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Is the CDC Covering Up the Cancer Threat in Great Lakes States?

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While conservatives are arguing whether John McCain is conservative enough for them, they're not doing anything to reverse the course of one of the most destructive legacies of the Bush administration: the Republican war on science. To the demotions and muzzling of global warming scientists, we can now add a more immediate danger: the alleged Centers for Disease Control cover-up of a disturbing report showing millions of residents in eight Great Lake states facing environmental hazards that sharply raise the risk of infant mortality and deadly cancers. As reported today by Sheila Kaplan for the Center for Public Integrity:

For more than seven months, the nation's top public health agency has blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states, reportedly because it contains such potentially "alarming information" as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates...

The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the [CDC] study, which warns that more than nine million people who live in the more than two dozen "areas of concern" -- including such major metropolitan areas as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee -- may face elevated health risks from being exposed to dioxin, PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury, or six other hazardous pollutants.

In many of the geographic areas studied, researchers found low birth weights, elevated rates of infant mortality and premature births, and elevated death rates from breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.

The Center's article goes on to report how political pressures apparently led the CDC to pull the report just days before a division of the agency was scheduled to release it. This week, the Center reports, in a letter to CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, "a trio of powerful congressional Democrats -- including Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology -- complained about the delay in releasing the report. The Center for Public Integrity obtained a copy of the letter to Gerberding, which notes that the full committee is reviewing "disturbing allegations about interference with the work of government scientists.'"

It's an abuse of federal research agencies that's in the same spirit as earlier Bush administration efforts to bury and ignore inconvenient scientific truths. And it's an issue that ought to be part of the Democratic campaign as the candidates seek to reach out to Midwestern voters: they not only face a higher risk of losing their jobs because of Republican budgetary and tax schemes, but, it seems, their lives as well because of the anti-regulatory, anti-scientific policies at work in this seeming CDC cover-up.

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