The CDC Great Lakes report fiasco

We don't especially like being anonymous on this blog but we feel it is prudent given the retributive nature of this administration. We don't care that much ourselves as we are pretty well established. But we worry that our students, our colleagues and our institution will become collateral damage in retribution for things we say here. It's not just that we read about this stuff in the news. We know the people involved personally. Last week we posted about Deb Rice, a scientist in the State of Maine health department who is also one of the world authorities on the health effects of the brominated flame retardants, chemicals that are showing up in the blood of 90% of US residents. She was replaced as chair of the federal panel examining the situation because as part of her job she testified in front of the Maine legislature that one of these compounds should be banned in Maine. "Bias," said the EPA who canned her as panel chair and expunged her comments from the record of the panel. I know her and her work and indeed she is biased. Biased in favor of public health.

Same story for the latest brouhaha involving the (now reassigned) chief toxicologist for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of CDC. His name is Chris De Rosa and he is pretty much as straight a straight arrow as you can get. We know him. We also have worked with the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes, a US - Canadian group of scientists established by treaty to deal with border issues between the two countries involving, well, the Great Lakes. The IJC asked ATSDR to prepare a summary of information on health risks in the vicinity of areas of concern on the lakes.

Of the 108 hazardous waste sites in those areas, 71 had a potential human health impact, according to a draft of the report posted on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity.

It calls for further investigation of adverse health effects in those areas with the most overlap between health hazards, health problems, and at-risk populations -- reproductive-age women, the elderly and children younger than 6 years old.

"The report is an important informational resource," said author Christopher De Rosa, former director of the division of toxicology and environmental medicine at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a part of the CDC. "It's not anything more than a compilation of existing data collected using taxpayers' money, so that people would be aware of these issues, if they exist."

He was reassigned to a non-supervisory position last fall. (Chicago Tribune)

This report was underway for six years and received extensive peer review. I also know well at least one of the peer reviewers, a member of the IJC and a noted occupational health specialist. He is dismayed about CDC's refusal to release the report. The CDC's stated reason is that they believe the information in the report could be misinterpreted. Translation: the information can be used in ways inconvenient for some polluters. So CDC is giving the report still more review.

It turns out I also know some of the CDC officials who are refusing to release the report and who demoted Chris De Rosa. This is where things get more complicated. It is not my experience they are prone to bend to political pressure. They also have defenders among people I know well and trust. So I don't know exactly what to think at this point. But no one, including CDC's defenders, has been given an adequate explanation for De Rosa's reassignment ("it's a personnel issue") or any details for why CDC won't release the report.

The real problem is that CDC Director Gerberding has shown herself all too willing to bend to political pressure. The CDC itself is in a shambles and there is no strong reason to trust the agency, even if some of the principals in this fiasco are friends and colleagues. Trust and credibility have been destroyed at CDC and some good people on both sides are at loggerheads and no one knows whom to believe. Mismanagement has caused CDC to be thoroughly dysfunctional. No administration, Democrat or Republican, ever did this kind of damage to what used to be the jewel in the crown of federal public health. Now CDC isn't even a propeller on the federal health beanie.

Meanwhile the Reveres will remain anonymous, at least for the next 319 days. If you want to know why, just ask Deb Rice or Chris De Rosa.

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So very typical of this divisive administration. Your masks are no doubt prudent though I am sure some will argue you are unnecessarily paranoid.
I do wonder however, if someone in the admin has taken the time already to crack this forum. Given the recent admission the government overstepped the bounds allowed them in surveillance in this country, it wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility.

How long is it going to take to restore the integrity? How long to restore the trust? How many superlative people have been lost? How much long-term damage has been done in other areas that may not have been so high profile?

it's not just the loss of good people - tragic and damaging as that is - it is much more fundamentally the loss of domain specific lore that left with them. No matter how well documented or bureaucratically supported, it is the lore that makes any organization worth its salt actually work. Bu$hco have dismantled many such systems now, an act that takes mere weeks, yet destroys many decades of accumulated knowledge. Not even getting all those people back into their old jobs - which is probably not possible - will fix this, there are supporting systems that have also been dismantled, such as the email archiving system in the White House, or that have succumbed to bitrot because their support staff have been fired or resigned in disgust.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 06 Mar 2008 #permalink

No one is really anonymous on the internet, but you become less of a target since you are less threatening to Big Brother.

