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Conflict of Interest in American Academy of Pediatrics Report
Date:2/4/2008

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana Fails to Disclose Political Activism

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Responding to today's publication of a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on infant exposure to phthalates, the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) today criticized the report as a document motivated more by politics than actual science. In addition to the report "conveniently" omitting well-known scientific risk assessments on phthalates exposure, the AAP deliberately excludes information regarding the author's political activism and apparent bias.

The report, entitled "Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure," was authored by Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana.

Phthalates are used as softeners in PVC (poly vinyl chloride) and have been used safely for more than 50 years. There is no scientific evidence of human toxicity or harm from phthalates, despite political special interest groups' aggressive efforts to ban phthalates in several states.

While there are numerous questions about the methodology and the assumptions made in Dr. Sathyanarayana's study, CFIF is most concerned about her failure to disclose her leadership role in an organization working to ban the use of phthalates.

"Dr. Sathyanarayana has every right to participate in the public policy debate," said Timothy Lee, CFIF's Director of Legal and Public Affairs. "However, she should disclose those activities and beliefs in scientific journals and reports that involve the campaigns of the organizations she leads."

Dr. Sathyanarayana is a board member of the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR), an organization that, in their words, "embraces the precautionary principle as the basis of our approach to the human and environmental health." That may seem reasonable unless you are familiar with the true meaning of the principle.

As defined during a conference of political activists that included Physicians for Social Responsibility, the precautionary principle states: "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."

"Plainly, the precautionary principle calls for protective action whether or not there is a scientifically determined risk," said Lee. "More directly, the principle promotes politics over science; if the scientific evidence does not matter, then the policy is based on politics."

Additionally, the WSRP seeks to eliminate the use of phthalates, the subject of study in Dr. Sathyanarayana's AAP report. According to the group's website, the "WPSR engages health professionals to protect children's health and eliminate toxic chemicals. WPSR works with health care facilities to phase out the use of PVC, phthalates and brominated flame retardants."

"It is inconceivable that Dr. Sathyanarayana's study can present scientific data in a fair and unbiased manner in light of her leadership position in an organization that uses the precautionary principle as the basis of its approach to health," Lee continued. "Especially when that organization has publicly stated its politically-motivated intent to eliminate the use of phthalates."

CFIF wants to be clear that in no way does CFIF question the integrity of the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding its publication of Dr. Sathyanarayana's study.

"We question whether the American Academy of Pediatrics is even aware of Dr. Sathyanarayana's political activism and campaign against phthalates," said Lee. "It's our hope that they will appropriately communicate that information to their members and the general public," Lee concluded.

The Center for Individual Freedom (http://www.cfif.org) is a constitutional and free-market advocacy organization with more than 250,000 supporters and activists nationwide. Since its founding in 1998, CFIF, among other things, has opposed calls for increased regulation based on politically-motivated "science."


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SOURCE Center for Individual Freedom
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