Chinese heavy metal contamination paper purged for data theft

Environmental_Monitoring_and_AssessmentAn environmental journal has retracted a paper about pollution in China after it discovered the authors lifted the dataset from another group.

The authors of the study — which chronicled the degree of heavy metal pollution on the banks of the Pearl River Delta — didn’t have permission to use the data. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment‘s notice doesn’t suggest the data are inaccurate.

The heavy metals in the soil come from the many manufacturing plants in the area, including those that provide the West with blue jeans, phones, and other electronics. The pollutants’ effects are wide-reaching: According to the South China Morning Post, industrial outfits discharge huge volumes of toxic chemicals into the Pearl River, including arsenic, copper, cadmium, and mercury.

The river water is then used in farming – a recent PLoS ONE study found that 12% of vegetables grown in the area contain cadmium, a carcinogen used in electronics manufacturing that causes kidney and lung damage.

Here is the notice for “Heavy metal pollution in surface soils of Pearl River Delta, China”:

This article has been retracted by the editor-in-chief with the agreement of the author because a previous version of this article using the same dataset had already been published in another journal with a different set of authors. The author did not have permission (implicit or explicit) to publish this data in our journal. The author apologizes to the editors and readers as well as the authors of the original papers.

The article doesn’t appear to have been cited. We’ve reached out to the corresponding author and journal editor, and will update if we hear back.

Hat tip Rolf Degen

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