicals, according to an article published by Center for Public Integrity. Critics are charging the two peer-reviewed science journals, Critical Reviews in Toxicology and Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, are purveyors of junk science publishing misleading industry-backed articles that threaten public health by downplaying the risks of toxic substances such as lead and asbestos in an effort to stall government regulatory efforts and defend court cases.

“You’d have to be delusional to not recognize that the issues they’re dealing [with] and policies they’re setting won’t affect the profits of very powerful sources,” said Canadian anti-asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff, who called both journals “egregious examples” of a deeper problem of industry influence.“Creating doubt is an endless activity and, in the meantime, people die unnecessarily.”

Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The harm is that it actually muddies the independent scientific literature. They’re stacking their weight on their side of the scale.”

In defense of the journals, David Warheit, a board member of Critical Reviews and scientist at Chemours which manufactures titanium dioxide used in sunscreen, said, “There is this prevailing issue, which is really unfortunate, that anything supported by industry is tainted. Perceptions pervade everything.”

More Problems for Flint Water

A recent report issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health reveals that the switch from Detroit water sourced from Lake Huron to the Flint River not only resulted in exposure to lead levels significant enough to cause irreversible brain damage in children but also to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) linked with cancer, immune suppression and thyroid disease.

People living in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the United States, paid some of the nation’s highest water bills. The annual water bill in Flint as of January 2015 was $864.32 for a household using 60,000 gallons a year, said Washington-based advocacy group Food & Water Watch.

The median income in Flint is $24,834, compared with $48,411 in the state, and 42 percent of the city’s population lives below the poverty level, compared with 17 percent in Michigan, according to U.S. Census data.

The second highest water prices in the country were in Bellevue, Wash., at $855.25 a year for 60,000 gallons of water.

Lead exposure and aggressive crime

A new study has linked childhood exposure to lead in air and the likelihood of aggressive crimes related to impulsive behaviors in later life.

The population study looked at the relationship between rates of aggressive crime and early exposure to airborne lead particles during the years in Australia when lead gasoline was still widely used.

Mark Taylor, a professor of environmental science at Macquarie University and the research team’s leader, said the study was the first of its kind in Australia to test a potential link between aggressive crime and childhood lead exposure on such a broad scale.

“This is further proof that childhood exposures to neurotoxins, such as those released during the period of leaded petrol use have lifelong effects,” he said. “Crimes of aggression are considered impulsive crimes and the study showed quite clearly that the highest assault rates were found in places of highest lead exposure.”

“The implication of this study is that the impact of environmental lead exposure extends far beyond childhood,” Taylor said.

Merlin Thomas, an adjunct professor of preventive medicine at the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute who has researched lead exposure said the new paper showed the potential importance of lead exposure.

“Lead has important effects on brain development in children, affecting intelligence, academic achievement and behavior. As disadvantage and crime are closely correlated with the prevalence of poor academic performance, it is perhaps not surprising that an association between criminality and lead exposure in childhood may exist,” said Thomas who was not involved with the study. “At the same time, it is nonetheless disturbing and more importantly is potentially preventable.”

Need for another review of glyphosate

A group of 14 health scientists is asking U.S. and European health officials to reevaluate the assumed safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most heavily used herbicide.

Glyphosate is linked to liver and kidney problems, birth defects and endocrine disruption.

The World Health Organization recently changed its classification of glyphosate from a “possible” to a “probable” human carcinogen.

The health concerns coincide with more and more use of glyphosate and pervasive exposure. Over the past decade, glyphosate has been part of the debate over genetically modified food because many seeds from companies including Monsanto are genetically engineered to withstand treatment by the herbicide.



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