- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

BALTIMORE (AP) — Federal investigators are looking into a lead-paint study of city children that a judge has likened to Nazi research on concentration-camp prisoners.
The Maryland Court of Appeals has allowed lawsuits to proceed against the Kennedy Krieger Institute, which is overseen by Johns Hopkins University. The probe by the Office for Human Research Protections, the agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that oversees human research, was begun before the court ruling last week, officials said.
The office is the same agency that shut down all human research at Johns Hopkins for five days after the death of a volunteer in an asthma study this year.
Such moves are not unusual, said Bill Hall, a spokesman for the health department. Since 1990, 29 percent of the 700 investigations conducted by the office have led to temporary or permanent bans on studies involving human subjects, he said.
The Court of Appeals criticized the university's Institutional Review Board, which oversaw the study, for looking out for the interests of researchers at the expense of the children.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of two children who suffered elevated blood-lead levels and irreversible brain damage from the study. They seek unspecified monetary damages from the landlords and Kennedy Krieger Institute, a children's hospital and research center.
Baltimore ranks among the worst U.S. cities for lead-paint poisoning because of its older housing stock.
The study, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, examined inexpensive alternatives for removing lead paint from homes. Children can develop learning disabilities and even brain damage by eating lead-paint chips.
The study was intended to encourage landlords to use the new methods to clean up their homes. Landlords, mostly in Baltimore, were paid nominally to recruit about 100 families with healthy children to live in their homes. The children were tested periodically to see how well the abatement methods worked.
"The researchers and their Institutional Review Board apparently saw nothing wrong with the search protocols that anticipated the possible accumulation of lead in the blood of otherwise healthy children as a result of the experiment," Judge Dale R. Cathell wrote in his ruling.
The judge said the research project contained problems similar to those in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study conducted on uneducated black men in Alabama from the 1930s to 1970s. Judge Cathell also drew comparisons to typhus experiments conducted on prisoners at Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II.
"In the present case, children, especially young children, living in lower economic circumstances, albeit not as vulnerable as the other examples, are, nonetheless, vulnerable as well," Judge Cathell wrote.
Marc Farfel, who conducted the study, and Kennedy Krieger Institute President Gary W. Goldstein said they were concerned about the wording of Judge Cathell's opinion.
"It's very inflammatory because there is a constituency out there that is very worried … about experiments on minority groups," Mr. Goldstein said.
The study was conducted in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poor and minority residents.


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