Friday, September 25, 2009

** Breaking News **

Take a look at these important stories:

1. "School Drinking Water Contains Toxins": The Associated Press just published a story about lead and other contaminants in school drinking water. It makes the point that this is a largely unrecognized, national problem with serious public health implications.

2. "Troubled Waters Part II: On the Trail of the Lost Data"
: Today, the newsletter of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published a feature story by science writer Rebecca Renner about CDC's controversial 2004 report, which claimed that DC's historic lead-in-water contamination of 2001-2004 had no significant public health impact. This report is currently under Congressional investigation.

Part I of "Troubled Waters" appeared in the Spring issue of the AAAS newsletter and raised serious questions about the scientific integrity of a different paper that shares some authors with, and covers some of the same questionable data as, the CDC report. Published in 2007 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, this paper also claimed that the health harm from DC's two-and-a-half year lead-in-water crisis was insignificant (see our 6/16/09 blog entry).

3. Letter: You may also want to read a letter to the AAAS editor in response to Part I of Ms. Renner's "Troubled Waters." It is written by Dr. Tee L. Guidotti, the first author of the 2007 Environmental Health Perspectives paper and WASA's health advisor from 2004 to 2008. In July 2009, at the request of an independent review panel, Dr. Guidotti withdrew from his paper, and apologized for, the key conclusion that, "There appears to have been no identifiable public health impact from the elevation of lead in drinking water in Washington, DC, in 2003 and 2004. This may reflect effective measures to protect the residents, as 153 reported compliance with recommendations to filter their drinking water."

A few weeks later, Dr. Guidotti defiantly told the Washington Post that his study "showed no identifiable correlation between increased lead in D.C. drinking water and elevated blood lead levels" and that "the suggestion that our conclusion was published by mistake does a great disservice to me and risks creating panic in the community when none is warranted." He further asserted that he stands by his paper, which features "many" additional sentences reiterating the same no-identifiable-harm conclusion.

Serious questions about the Guidotti et al. paper remain. The letter in the AAAS newsletter is Dr. Guidotti's latest defense, which to us seems like a nonsensical setting up and knocking down of straw men that utterly fails to refute the problems discussed in Ms. Renner's "Troubled Water" piece.

Ms. Renner will be given the opportunity to respond in the next issue of the newsletter.

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