Chromium, Cigarettes, Coal and Climate: Science Integrity Watch, March 25th


Experts who helped the State Department draft a report that downplayed the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline were found to have previously worked for TransCanada, the company attempting to build the pipeline. The State Department hid these ties from the public, redacting the work histories of the contractors in official documents. Mother Jones 

Chromium, a known carcinogen that has been found in drinking water, has routinely gone unregulated due to interference by industry scientists. In 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency was in the process of creating more stringent regulations for the compound until the agency relented under pressure from the chemical industry, which lobbied for competing studies to be completed before regulatory action was taken. The Center for Public Integrity

A chemical used in food containers, cigarette filters, and receipt paper is a potential endocrine disruptor, according to a growing research consensus. But Bisphenol-A, or BPA, has one scientist defender frequently mentioned in the media, though his work has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Mother Jones

The University of Tennessee will allow hydraulic fracturing on a tract of woodland and use the revenue to conduct research into the environmental impact of fracking. The university claims the research would be unbiased and scientific, but environmentalists see a fundamental conflict of interest. Daily Journal

Retraction Watch hypothesizes that sequester-driven cuts to National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants could prompt scientists to rush or falsify research, which may make retraction more likely and frequent. NIH approved only 18 percent of grant applications in 2012, down from 32 percent in 1999. Retraction Watch

David Rose, a writer for the popular UK paper The Mail on Sunday, continues to downplay climate change. The most recent of his articles argues that climate change has stopped, and is based on spurious evidence. The Daily Mail and its sister newspapers are widely read right-leaning UK tabloids whose misinformation has been picked up by climate deniers elsewhere.  Slate

A Harvard study links overconsumption of soda and sugary drinks to 180,000 deaths a year from diabetes, heart attack, and cancer. The American Beverage Association criticized the research as sensationalism rather than science. US News & World Report

An Indian tribe is fighting to close a coal-fired power plant in Las Vegas after finding evidence that the plant’s owners submitted phony pollution reports. The push to close the plant is supported by Nevada Senator Harry Reid. SFGate

Editors of Wikipedia accused BP of editing 44 percent of its Wikipedia page, in particular sections covering the company’s environmental performance. The edits came just in time for a hearing scheduled on April 5th, at which the company will ask a federal judge to prevent payments of “inflated” and “fictitious” claims to victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and its aftermath. The Times-Picayune

Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada have vowed to block three multi-billion dollar oil pipelines that are being constructed to transport oil from Alberta’s tar sands, including the Keystone XL pipeline. Some First Nation communities who all live near the tar sands and pipeline routes say the construction ignores 18th and 19th century treaties that give the groups control over what happens on their land. Planet Ark

The National Science Foundation will be prevented from funding research in political science that does not promote national security or the economic interests of the United States, provided that a measure passed by the Senate is officially adopted. The legislation was initiated by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) Academics see it as an unwarranted intrusion by lawmakers into scholarly activities. The Huffington Post

Last week, scientists sequenced the genome of cells taken from Henrietta Lacks, an African American tobacco farmer who died in 1951. The cells had been previously studied without informing the Lacks’ surviving family (the subject of the award-winning book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). Researchers also used the family for continuing research without their consent. It is hoped that increased awareness of the issue will lead to better standards for protecting genetic privacy. New York Times

The leaking of emails exchanges between climate scientists is a tactic that has been used to discredit climate science among the general public. A third “climate gate” leak by “Mr. FOIA” is another attempted blow to climate science, but the hundreds of thousands of emails have little in them to suggest a conspiracy. The Daily Climate