Much of the censorship in this country is self censorship. So many companies and institutions depend on government funding, and the media depends on corporate advertisements and government access. Unfortunately, I am not sure the problem is going away with Bush. I also am not 100% convinced he is actually going, just hoping nothing bad happens before 2009.

I still remember after the 2006 elections and when he was asked about the Republicans defeat and he said "I am very happy we live in a country that could have elections in a time of war". Something in the way he said it gave me the chills at the time. Still does.

Shannon-Lets get off the conspiracy theory idea. If they wanted Revere's identity they could ask the one true hard core Republican here....ME! Their request would be followed by my almost immediate response and that would be to Fuck Off!

But this other deal could be political. The people in the North may not be aware that there are federal stings going on and its very wide spread, Congressmen, lawyers, various local elected officials and the trail leads down to Atlanta. Connected. Dont know, but Revere can wait another 319 days and then hang himself in the bathroom if its John McCain. If its Hillary and Obombme or is it Obombme and Hillary, then he will have to wait until one of them does themselves in their bathrooms.

Not enough information here Revere to "translate" as you put it. Here is a perspective...Being considered to be a "loose cannon" and that will get your HMS Invincible sunk in an appointed position each and every time. They didnt cut him Revere as it would appear that he published this thing without sending up the chain of command. It also looks like it might be partially what you are saying as well, formaldehyde in trailers and the Great Lakes report.

But really, you posture this as being a hit job. Did you or do you think that the Clintons never,ever did that. Remember the flap about the Attorney Generals. Shit. That sunavabitch Clinton fired twice as many and not a word was said. Bush does it and we have a Waxman Wax job underway. Just went away now didnt it.

All of these are political appointment positions and with that comes you shall march and toe the line. If he sent out a report without the holy blessing then the minimal thing they could do was demote him, the max would be send him packing. Like you said, only 319 to go why should we even bother?. It just sets off more controversy.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 06 Mar 2008 #permalink

Randy: No, I never heard it done with the Clintons and I despised them. This kind of messing around with scientists just wasn't done much before the Karl Rove days. Yes, it happened sometimes, but not like this. I know Chris DeRosa. He's a real straight arrow and if I had to guess, a rock rib Republican, although I never talked politics with him, only science. This thing got stopped at the top after many scientists signed off on it.

This doesn't surprise me at all. I live in one of these areas. If I hear dioxin is good, it won't hurt you at all, one more time I may hit someone with a very sick chicken. On my street alone there are 5 people with MS. You should see the incredible numbers of people with disabilities in this town. Yet the last study our wonderful chemical company did was to say that the number of people with cancer in this town was less than the national average. (but did they actually count the ones that died from it? no, of course not.) I am afraid the damage is done, and it is permanment. My faith in them is lost.

I have an acquaintance who works as an epidemiologist for the CDC. He is also paranoid which is rather remarkable as he has mild Asperger's. Very bright person but socially completely inept and clueless to the tensions around him. Yet, he too is walking on eggshells. If he is affected, then everyone else has to be.

Randolph, if the Reveres are hiding their identity to protect themselves, then the fear of exposure is warranted. Yelling to get off the conspiracy theory idea simply isn't logical given the examples posted here, myriad articles in the papers and, my own observations. If you rock the boat and you are funded by the government, there is ample evidence you may lose your job, funding, etc.... Again you are wishing the evidence did not support the conclusion. I know this must be humiliating because you don't want to believe these kinds of actions are possible from an institution you have believed in unreservedly. Sometimes however, the organizations we have long cherished do not merit our continued loyalty. Both parties are culpable, not just your beloved Republicans. Your staunch defense is admirable but, by now even you must see it is time to take a closer look.

