Doctor Demands ‘WSJ’ Retract Stories About Manipulation of Scientific Study

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By: E&P Staff

Dr. Shukun Li, a Chinese public health scientist, demanded today that The Wall Street Journal retract two of its articles that claimed her 1997 study on the relationship between pollutant Chromium 6 and cancer was manipulated by American scientists, reports Business Wire.

In an article titled “Study Tied Pollutant to Cancer: Then Consultants Got Hold of It,” from December 23, 2005, and a follow-up on June 2, 2006, WSJ staff reporter Peter Waldman alleged that Dr. Li’s study had originally claimed that the pollutant Chromium 6 was linked to cases of cancer in China, but was rewritten by scientists working for Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) to say otherwise.

At the time, PG&E was in the midst of a court battle over the use of Chromium 6.

Dr. Li stated that the 1997 study was in fact a confirmation of earlier studies that showed no link between ingestion of Chromium 6 and cases of cancer. “All three studies were based on the same data and supported the same conclusion: that there was no specific link between high cancer rates and oral ingestion of Chromium 6,” she said in a statement.

The WSJ article in 2005, however, said that the 1997 study was a reversal of previous findings, and concluded that Dr. Li?s study had been rewritten by American science consultants in order to support PG&E?s case.

Underlining the controversy is the fact that the WSJ article from 2005 has been noted as one of the heaviest influencing factors in the settlement of the class action lawsuit against PG&E. The case was made famous by the public’s main prosecutor, Erin Brockovich. Since the article in the popular daily newspaper alleged that Dr. Li’s study actually claimed Chromium 6 was linked to cancer, PG&E felt pressured by public opinion to settle the lawsuit, reports Business Wire.

In a letter sent to the Journal, Dr. Li claims that the articles not only misled public opinion, but also damaged her credibility and career, as well as that of her late co-author Dr. JianDong Zhang. Following the publication of the articles, she says, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine retracted its publication of the 1997 study.

Dr. Li’s U.S. attorney, Danning Jiang, also said in a statement that the Wall Street Journal knew the article included false allegations before it went to print. “Mr. Waldman was in possession of information and documents that unmistakably prove the 1997 study was neither ghostwritten nor the product of scientific fraud,” he said in the statement.

He also said that since publication, the American consultants accused of ghostwriting the study have provided documentation to the newspaper to prove otherwise.

“The Wall Street Journal, however, has done nothing to correct this journalistic misconduct,” he said in the statement.

Dr. Li also sent a letter today to the scientific journal that retracted her study after release of the articles, asking that it apologize and republish the 1997 study.

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