Nevada public health officials silence research on impact of natural asbestos deposits on residents’ health in what may be the most shocking instance of scientific censorship in recent history. Brenda Buck and Rod Metcalf, both professors at UNLV, discovered natural asbestos deposits approximately five years ago. Since that time, the pair has mapped the deposits in southern Nevada including much of Henderson and Boulder City.
The two were working on a paper in 2012 that proposed a possible causal link between these natural asbestos deposits and higher-than-normal rates of mesothelioma in southern Nevada. They were working with a team of epidemiologists at the University of Hawaii and were using public information from the Nevada Cancer Registry database when Nevada’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tracey Green, sent them a cease and desist letter.
“I got the cease and desist 36 hours before I was going to get on a plane to go to this Geological Society of America meeting where I was going to present this, and it just scared me,” said Metcalf. The letter required the team to retract the abstract it had published, cease any future publication of the topic and to refrain from commenting on their finding in public. Failure to comply could result in legal action against them. Further, their access to the public information held in the Nevada Cancer Registry was permanently revoked.
The principal investigator of the research, Dr. Francine Baumann of the University of Hawaii, said that the agreement she signed for access to the data included a clause forbidding publication until the information was reviewed and approved by the state. State officials felt that publishing even an abstract breached the contract.
Sadly, Nevada seems to be using that clause as a convenient excuse to suppress vital information. Baumann and the team discovered that there were 133 mesothelioma deaths in southern Nevada. The number of female victims was three times the national average and the number of young adult victims was five times the national average. Since it is highly unlikely that all of the victims worked with asbestos, it seems logical to examine whether the natural deposits are making people sick.
State officials, sworn to work for the good of the residents of Nevada, don’t seem too concerned, though. The entire project has been shut down by state order. Despite the fact that the actual data is public information, the state will not allow further research.
Could it be that they’re afraid of a panic? Or, is it more likely that they fear the repercussions of their incredible failure to carry out their sworn duties?