: Public Health Agency Tied to Chemical Industry_LAT

The Los Angeles Times has uncovered an example of industry-influenced
"science" under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health.
The Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) was
established in 1998 within NIH to assess the dangers that chemicals pose for
human reproduction.

The LAT reports that the Center has been outsourcing the writing of its
"scientific" reports to an industry consulting firm, Sciences International.
Behind the scenes, the firm has written the first draft of CERHR reports.
Sciences International's clients include more than 50 industrial companies
that are opposed to government regulation of their products. Among their
clients: Dow Chemical and BASF, Chevron, ExxonMobil, 3-M, Union Carbide, and
the National Assn. of Manufacturers.

Among the numerous pollutants with endocrine/estrogenic activity, several
plasticizers are found both in the environment and in food. Particularly,
phenolic compounds such as alkylphenols (AP) and bisphenol A (BPA) which may
enter the food chain as a result of the application as emulgators in
pesticides and plasticizers in plastic materials, respectively. Traces of
BPA are found in the bodies of nearly all Americans tested, and low levels. 

Debate over the plastics compound, bisphenol A (BPA), is one of the most
contentious environmental health issues faced by government and industry. A
review of BPA by the CERHR's scientific panel is scheduled on Monday.
However, that review has been orchestrated by Sciences International: the
firm was involved in writing the BPA report, and its employees are scheduled
to preside over the meeting!.

In 1999, Sciences International represented R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in
fighting an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate a pesticide
used on tobacco crops. In 2004, its vice president, Dr. Anthony Scialli, who
is identified as the federal center's "principal investigator," co-wrote a
study with a Dow Chemical Co. researcher on how to extrapolate data from
animal tests to humans.

The LAT reports that in 1999, Sciences International's president boasted
about its close collaboration with the federal reproductive health center,
as well as the EPA and other federal agencies, in a letter soliciting R.J.
Reynolds as a client. Clearly, that "close collaboration" is confirmed by
the leading role it has played at CERHR.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate's environmental
committee and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) chairs the House's
government oversight and reform committee, wrote a letter calling for an
explanation of the company's role and disclosure of its potential conflicts
of interest before the panel convenes Monday.

Such disclosure does not eliminate the bias or the conflict of interest.
Such collusion between a government funded, ostensibly scientifically
objective research center and an industry public relations firm makes a
mockery of the entire process.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974
veracare@ahrp.org

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
http://www.latimes.com/services/site/premium/access-registered.intercept
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
Public health agency linked to chemical industry
The work of a federal risk-assessment center is guided by a company with
manufacturing ties. Some scientists see bias.
By Marla Cone
March 4, 2007

For nearly a decade, a federal agency has been responsible for assessing the
dangers that chemicals pose to reproductive health. But much of the agency's
work has been conducted by a private consulting company that has close ties
to the chemical industry, including manufacturers of a compound in plastics
that has been linked to reproductive damage.

In 1998, the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction was
established within the National Institutes of Health to assess the dangers
of chemicals and help determine which ones should be regulated. Sciences
International, an Alexandria, Va., consulting firm that has been funded by
more than 50 industrial companies, has played a key role in the center's
activities, reviewing the risks of chemicals, preparing reports, and helping
select members of its scientific review panel and setting their agendas,
according to government and company documents.

The company produces the first draft of the center's reports on the risks of
chemicals, including a new one on bisphenol A, a widely used compound in
polycarbonate plastic food containers, including baby bottles, as well as
lining for food cans.

The center's work is considered important to public health because people
are exposed to hundreds of chemicals that have been shown to skew the
reproductive systems of newborn lab animals and could be causing similar
damage in humans. Chemical companies and industry groups have staunchly
opposed regulation of the compounds and have developed their own research to
dispute studies by government and university scientists.

The bisphenol A report, which some scientists say has a pro-industry bias,
is a public document scheduled for review by the center's scientific panel
on Monday. Employees of Sciences International involved in writing it will
preside over the meeting.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) in a
Wednesday letter called for an explanation of the company's role and
disclosure of its potential conflicts of interest before the panel convenes
Monday. Boxer chairs the Senate's environmental committee and Waxman chairs
the House's government oversight and reform committee.

Sciences International executives declined to comment to The Times,
referring all questions to the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences.

Michael Shelby, director of the federal reproductive health center, which is
based in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, also declined to discuss
Sciences International.

