In a press release issued last monday, a Washington D.C. based non-profit said that the consulting firm in charge of investigating how toxic chromium from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) contaminated a regional aquifer fraudulently planted an article in a scientific journal reversing the findings of an earlier study linking the chemical to cancer.
According to documents obtained by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and available on the groups' website, http://www.ewg.org/reports/chromium/release20060110.php , ChemRisk, the firm contracted by the Department of Energy and the Center for Disease Control to examine all chemical and radioactive releases from the lab fraudulently doctored a report in a scientific journal to downplay evidence that chromium 6 in drinking water leads to cancer, specifically of the stomach.
The EWG's investigation into ChemRisk comes only weeks after National Nuclear Security Administration reported that chromium-6 levels found in a monitoring well in Mortandad Canyon at Los Alamos were more than four times federal drinking water standards and eight times the state ground-water quality standard. The state Environment Department has ordered an investigation into the contamination and has given the lab 90 days to come up with a plan to deal with it (abqjournal 1/10/06).
In an executive summary of their findings EWG notes "the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 23 that in 1997 ChemRisk distorted the data from a Chinese study linking a form of chromium to stomach cancer to publish an article under the original author's byline that reversed the earlier findings. ChemRisk was working for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on the infamous "Erin Brockovich" case, in which residents of Hinkley, Calif., sued PG&E for polluting their drinking water with chromium-6. PG&E paid $333 million to settle the case." (http://www.ewg.org/reports/chromium/part5.php)
According to saccording to the Center for Media and Democracy, was until recently a vice-president at Exponent, a publicly traded consulting firm of nearly 600 engineers and scientists. According to Paustenbach's ChemRisk biography, "his experience includes investigating the health effects of exposure to, as well as the remediation of, carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic chemicals, including dioxins, benzenes, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), petroleum products, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), asbestos, glycol ethers, chlorinated hydrocarbons, beryllium, lead, methylene chloride, 1,3-butadiene, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and chromium."
Records seem to indicate that Mr. Paustenbach was simultaneously President of ChemRisk as well as a Vice-President at Exponent, a firm which largely seems to have performed similar types of work as ChemRisk, but at a larger scale.
But despite his involvement in the infamous PG&E case as well as others, founder and President of ChemRisk, Dennis Paustenbach, was appointed to the Health and Human Services advisory committee to the Center for Disease Control responsible for assessing the health affects of low-level exposures to environmental chemicals in 2002. As noted at the time by both the Washington Post and Science Magazine, Paustenbach's appointment to the committee was just one of many that raised questions regarding the conflicts of interest.
According to the Washington Post, other Bush Administration favorites included:
Roger McClellan, former president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a North Carolina research firm supported by chemical company dues; Becky Norton Dunlop, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation who, as Virginia's secretary of natural resources, fought against environmental regulation; and Lois Swirsky Gold, a University of California risk-assessment specialist who has made a career countering environmentalists' claims of links between pollutants and cancer. (HHS Seeks Science Advice to Match Bush Views)
A search of federal campaign donations shows that Mr. Paustenbach contributed just over $1500 to the Republican National Committee between 2000 and 2002 while serving as Vice-President of Exponent. Associates of Paustenbach, however, contributed far more, including $4,000 in contributions to Heather Wilson's campaign between 2002 and 2003 by Exponent's President Roger Mcarthy and $1,000 from another Exponent Executive Michael Gaulke. McCarthy also contributed contributed $20,000 to the RNC, $9,800 Republican National Committee for State Elections and $2,000 to George W. Bush's re-election campaign.