Protest to EPA re: stacked advisory panel, bias against mesothelioma victims and chrysotile causation

Ms. Vivian Turner
Designated Federal Officer
Science Advisory Board (1400F)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Anthony F. Maciorowski
Associate Director for Science
Science Advisory Board (1400F)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Re: Nominations of Bruce W. Case, Dennis Paustenbach, and Art Langer to EPA Task Panel

Dear Ms. Turner and Mr. Maciorowski,

I oppose the inclusion of Dr. Case, Dr. Paustenbach, and Dr. Langer on EPA’s scientific advisory board regarding asbestos toxicity.

The advisory board is charged with reaching conclusions about asbestos toxicity that are scientific and non-partisan. Members of the board are obligated to demonstrate through their professional backgrounds and conflict of interest disclosures that they can serve on the board with scientific objectivity and nonpartisanship.

Scientific Objectivity

Dr. Case served as a consultant to a 2003 EPA peer panel on asbestos risks. He was given all relevant studies and charged with providing an unbiased evaluation of all the data. In his analysis, Dr. Case made a mockery of his scientific duties when he chose to use only those studies that supported the asbestos industry, ignoring his own research which showed that fiber dimension did not affect toxicity.[1] A 2003 report to the Office of the Inspector General documents Dr. Case’s public statements that chrysotile asbestos does not cause cancer, and his claim that the scientific community agrees with him.[2] The International Agency for Research on Cancer,[3] the European Union,[4] as well as experimental and epidemiologic studies have all affirmed the carcinogenicity of chrysotile. One member of the scientific community that supposedly “agrees” with Dr. Case publicly rebuked him in the New England Journal of Medicine[5] for his outlandish claims. Dr. Case clearly lacks the scientific objectivity to evaluate asbestos toxicity.

Dr. Paustenbach conceived, drafted, edited, and submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal a redacted Chinese study on chromium-6 under the names JianDong Zhang and ShuKun Li that suppressed key cancer data despite a letter of objection from the scientist who led the original study.[6] The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine took the rare step of retracting the article when it learned that the real author was Paustenbach’s industrial consulting firm, ChemRisk, and that the cancer data had been intentionally ignored.[7] This scandal was written up in the Wall Street Journal.[8] Dr. Paustenbach also devised a “scientific” probabilistic risk assessment methodology for a DOW Chemical flood plain soil study that was explicitly rejected by the EPA as inadequate and not accepted by the scientific community.[9] Paustenbach’s methodological flaw was labeled a critical deficiency to the study.[10] Dr. Paustenbach lacks the capacity to serve on any panel requiring scientific objectivity or personal integrity.

Dr. Langer has a distinguished record as a scientific investigator, and published pioneering work on asbestos toxicity in the 1970’s. Although I believe his early career demonstrates unimpeachable scientific research, he should be barred from this panel for the reasons set out below.

Nonpartisanship

Dr. Case is listed on the EPA’s short list as a consultant to attorneys representing “plaintiffs and/or defendants in asbestos litigation.”[11] We challenge Dr. Case to prove a single consulting job for a plaintiff in asbestos litigation, ever. To the contrary, he is an established consultant for asbestos companies, having worked on behalf of AC&S, U.S. Gypsum, Garlock, Mobil, and Georgia-Pacific, to name only a few.[12] Dr. Case has denied that any his research was ever funded by the asbestos industry, when the Archives of Environmental Health explicitly acknowledges that his research funding was partially obtained from JM Asbestos Corporation.[13] Dr. Case has also admitted in legal testimony that a 1989 study in which he participated was sponsored by the Quebec Mining Companies.[14] In addition to open partisanship for asbestos manufacturers, Dr. Case has attacked the honesty and integrity of scientists who disagree with him, including researchers Dodson, Egilman, Suzuki, and Landrigan.[15] In 1998, in response to a short story about a young woman who contracted mesothelioma by playing with a chrysotile rock from a Canadian mine posted on my website, he warned me to take them down “for my own protection,” a threat he later confessed was “silly” under penalty of perjury.[16] Dr. Case is unqualified to pursue the scientific question of asbestos toxicity due to his extreme partisanship.

Dr. Paustenbach is not simply partisan—he is for hire.[17] His industrial research as corporate vice-president for Exponent, and his position as CEO of ChemRisk have put him consistently on the side of asbestos manufacturers and corporations. He cannot be expected to fairly pursue research objectives for asbestos toxicity unless the research conclusions are favorable to the asbestos industry for which his corporation works.

Dr. Langer’s work as a consultant for defendant asbestos companies has led him to repudiate his earlier, sound research that demonstrated the toxicity of joint compound and brake linings. Dr. Langer, like Drs. Case and Paustenbach, can hardly be expected to pursue or endorse toxicity findings at loggerheads with his consulting clients.

Conclusion

I believe that EPA’s short list has numerous other candidates whose scientific background and personal history ensure that they will follow the tenets of objective investigation and analysis, as well as behave with honesty and integrity.

Sincerely,

Roger G. Worthington, Esq.

RGW/cr

CC: Sen. Barbara Boxer
Sen. Diane Feinstein


 [1] EPA internal memorandum, April 16, 2004, by Case Jenkins, Ph.D., “Bruce Case, MD, EPA consultant for asbestos: conflict of interest misrepresentations and slander against other scientists.”
[2] Id.
[3] International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – Summaries & Evaluations, 1987, http://www.inchem.org/documents/iarc/suppl7/asbestos.html
[4] News story, http://ban.org/ban_news/wto_will.html
[5] Letters 006-009, New England Journal of Medicine, October 1, 1998, Vol. 339 #14, pp. 999-1002
[6] Environmental Working Group report, April 2006, http://www.ewg.org/reports/chromium/part1.php
[7] Letter to editorial board members, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, May 31, 2006, NOTICE OF RETRACTION: It has been brought to our attention that an article published in JOEM in the April, 1997 issue by Zhang and Li1 failed to meet the journal’s published editorial policy in effect at that time. Specifically, financial and intellectual input to the paper by outside parties was not disclosed. Although it is impossible to know what the impact of such disclosure would have been, it is possible that full knowledge of the circumstances may have altered the review process or the subsequent interpretation of the study by readers. Therefore, after thorough investigation, consultation with outside experts and consideration by the Editorial Board, I have decided that retraction is necessary. It should be understood that there is no evidence to suggest the existence of scientific fraud in this work and that the factual content of the article has not been re-evaluated. This decision is based solely on the violation of the journal’s policy regarding disclosure. The corresponding author of this article (Dr. Zhang) has since died. However, the co-author (Dr. Li) has been informed of this decision and has agreed to the retraction of the article. We will also make appropriate notification to the National Library of Medicine regarding future citation of this paper. Paul Brandt-Rauf, M.D., Sc.D., Ph.D., Editor, 1 Zhang J, Li S. Cancer mortality in a Chinese population exposed to hexavalent chromium in water. JOEM 1997;39:315-319.
[8] Wall Street Journal, Dec. 23, 2006
[9] EPA Region 5 Critical Deficiency Comments on the Tittabawassee River Floodplain Remedial Investigation Work Plan and Midland Area Soils Remedial Investigation Work Plan Midland, Michigan, Feb. 10, 2006
[10] Id.
[11] Invitation for Comments on the Short List Candidates for the Asbestos Panel of the EPA Science Advisory Board, April 19, 2007, http://www.epa.gov/sab/pdf/asbestos_panel_shortlist_biosketches.pdf
[12] EPA internal memorandum, supra
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] http://www.mesothel.com/pages/case.htm
[17] http://www.ChemRisk.com

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