But Robin Mackar, a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences, which oversees the reproductive center, said Sciences
International "has worked for the center since 1998 without any problems"
and has participated in reports on 17 chemicals.

"These contractors have no decision-making or analytical responsibilities,"
she said.

But according to company and government websites and Federal Register
documents, Sciences International is involved in management and plays a
principal scientific investigative role at the federal center. The company
has a $5-million contract with the center, according to an NIEHS document.

"The most significant project at our firm is the management of the National
Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human
Reproduction," the Sciences International website says. It says half its
clients are from the private sector, but its health studies are independent
and it "is proud of its reputation for objective science."

Its current website contains no list of industry clients. But a 2006 version
names BASF and Dow Chemical – which manufacture the plastics compound BPA –
as well as DuPont, Chevron, ExxonMobil, 3-M, Union Carbide, the National
Assn. of Manufacturers, and 45 other manufacturing companies and industry
groups.

In 1999, Sciences International represented R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in
fighting an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to regulate a pesticide
used on tobacco crops. In 2004, its vice president, Dr. Anthony Scialli, who
is identified as the federal center's "principal investigator," co-wrote a
study with a Dow Chemical Co. researcher on how to extrapolate data from
animal tests to humans.

In addition, another Sciences International employee who works at the
federal agency, Gloria Jahnke, has collaborated nine times on chemicals
research with another company that gets funding from the plastics industry,
according to a Times review of medical publications.

Sciences International's president boasted about its close collaboration
with the federal reproductive health center, as well as the EPA and other
federal agencies, in a letter soliciting R.J. Reynolds as a client in 1999.

Signed by company founder Elizabeth Anderson, the letter stated that
Sciences International "serves the private sector, including many trade
associations, on a wide range of health and risk assessment issues. However,
we are different from most other consulting firms in that we also currently
serve government agencies," which, the letter said, gives the company "a
unique credibility to negotiate with regulators on behalf of our private
sector clients."

The role of Sciences International in the federal center's work came to the
attention of Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group focused
on environmental health, last month after some scientists who saw the report
on BPA complained that it was biased toward the industry's position that low
doses have no effect.

"We are unaware of any other instance in which nearly all of the functions
of a public health agency have been outsourced to a private entity," wrote
Richard Wiles, the working group's executive director, in a letter to the
director of the NIH's National Toxicology Program, which runs the
reproductive health center. "Questions about the objectivity and adequacy of
this review process and the reviewers must be resolved before a final
decision on BPA is reached."

Debate over BPA is one of the most contentious environmental health issues
faced by government and industry. Traces are found in the bodies of nearly
all Americans tested, and low levels – similar to amounts that can leach
from infant and water bottles – mimic estrogen and have caused genetic
changes in animals that lead to prostate cancer, as well as decreased
testosterone, low sperm counts and signs of early female puberty, according
to more than 100 government-funded studies. About a dozen industry-funded
studies found no effects.

Fred vom Saal, a University of Missouri-Columbia scientist conducting
NIH-funded BPA research, said the draft report written by Sciences
International downplays the risks of the plastics chemical and makes
critical mistakes.

"It's a combination of inaccurate information and blatant bias as it exists
in its draft form," vom Saal said. "They specifically ignore fatal flaws in
industry-sponsored publications." He said the 300-page report misrepresented
government-funded studies that found effects by inaccurately portraying
their findings, and failed to note industry funding of some studies cited.

Shelby, the center's director, in a late February memo to the Environmental
Working Group, said Sciences International reviews the scientific literature
on chemicals and writes the basic reports, but that conclusions are prepared
by the center's panel of independent scientists, which "serves to minimize
or eliminate any bias that might possibly be introduced by the contractor." 

Shelby wrote that there are no requirements for Sciences International or
other contractors to disclose financial conflicts of interest.

Mackar, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said the
chemical reviews are "all open and public" and "we're confident in our
scientific panel."

But Vom Saal said that although the scientific panel includes many good,
independent scientists, "none of them have expertise with this chemical."

A Federal Register document describing the center's creation in 1998 said
scientists from Sciences International and the center "constitute a core
committee" that "selects the expert panel membership and establishes the
meeting agenda."
marla.cone@latimes.com
 
FAIR USE NOTICE: This may contain copyrighted (C ) material the use of which
has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such
material is made available for educational purposes, to advance
understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and
social justice issues, etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair
use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without
profit.