Thus the whole thing comes off seeming a bit gimmicky. I say this not to add insult to injury, but because I, too, have used this very gimmick. As a student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism last year, I turned in an article very similar to “The Pollution Within.” Ironically, it was based on the EWG’s release of “Skin Deep,” a massive online database that catalogues toxic substances in a mind-boggling number of consumer hygiene products. I cleared out my medicine cabinet and looked up some 20 creams, gels and lotions one by one. My scheme, though far less costly than Duncan’s, produced the same result. I threw away some Neutrogena after-shave, but could do little more than recount the public information on toxicity already out there. My editor agreed that it seemed contrived — his comments on my draft amounted to “So what?” So what, indeed. Maybe I’m just bitter that I’ve now been scooped, ex-post facto, by another, very capable journalist.

Clarification: The above post has been changed to show that the name of National Geographic’s environment editor is Dennis Dimick, not David.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.