As a medical researcher and health professional I have been interfacing directly with CDC since the days when HIV first arrived on the scene. There has never been a time yet when I could not get through to another health professional there, been given full access to archives, permission to use them, and ever had negative effects in expressing disagreement with some of their assessment's. CDC is massive, a sea of harding working people trying to protect the country from disease. Taking on such a comprehensive mantle, one is bound to be criticized, and heading such an organization, even more so. We have not only gotten volumes of data from CDC but from NIOSH
The identity of anyone on the net is instantly available to the government and law enforcement. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy despite the use of any handle, or other technique. This is a reality. It is however reasonable to try and maintain personal privacy from being approached by the masses directly on the phone or at one's home or business. Somewhere, and after working with the government in terms of gaining information on many topics and areas of research personally have had no problems. Someone has an urban legend that those who criticize are chastised. Maybe at our company we have been lucky, but I have posted many alternative opinions on vaccines, viruses, Tamiflu, masks and such and am still posting, still have sites up and never have been a mouthpiece or without thinking poster supporting CDC. Maybe the only difference is I have never felt the need to criticize individuals as opposed to putting out information to provide solutions. I find this, Effects Measure, an interesting site, I am linking to it, and recommending people include it in their search list. However without the real transparency of identity, one gives maximum force of being a spokesperson in the Avian community. And despite it not being as controversial still maintain we need to encourage more transparency from CDC while at the same time work with them to help prepare for the Pandemic. Good luck.


MRK, conspiracy's happen all the time. Remember the death of Julius Ceasar. It is never OK to just dismiss something someone says a conspiracy theory. The second inquisition into the death of Pres. Kennedy, found that there were 4 shots fired that day. Since Oswalds gun only had 3 shots fired it was conculusive that someone else fired a gun. Was it someone who conspired with Oswald or something else. We will never know. Once this evidence was established the second inquiry closed shop quickly and went home. This I learned on a Government site (probably gone now). Everyone in Washington is conspiring all the time, not necessarily illegally. The proof that some theory is not so is NOT to label it a Conspiracy Theory, it is to provide concrete evidence that it is not so.

Shannon-I am a centrist Republican and that means that if there is some sort of wrongdoing then you give them their day in review or in court. If the policy is or was that things do not go out without the higher ups signing off on it, then thats the way it is.

You can be a straight arrow all you want in this world and its commendable, but obviously he had someone else to answer to. Was it this or something else? Not enough information to go on. Just cause someone says that the Great Lakes are loaded up with enough crap to kill us all, the guys that are in the Administration get to make the call as to what can be said. If there is evidence of wrong doing then its a function of Congress to provide oversight. Wee Willie Waxman did baseball last month, now he can investigate this.

We dont know enough to draw the conclusion but if he violated procedure then he paid the price. Revere knows him? Okay, pick up the phone and get the skinny on what really happened.

K-They never conclusively found more than 3 even in the Zapruder film. In fact, they arent even sure that Oswald could have gotten off 3 accurate shots. On the other hand the second shot tore Kennedy's face off so it was a moot point. Grassy knolls, second shooter? We will simply never know. This was an administrative move and not taking the guy and drowning him in the Great Lakes with concrete galoshes. Something more happened here I believe but it was and is within the purview of any Administration to ensure that what goes out is what they want to go out. Clinton, Ford, Carter,Bush all terminated people (not literally) for their "go to the press" positions. This gave rise to the whistleblowers law.

If the guy has something that he can prove all he has to do is get an attorney. This is a part of accountability.

By M.Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 07 Mar 2008 #permalink

Shannon. The Reveres are hiding in plain sight. If the old buzzards want to give themselves up then they will but you sure as Hell wont get it from me even if they tap my phone, threaten my kids or screw my dogs. I only found out their identities after I was getting hammered by someone trying to penetrate my computer. So I turned the tables on them and used the original language that the internet was written on and its still in use mostly today. I simply went down the list and made the connection. He was very relaxed about it when I broke the news to him. Not upset at all.

