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Matt McIrvin's Steam-Operated World of Yesteryear


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Chromium(VI)
mmcirvin
Tim Lambert summarizes a pretty amazing series of events:
In 1987 Zhang JianDong published a study linking chromium-6 in drinking water to cancer. In 1997 he published a new study retracting his findings --- further analysis showed that the chromium-6 wasn't to blame. All part of the normal progress of science you would think. Except for a few small things.

1. Zhang did not write the 1997 retraction published under his name.

2. Zhang did not agree with the conclusions of the 1997 study.

3. The 1997 study was actually written by consultants from ChemRisk hired by PG&E. And PG&E was being sued for contaminating drinking water with chromium-6.[...]
It goes on; Revere of Effect Measure details how Zhang's name ended up on the paper. The suit happens to be the one made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich, and the fraudulently published retraction continues to have influence through the chain of subsequent citations in the scientific and popular literature. All I can say is "wow".

The story is apparently told in detail in an article in the news pages of the Wall Street Journal, which remain more or less distinct from the clown show on the editorial pages.

Update: "Chromium-6" changed to "chromium(VI)" in the headline for chemical correctness. It's not an isotope; it's an oxidation number.

Some googling on ChemRisk and Dennis Paustenbach turned up this. There's some scary stuff in there.
Paustenbach was appointed by the Bush administration to CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, an advisory committee which reviews research and makes suggestions on a range of public health policy issues.
In March 2003, Paustenbach began publishing the Journal of Children's Health. Until recently this journal included corporate lawyers on its editorial board; it still includes a number of corporate consultants.

Just to be clear, I don't believe that interested parties should be automatically disqualified from contributing to the scientific literature on this stuff. For all I know, chromium-6 really isn't a human carcinogen. But when you've shown a willingness to make it appear that a proponent of the cancer link has recanted when nothing of the sort has happened, that ought to ring alarm bells.

What's "Chromium-6"? That sounds like an awfully light isotope.

It does, doesn't it? I can picture a nucleus with 20-some-odd protons and 15-20 anti-neutrons, which are sort of like neutrons except they have negative mass instead of positive.

But I think that's probably not it.

I guess it's hexavalent chromium? Now to explain Ice-9 ...

You're right; it ought to be "chromium VI". Everyone's going by the WSJ article's notation but I should probably change the headline.

"Ice-nine" was a clever play on physical chemists' similar use of Roman numerals to indicate different phases on a phase diagram. There actually is an ice IX but it doesn't have the properties Vonnegut said it did.