Unreliable researcher? The credibility of Dr. Shinsuke Tanabe (centre left, wearing glasses) has been called into question by Cambodia's Ministry of Environment.
The Cambodian Ministry of Environment (MOE) is challenging recently released Japanese
research results that concluded Phnom Penh's Stung Meanchay dump was highly contaminated
with dioxin and heavy metals.
Heng Nareth, Director of the MOE's Pollution Control Department, told the Post on
Jan 30 that the toxicological methodology of Dr. Shinsuke Tanabe of Japan's Ehime
University's Center for Marine Environmental Studies was flawed and produced results
completely opposite to those of an MOE study.
Tanabe released the results of a two-year study of soil and human tissue samples
taken from the dump in Dec 2000, indicating potentially lethal levels of dioxin and
heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and cadmium.
However Nareth says that Tanabe ignored the testing protocol necessary for reliable
and accurate measurement of dioxin in the environment and in human tissue, making
his test results highly suspect.
"[Tanabe] didn't do a proper toxicological study, which would take intensive
testing over a two to three year period," Nareth said. "Tanabe visited
Cambodia two or three times over two years [to take samples at the dump], but accurate
and reliable dioxin testing requires testing several times within each year [of a
Nareth says that Tanabe's test results were also compromised by a lack of thorough
background checks of the dump residents from whom he took hair, fingernail and breast
"He should have studied the background of the study's participants," Nareth
said. "Some people [who gave samples] could have been there only a day or a
According to Nareth, the quality of Tanabe's research is thrown into even more doubt
by the results of a rival MOE-sponsored study undertaken by the Ebara Corporation,
a division of Mitsubishi.
While Tanabe's research uncovered what he described as "dangerously high"
levels of heavy metals at the dump, the results of the Ebara Corporation study, conducted
in October, 2000, indicated precisely the opposite.
"The amount of heavy metals in the soil are not considered as pollutants based
on...Japanese regulations on compost," the Ebara Corporation report states.
Tanabe declined to respond to Post e-mail enquiries regarding the MOE objections
to his research.