A Harvard University investigation found that a professor accused of distorting research on fluoridated water and bone cancer “did not intentionally omit, misrepresent or suppress research findings,” the university said in a written statement this week.
Chester Douglass, a professor of oral health policy and epidemiology at Harvard Dental School, was being investigated by Harvard after the nonprofit Environmental Working Group filed an ethics complaint against him in June 2005.
The nonprofit said Douglass distorted the results of a doctoral student’s research when he reported finding no link between fluoridated water and bone cancer in a report to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The student, Elise Bassin, found that boys who drink fluoridated water are five times more likely to develop bone cancer than boys who drink water without the chemical. Her research was published in a Harvard University cancer journal in April this year.
The Environmental Working Group also accused Douglass of having a conflict of interest because he is a paid consultant for the toothpaste industry.
Harvard University did not release any documents related to its investigation, except for a four-paragraph statement. The university said U.S. health officials reviewed the record of Harvard’s inquiry and found that no further investigation is needed.
The Environmental Working Group accused Harvard of sidestepping the question of whether Douglass distorted Bassin’s research linking bone cancer to fluoride.
“This excuse is so tortured, you can see why it took a bunch of Harvard professors a year to concoct it,” Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a press release.
A Harvard University spokesman declined to say whether Douglass unintentionally committed wrongdoing. Misconduct reviews only look at whether professors “intentionally” distort research, according to spokesman John Lacey.