Suppressed Report: Great Lakes States at Great Public Health Risk

An exhaustive federal study about the health of boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada was supposed to come out last July. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suppressed the report, perhaps because of the disturbing information it contains.

The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the 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.

That's weighty. Is there any argument for continuing to forestall this information's release? One top scholar who has reviewed it says no.

“It raises very important questions,” Dr. Peter Orris, a professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago and one of three experts who reviewed the study for ATSDR, told the Center. While Orris acknowledged that the study does not determine cause and effect—a point the study itself emphasizes—its release, he said, is crucial to pointing the way for further research. “Communities could demand that those questions be answered in a more systematic way,” he said. “Not to release it is putting your head under the sand.”

The report has been independently reviewed over a period of years by more than 20 EPA scientists, state agency scientists from Minnesota multiple academics and several boards of review. "As such," Orris wrote in a letter calling for the study's release, "this is perhaps the most extensively critiqued report, internally and externally, that I have heard of.”

You can download excerpts from the report here and check out the findings for yourself.

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