Consulting Firm OK's Its Own Conflicts of Interest

"The National Institutes of Health has temporarily suspended" the consulting firm Sciences International, which "had been reviewing the health dangers of chemicals for the government while also working for the chemical industry," reports Marla Cone. The evaluation of the firm's work is ongoing, and its $5 million government contract, "which runs through June 2008," remains in force. After Cone's earlier reporting, the NIH asked Sciences International "to conduct its own internal investigation." The self-reporting admitted that Sciences International had been "paid by three industry associations" -- the American Chemistry Council, the United Soybean Board, and "a styrene industry trade group" -- "to perform consulting work on three chemicals that it also reviewed for the government reproductive health center." However, Sciences International claimed that "no conflicts existed that impaired judgments or objectivity," and that employees doing government work "have historically been insulated" from industry contracts. The director of the Environmental Working Group, among others, expressed skepticism and called for "an independent investigation."