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Selenium Accumulation in Soils: Discussion and Reply

January 01, 1972


D. V. Frost

48 High Street, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301

One of Dr. Lakin’s slides showed selenium values for various solid wastes as reported from a government laboratory (Johnson, 1970). An average for newspaper is reported as more than 8 ppm Se. West (1967) had reported 6 to 10 ppm of Se in cigarette and cigar papers and had suggested selenium as a possible cause of lung cancer and emphysema from smoking.

To help settle the question, I purchased and analyzed cigarette paper and sent samples to Oscar Olson, W. H. Allaway, and John L. Martin. None of us found appreciable levels of Se in any samples of paper. Cardboard made with glue contained more Se than newspaper, apparently in the glue, but none contained as much as 0.1 ppm Se. After much difficulty Olson managed to get these results published (Olson and Frost, 1969). Two months later Henry Johnson’s disparate values (1970) for Se in newspaper and tissue appeared. Noting the alleged carcinogenicity of Se as part of the problem, Johnson cited West and Cimmerman (1964 West and Cimmerman (1967), but failed to note that there is no published evidence clearly establishing such a cause-effect relationship. The Toxicology Division of the Food and Drug Administration has indicated that the original work actually failed to produce unequivocal evidence for carcinogenicity of Se (Fitzhugh and Friedman, 1970, written commun.).

Careful restudy of the question at Oregon State University, funded by the National Cancer Institute, showed no cancers attributtable to any level of long-term selenite . . .

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GSA Special Papers

Geochemical Environment in Relation to Health and Disease

Helen L. Cannon
Helen L. Cannon
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Howard C. Hopps
Howard C. Hopps
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Geological Society of America
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January 01, 1972




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