But he is in a sensitive position, he has grad students working for him and funding that my particular party has a bad habit of making future Phd's and positions go away. I expressed my dissatisfaction with that particular item to Sen. Frist on more than one occasion and a lot of heat got cooled in the Administration. You can fuck with the President any day of the week but you dont with the Senate Majority Leader...The Congress votes the money and there are a LOT of Senators and Congressmen that feel the way I do about it.

Reveres are sacrosanct in my book and we need voices in the wilderness both left and rightist to keep this country on an even keel. We roll with the waves but the boat always comes back upright.

Revere knows that I am an obstinate sonvabitch about privacy and that includes his and yours. I am an open book though because I dont have a government job and I take a real fucking dim view of people getting terminated or hammered for taking a position. He doesnt back off what he believes in and THAT is one great American as far as I am concerned. If he wants me to out him, then he will let me know. Else, he has 318 days to go before he posts his name up there, or not.

On the other hand there has to be balance. I would also take as dim a view of someone who is a government representative making a statement that couldnt be backed up. I dont know what happened here and so far it would appear that none of us do. If the guy has incontrovertible proof of something then under the law he should carry it on up to the secretary and not the Gerberdinator. Get them all involved in a conspiracy to withold key information from the people and the Congress and you got a first class trial ffollowed by a first class haning. He also as a private citizen could visit his Congressmen or write them. Barring that he could go to the Chairman of the Committee that has oversight. This stuff hasnt happened in a vacuum and wont be the last time this happens. It takes a while for the ship to right itself after a hit. If he has something he should present it and above all get an attorney. Else he has to take the gulag and wait for the next guys to come in.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 07 Mar 2008 #permalink

Medclinician: I don't know what your recent experience has been. I've worked with CDC for decades and neither I nor many others have seen anything like this. The damage is already done and it is substantial. People don't know from day to day what their job is going to be tomorrow. Most of this is just plain heavy handed mismanagement by a headstrong, incompetent manager (the Director). The politics comes in because she also plays a political game with the administration (this is her personality, not her ideology working) and she is highly controlling and punishes independence. She's the boss.

As for the anonymity, if you knew my name you probably wouldn't be able to judge the veracity of what I say here any better. You should judge it by its contents, not by whatever degrees one of us has. As for finding out who one or the other reveres might be, it isn't highly secret but if the Director of CDC has nothing better to do than ferret out the identity of a critical blogger than we are even in more trouble than I think we are. On the other hand if there is no cost because we tell everyone who we are then many things become possible. At our various ages it's not a big deal. We are not that vulnerable. But we won't risk our students and younger colleagues because of what we choose to say. That's the decision we have made and we all feel comfortable with it. We are not trying to be influential or powerbrokers in avian flu. We just want to be part of (and have some effect on) the conversation.

Don't want to get off the subject however, want to say (and respectfully MRK) not everyone is as fortunate as you to have the money to accomplish what they'd like to. We all well know, from our disgusting presidential races, that money is just about all it takes anymore to win at anything.
I am happy for you MRK that you are well-off, honestly, but try to remember that not all folks have the money nor the time to really change what is perceived as mismanagement.
The guy who should get a lawyer #1 probably doesn't have the money nor the time and #2 it would most likely frakk up the rest of his life. So, #3, nothing is done in order to live a half decent life.

I've been at the upper level income bracket, it was nice however life has a way of changing and now it's the lower middle class bracket. And even that is starting to be difficult to maintain.

Don't you dare take me wrong MRK. I do think the world of the original teddy-bear sage I ran into two years ago here and respect your viewpoint and enjoy reading what you write.

In the past few years I've acquired a higher level of compassion for other humans running around this tiny blue marble. It's pretty nice to finally be in a place where this is now true, so hard-hearted have I been in the past.

