Post: WSJ, Mold ACOEM & AAAAI Conflicts of Interest!!!!!
Posted by Sharon on 1/09/07
Wish I could post the entire story from today's front page
of the Wall Street Journal, but that would not be nice
since they write to sell papers. So....just some key
Court of Opinion
Amid Suits Over Mold,
Experts Wear Two Hats
Authors of Science Paper
Often Cited by Defense
Also Help in Litigation
By DAVID ARMSTRONG
January 9, 2007; Page A1
...they began to suffer headaches, rashes, respiratory
infections and fatigue. They attributed it to mold.
But their lawsuit against the cooperative that owns the
building hit a roadblock when the court wouldn't let their
medical expert testify that mold caused their problems.
This is "unsupported by the scientific literature," the
state trial judge said.
She relied in part on a position paper from the American
College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, or
....The paper was written by people who regularly are paid
experts for the defense side in mold litigation.
The ACOEM doesn't disclose this, nor did its paper....
The dual roles show how conflicts of interest can color
debate on emerging health issues and influence litigation
related to it.
...Building groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have
cited it to rebut the notion that mold in the home can be
....The result, Dr. Craner maintains, is that "a lot people
with legitimate environmental health problems are losing
their homes and their jobs because of legal decisions based
on this so-called 'evidence-based' statement."
...Two other medical societies have also published
statements on mold written, in part, by legal-defense
experts. The societies didn't disclose this when they
released the papers, although one later published a
correction saying two authors served as expert witnesses in
..• Read the full text of Dr. Borak's September 2002 email
to the leaders of the American College of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine about his struggles in drafting
their position paper on mold.
• Read the official position statements of the American
College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and of
the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, as
posted on their Web sites.
.... reviewed the research in 2004 and said "studies have
demonstrated adverse effects -- including immunotoxic,
neurologic, respiratory and dermal responses -- after
exposure to specific toxins, bacteria, molds or their
The ACOEM paper goes further. It says not only is there no
evidence indoor mold causes serious health effects, but
even if mold produced toxic substances, it's "highly
unlikely at best" that anyone could inhale enough to cause
a problem. The paper reaches this conclusion by
extrapolating from animal studies in which rodents' throats
were injected with molds.
The paper's authors say their conclusions are validated by
the Institute of Medicine's paper. But the author of the
Institute paper's mold toxicity chapter, Harriett Ammann,
disagrees, and criticizes the ACOEM paper's
methodology: "They took hypothetical exposure and
hypothetical toxicity and jumped to the conclusion there is
....The ACOEM, a society of more than 5,000 specialists who
investigate indoor health hazards and treat patients with
related illnesses, first moved to develop a position paper
on mold in early 2002. Dean Grove, then the medical
society's president, asked the head of its council on
scientific affairs, Yale medical professor Jonathan Borak,
to set the process in motion.
He turned to a retired deputy director of the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health -- part of the
CDC -- to spearhead the project. Dr. Borak says he wanted
someone with "no established background record of
litigation related to mold."
...The person he chose, Bryan Hardin, says he hadn't worked
on any mold lawsuit at that point, though he was a
consultant on other matters for GlobalTox Inc., a firm that
regularly worked for the defense in mold cases. And Dr.
Hardin says he consulted for the defense in a mold case
while he was helping write the ACOEM paper.
In a Feb. 27, 2002, email, Dr. Borak told Dr. Hardin: "That
position paper would be prepared by you and your GlobalTox
colleagues." Dr. Borak says he believes he didn't know at
the time that GlobalTox did mold defense work.
A GlobalTox colleague who aided Dr. Hardin was Bruce
Kelman, now president of the firm, which recently changed
its name to Veritox Inc. Drs. Kelman and Hardin, now
principals at the firm and entitled to a share of its
profits, were two of the ACOEM paper's three authors. They
are paid $375 to $500 an hour for work on mold cases, court
• The Situation: Mold defendants rely on medical-society
position papers that reject a link to serious ills, but
papers were written by scientists who often work for
defense side in mold cases.
