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Annys Shin of the Washington Post has reported that Dr. Gail Charnley, a well-known corporate product defense expert, is the White House’s leading candidate for the chairmanship of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

We’ve written extensively here about this beleaguered agency. Finally, after the nation watched helplessly at the recall of millions of lead-contaminated toys, President Bush has evidently decided to replace current Chairman Nancy Nord with someone more competent to safeguard the interests of manufacturers of dangerous products.

The Post article lists a few reasons the public might be concerned about a Charnley appointment, including one dispute over a missing conflict of interest disclosure. Curious about Dr. Charnley’s work, I spent a little time on the web reviewing selected aspects of her work, and have turned up what appears to be a new failure to disclose a pretty basic financial conflict. But I’ll return to that after reviewing what the Post has learned:

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A quick look at “Chernobyl: Relationship between Number of Missing Newborn Boys and the Level of Radiation in the Czech Regions” by Miroslav Peterka, Renata Peterková, and Zbyneˇk Likovsky´ in Environmental Health Perspectives.

As a rule, more boys than girls are born. But in November 1986 in the eastern regions of the Czech Republic, the reverse was true – more girls than boys. It appears that radiation exposure released by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in April 1986, brought to earth by rain over the area, increased radiation exposure. Fetuses that were approximately three months old at the time appear to have been effected, resulting in a reduction of newborn boys six months later.

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Science bloggers Bora Zivkovic (also known as Coturnix) and Reed Cartwright, assisted by a panel of judges, are putting together an anthology of science blog posts from the past year – and I’m honored to report that my post “Popcorn Lung Coming to Your Kitchen? The FDA Doesn’t Want to Know” is included.

Open Laboratory 2007, like the 2006 edition before it, will be published by Lulu.com and soon available for order. You can also read all of the blog posts by clicking on the links at A Blog Around the Clock. It’s fascinating collection, sure to amuse as well as to educate. Here are some of the posts that Pump Handle readers might find particularly interesting:

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There are two terrific book events scheduled for Monday January 7th, here in Washington DC. Les Leopold, author of The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi, will be in town to talk about Tony’s life and legacy.

Les’ book is a great read, an inspiring and illuminating account of Tony’s lifetime organizing for worker rights and safe factories. Here’s an excerpt, to give you a sense of the book’s content.

At noon on Monday January 7th, Les and several distinguished speakers from the House of Labor will be speaking at noon in the Gompers Room at AFL-CIO headquarters, 815 16th St. NW. Later that evening, there will be a book party at Busboys and Poets Cafe (2021 14th St. NW) starting at 6:30 PM.

More than any other individual, Tony is responsible for inspiring and building the current occupational safety and health movement. These events will be a fine an opportunity to catch up on old and new friends, and celebrate Tony’s life and work.

The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi is one of the Pump Handle’s top book recommendations this year (here’s an excerpt, to whet your appetite). On Monday January 7th, the book’s author, Les Leopold of the Labor Institute, will be coming to Washington to read from it and sign copies. There are two events scheduled that day. The first, featuring Les and a number of distinguished speakers, will be held at noon in the Gompers Room at AFL-CIO headquarters, 815 16th St. NW. That evening, there will be a book party at Busboys and Poets Cafe (2021 14th St. NW) starting at 6:30 PM.

More than any other individual, Tony is responsible for inspiring and building the current occupational safety and health movement. These events will be a fine an opportunity to catch up on old and new friends, and celebrate Tony’s life and work. See you there.

The journal Epidemiology has just published new evidence that drinking hexavalent chromium — also called chromium 6 — increases risk of stomach cancer. The study is important for public health purposes, since many drinking water sources are chromium contaminated (including the water in the community in the movie Erin Brockovich).

This new study is also the latest piece of a very ugly scandal that illustrates how polluters manufacture doubt to impede regulation. And this scandal is but one of several in which chromium polluters have manipulated epidemiologic studies to sow uncertainty – see our case study on chromium 6 at DefendingScience.org.

Pump Handle readers may recall our reporting on the controversy around a study of stomach cancer in Chinese villages where there were high levels of chromium in the drinking water. After an initial study reported elevated rates of stomach cancer, product defense consultants working for US chromium polluters reanalyzed the study, and the increased risk disappeared. The consultants re-analyzed the data and arranged for it to be published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) without their names on it, hiding any connection to the product defense firm (Chemrisk) or the polluters who paid for the re-analysis. After the controversy was reported in the Wall Street Journal, the editor of JOEM retracted the study.

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Tomorrow, the House Small Business Committee will convene a hearing based on a study that is so flawed it could be used to teach students how not to do survey research.

Last month, we wrote about this “survey,”
conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce, purporting to show that compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley rules would be enormously burdensome to small business. It is difficult to believe anyone who reads the actual study would reach the same conclusion. The Chamber tried to identify small businesses that might be impacted by the law and asked almost 5,000 to complete a simple on-line survey asking questions that encouraged the answers the Chamber wanted. Only 177 (3.6%) of the businesses surveyed bothered to respond.

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A quick look at two papers and an editorial on the effects on lung function of exposure to levels of air pollution below current EPA standards, published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Epidemiologic studies of the health effects of air pollution keep improving, with scientists designing studies able to measure small but important effects of relatively low levels of exposure. There are implications for policy: our pollution current standards are not sufficiently protective, especially for individuals who already have lung disease or are otherwise more sensitive or susceptible to environmental exposures.

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A quick look at “Predictors of Psychostimulant Use by Long-Distance Truck Drivers” by Ann Williamson in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

An Australian study finds that paying truck drivers by the job (instead of by the hour or week) leads to increased driver use of amphetamines and other stimulants, which is associated with increased risk for highway crashes.

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Elizabeth Williamson of the Washington Post has written powerful article on the failure of the regulatory system to ensure that amusement park “thrill” rides don’t kill or injure customers, primarily teenagers and children. She provides grisly detail on a topic we’ve talked about here before: the inability and/or unwillingness of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect the public.

After describing one series of identical accidents that occurred several times on the same ride, Williamson notes

The CPSC has no employee whose full-time job is to ensure the safety of such rides. The agency’s 90 field investigators — who oversee 15,000 products, work from their homes and live mostly on the East Coast — are so overstretched that they frequently arrive at carnival accident scenes after rides have been dismantled.

As a result, critics say, supermarket shopping carts feature a more standardized child-restraint system than do amusement rides, which can travel as fast as 100 mph and, according to federal estimates, cause an average of four deaths and thousands of injuries every year.

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