Congressional committee probes killing of Great Lakes cancer report

The U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology is investigating allegations that the nation's top public-health agency has blocked publication of a study that links industrial contaminants to cancer and increased infant mortality in the Great Lakes states.

In 2001, the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian organization that manages shared waterways and monitors pollution, requested a report that would look at the potential human health impact of environmental contamination in 26 "Areas of Concern" across the Great Lakes.

The Centers for Disease Control's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry began work on the study in 2002. The report concentrated on 11 pollutants known to damage human health and was intended to serve as a guide for further epidemiological study.

The committee charges that the report, "Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in the Twenty-Six U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern," had been peer-reviewed and was ready for release in July 2007 when the CDC abruptly canceled its publication.

In a letter to CDC chief Dr. Julia Gerberding, who also administers the registry, the committee noted that the report found that "Areas of Concern" -- which contain 40 million residents in eight states -- had higher infant-mortality rates and higher cancer rates than neighboring counties or the national average.

Committee chairmen urged the agency to explain why it has failed to release the report and insisted that it cease retaliatory measures reportedly taken against an agency scientist who drew attention to the suppression of the report.

Excerpts from the report are available at the Center for Public Integrity

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