Lea-But the situation still remains. And under our laws if the guy gets an attorney and uses the whistleblower statute and wins he could get triple the damages. A little chaos in any organization is good as far as I am concerned. If the atmosphere was so tainted that this guy got demoted then there was a reason. I guarantee that with the Gerberdinator she has probably more than once made her position on things known.

I think he stuck his head into the noose and slapped the horse on the ass at the same time.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 07 Mar 2008 #permalink

From what little I've read, some in the CDC leadership and some who peer reviewed the study had problems with the methodolgy involved according to the CDC (US News). As a 30 year federal government veteran, a couple of things will get you demoted (or reassigned more likely) rather quickly: insubordination and poor management/leadership. If this report was sent out without senior CDC blessings, and if DeRosa was in charge of the study and the report, then he's the fall guy. If he leaked it, its gross insuboridination, if someone who worked under him leaked it, its poor management/leadership. Whether the report is 100% accurate and correct or full of holes matters little. The report was leaked without the blessing of the CDC seniors. How are they to trust DeRosa in the future?
Don't get me wrong, I am not picking sides here, I'm just saying is all.

By pauls lane (not verified) on 07 Mar 2008 #permalink

I know both De Rosa and the guy who demoted him. In fact I know Chris less well than the one who demoted him, someone I've known for decades and who is almost always on the right side of things. Moreover he (the demoter, not Chris) is being defended by some people I really like and trust and whom I've also known for a long time. But I also know one of the peer reviewers and this thing has been in the works for years -- literally. So while I would usually give the one who demoted him the benefit of the doubt, something about this smells pretty bad and there has been no adequate explanation even though we have asked for it as friends. I don't think this is really a technical issue any longer. What it is, I don't really know.

It is very hard to describe the true and often multiple causes of institutional rot, weakening, poor functioning, breakdown....and particularly so for large Gvmt. institutions, who are very vulnerable. They don t earn their own money, often they create their own work, and their performance/effect etc. is hard to measure, or at least commonly thought to be so. They are also very resistant to change, react conservatively, resist innovation, which can send them into a tailspin. Their esprit de corps is often very fragile, or even fake. (In Europe, mobbing, abuse, is most common in large Gvmt. institutions. vs. any other type.) Scientific ones have extra problems: they themselves are their own experts, and it may be difficult, or impossible, to dissociate substantive disagreement from power roles, position, etc. Lastly, Science is not the neutral truth we like to imagine, but is deeply political, but this fact is often masked through ignorance or self-interest, leaving in the shade the real issues, whereupon things tend to go west. The Revere s mild but justified paranoia is itself an interesting symptom...

Anyway this little digest is only meant to stress that laying much blame at the Bush administration door should be examined, questioned. Certainly, Republics (vs. social parliamentary democracies) like the US and France are in some ways less robust where Science is concerned, the power at the top phenomenon. Many other points could be discussed.

Ana - also in my experience with the government, highly skilled technical people make bad managers/leaders. They have a very difficult time letting go of the technical side and getting on board with the management side and they haven't developed their 'people skills'. Folks leave because they see interference and no support. There are exceptions of course. I would assume in the scientific world the same holds true.

By pauls lane (not verified) on 08 Mar 2008 #permalink

Ana: While I cannot disagree with any thing you said, I would respectfully add that there are also particularities atop the structural, political and cultural issues, or if you prefer, the particularities are themselves products of them. The core question here is whether it makes a difference who runs the Executive Branch in the US as far as the functioning of an agency like CDC is concerned. The election of 2000 was extremely close and had to be decided by fiat at the Supreme Court. Assume that things had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected instead, something quite plausible with only a few small changes in events. Those of us with experience with many Federal agencies over many years know how they can vary, with ups and downs related to whatever is going on elsewhere. But most of us also have little doubt that CDC would have been a far different place than it is now. Many agencies maintained a relative stability despite changes in administration, budget ups and downs, a variety of outside events. In that sense they are not fragile but robust. But as you say, they can also be fragile and vulnerable and the wrong person running them can affect those vulnerabilities and that is exactly what Gerberding has done. I diagnose it as a combination of two bad characteristics, neither one ideological in the strict sense but when combined with the Bush administration, catastrophic. The first is that she habitually curries favor with higher ups. If the higher up were the Gore people things might have come out differently. But they aren't. The second is that she is a very bad manager and a highly controlling one who brooks no criticism or independence.

None of this contradicts your more macro view, which I tend to agree with. But there are minor fluctuations that can also destroy an agency (and in this administration, many agencies because they have this vulnerability in common). So I don't mind questioning the proposition, since I have thought about it hard for four years now. This is my analysis of it. It is obviously subject to revision if someone gives me a good argument.
[ ]Go to Original
Great Lakes: Danger Zones?
By Sheila Kaplan
The Center for Public Integrity
Thursday 07 February 2008
Researchers found low birth weights, elevated rates of infant mortality and premature births, and elevated death rates from breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.
For more than seven months, the nation's top public health agency has blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states, reportedly because it contains such potentially "alarming information" as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates.
The 400-plus-page study, Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in the Twenty-Six U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern, was undertaken by a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the request of the International Joint Commission, an independent bilateral organization that advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on the use and quality of boundary waters between the two countries. The study was originally scheduled for release in July 2007 by the IJC and the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the study, which warns that more than nine million people who live in the more than two dozen "areas of concern"-including such major metropolitan areas as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee-may face elevated health risks from being exposed to dioxin, PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury, or six other hazardous pollutants.
In many of the geographic areas studied, researchers found low birth weights, elevated rates of infant mortality and premature births, and elevated death rates from breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.
Since 2004, dozens of experts have reviewed various drafts of the study, including senior scientists at the CDC, Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies, as well as scientists from universities and state governments, according to sources familiar with the history of the project.
"It raises very important questions," Dr. Peter Orris, a professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago and one of three experts who reviewed the study for ATSDR, told the Center. While Orris acknowledged that the study does not determine cause and effect-a point the study itself emphasizes-its release, he said, is crucial to pointing the way for further research. "Communities could demand that those questions be answered in a more systematic way," he said. "Not to release it is putting your head under the sand."
In a December 2007 letter to ATSDR in which he called for the release of the study, Orris wrote: "This report, which has taken years in production, was subjected to independent expert review by the IJC's Health Professionals Task Force and other boards, over 20 EPA scientists, state agency scientists from New York and Minnesota, three academics (including myself), and multiple reviews within ATSDR. As such, this is perhaps the most extensively critiqued report, internally and externally, that I have heard of."
Last July, several days before the study was to be released, ATSDR suddenly withdrew it, saying that it needed further review. In a letter to Christopher De Rosa, then the director of the agency's division of toxicology and environmental medicine, Dr. Howard Frumkin, ATSDR's chief, wrote that the quality of the study was "well below expectations." When the Center contacted Frumkin's office, a spokesman said that he was not available for comment and that the study was "still under review."
De Rosa, who oversaw the study and has pressed for its release, referred the Center's requests for an interview to ATSDR's public affairs office, which, over a period of two weeks, has declined to make him available for comment. In an e-mail obtained by the Center, De Rosa wrote to Frumkin that the delay in publishing the study has had "the appearance of censorship of science and distribution of factual information regarding the health status of vulnerable communities."
Some members of Congress seem to agree. In a February 6, 2008, letter to CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, who's also administrator of ATSDR, a trio of powerful congressional Democrats-including Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology-complained about the delay in releasing the report. The Center for Public Integrity obtained a copy of the letter to Gerberding, which notes that the full committee is reviewing "disturbing allegations about interference with the work of government scientists" at ATSDR. "You and Dr. Frumkin were made aware of the Committee's concerns on this matter last December," the letter adds, "but we have still not heard any explanation for the decision to cancel the release of the report."
Canadian biologist Michael Gilbertson, a former IJC staffer and another of the three peer reviewers, told the Center that the study has been suppressed because it suggests that vulnerable populations have been harmed by industrial pollutants. "It's not good because it's inconvenient," Gilbertson said. "The whole problem with all this kind of work is wrapped up in that word 'injury.' If you have injury, that implies liability. Liability, of course, implies damages, legal processes, and costs of remedial action. The governments, frankly, in both countries are so heavily aligned with, particularly, the chemical industry, that the word amongst the bureaucracies is that they really do not want any evidence of effect or injury to be allowed out there."
The IJC requested the study in 2001. Researchers selected by the ATSDR not only reviewed data from hazardous waste sites, toxic releases, and discharges of pollutants but also, for the first time, mapped the locations of schools, hospitals, and other facilities to assess the proximity of vulnerable populations to the sources of environmental contaminants. In March 2004, an official of the IJC wrote to De Rosa to thank him for his role in the study, saying that he was "enthusiastic about sharing this information with Great Lakes Basin stakeholders and governments," and adding, "You are to be commended for your extraordinary efforts."
Unlike his Canadian counterpart, however, the ATSDR's Frumkin seems anything but thankful. De Rosa, a highly respected scientist with a strong international reputation from his 15 years in charge of ATSDR's division of toxicology and environmental medicine, was demoted after he pushed Frumkin to publish the Great Lakes report and other studies. De Rosa is seeking reinstatement to his former position, claiming that Frumkin illegally retaliated against him. Phone calls to ATSDR seeking comment about the pending personnel dispute were not returned.
"I think this is really pretty outrageous, both to Chris personally and to the report," Dr. David Carpenter, a professor of public health at the State University of New York at Albany and another of ATSDR's peer reviewers, told the Center for Public Integrity.
Some members of Congress have also taken De Rosa's side. That same February 6 letter to Gerberding, which was co-signed by Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina, chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Science and Technology Committee, and Rep. Nick Lampson of Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, expressed concern that "management may have retaliated against" De Rosa for blowing the whistle on ATSDR's conduct related to this investigation and another involving work on formaldehyde in trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "The public is well served by federal employees willing to speak up when federal agencies act improperly, and Congress depends upon whistle blowers for effective oversight," the letter states. "We will not tolerate retaliation against any whistle blowers."
Barry Johnson, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service and a former assistant administrator of ATSDR, told the Center that before he left in 1999 he recommended that the agency investigate the dangers that chemical contaminants might pose to residents of the Great Lakes states.
"This research is quite important to the public health of people who reside in that area," Johnson said of the study. "It was done with the full knowledge and support of IJC, and many local health departments went through this in various reviews. I don't understand why this work has not been released; it should be and it must be released. In 37 years of public service, I've never run into a situation like this."
Sheila Kaplan is a journalist who divides her time between Washington, D.C., and Northern California. Research support for this story was provided by the Nation Institute Investigative Fund.

Last month, I attended a screening of "Toxic Trespass", a documentary which has not yet been released. I'll post info about it below, in case any of you are interested in obtaining a copy. Michael Gilbertson, the Canadian biologist who was mentioned in the above article, was also featured in the documentary. The movie was quite damning of even Health Canada for being in bed with industry groups (so to speak) and not doing enough to deal with pollution which is making people ill, if not downright killing them. I think the movie is a "must-see", especially for people who live in and near Windsor and Sarnia, because whatever is ailing the folks there, will likely be affecting other nearby cities or communities, no matter which side of the border they're on.
[ ]http://www.nfb. ca/collection/ films/fiche/ ?id=54100

By Christine (not verified) on 08 Mar 2008 #permalink

You are correct in saying that, "If you rock the boat and you are funded by the government, there is ample evidence you may lose your job, funding." Dr. Boyd E. Haley used to receive a good amount of funding from NIH, but that dried up/disappeared after he started connecting the dots between mercury and Alzheimer's disease, a very unpopular theory with the current admin and the ADA, etc.

By Christine (not verified) on 08 Mar 2008 #permalink