..Outcome of widespread litigation over mold.
The paper's third author was Andrew Saxon, then chief of
clinical immunology and allergy at the medical school of
the University of California, Los Angeles. He, too, has
served as a defense expert in numerous mold suits. Dr.
Saxon says he is paid $510 an hour for his help. If called
to testify in court, his rate rises to $720 an hour,
according to a deposition he gave.
....Dr. Saxon estimates he generates $250,000 to $500,000 a
year from expert defense work, which includes non-mold
The ACOEM knew about mold defense work by the authors of
its paper. Dr. Hardin informed the society in a Sept. 23,
2002, document under his letterhead. Labeled "confidential"
and "share only with the ACOEM board of directors," it told
of his work as a defense expert on one mold case.
The letter said the other two authors, Drs. Saxon and
Kelman, "have been retained by both the defense and
plaintiff bar in litigation relating to indoor mold." Both
say they work mostly for the defense in mold cases.
Internal ACOEM documents indicate that as the paper was
being written in August 2002, there was concern within the
society that the paper was too friendly to defense
interests. Its authors were asked to modify the first
draft's tone "because of the concern about possible
misinterpretation of 'buzz words' and phrases such
as 'belief system,' 'adherents may claim,' 'supposed
hypersensitivity,' and 'alleged disorder,'" according to a
June 2002 email to Dr. Hardin from the society's
communications director. (The email was obtained by a
plaintiff's attorney in a mold case, Karen Kahn.)
Dr. Borak, the head of the society's council on scientific
affairs, suggested sending a draft for review to one
particular mold authority, Michael Hodgson, director of the
occupational safety and health program at the U.S. Veterans
Health Administration. Dr. Hardin objected. He said it
would be "inappropriate to add ad hoc reviewers who are
highly visible advocates for a point of view the draft
position paper analyzes and finds lacking." The draft
ultimately wasn't sent.
In September 2002, Dr. Borak emailed colleagues that "I am
having quite a challenge in finding an acceptable path for
the proposed position paper on mold." He said several
reviewers "find the current version, much revised, to still
be a defense argument."
The society released a paper two months later, and its
authors, as well as ACOEM officials, say it accurately
reflects the science on indoor mold exposure. The
authors' "views, if prejudicial, were removed," Dr. Borak
says. "It went through a dramatic change of top-heavy peer
reviews." He says objections come mainly from "activist
litigants" who find it "annoying."
Drs. Hardin and Kelman say the paper has been controversial
because it challenged "a belief system" that mold can be
toxic indoors. "A belief system is built up and there is
anger when the science doesn't support that belief system,"
Dr. Kelman says.
The Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, paid
Veritox $40,000 to prepare a lay version of the paper. That
version said "the notion that 'toxic mold' is an insidious,
secret 'killer,' as so many media reports and trial lawyers
would claim, is 'junk science' unsupported by actual
scientific study." Its authors were the three writers of
the longer paper plus a fourth, who also is a principal at
Lawyers defending mold suits also cite a position paper
from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and
Immunology. This paper says it concurs with the ACOEM that
it is highly unlikely enough mycotoxins could be inhaled to
lead to toxic health effects.
Among the academy paper's five authors is Dr. Saxon.
Another, Abba Terr, a San Francisco immunologist, has
worked as a defense expert in mold cases. The academy
published the paper in its Journal of Allergy and Clinical
Immunology last February, not citing the mold-defense work
of either man. The publication later ran a correction
disclosing their litigation work.
..."We should have published their [disclosure] statements
with the paper," says the official, Thomas Platts-Mills.
A third author of the academy's paper, Jay Portnoy, chief
of allergy, asthma and immunology at the Children's Mercy
Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., says he "felt that there was
an agenda" -- the effort "seemed very biased toward denying
the possibility of there being harmful effects from mold on
human health." He says he considered removing his name from
the paper, but it was published before he could decide.
Dr. Portnoy says a section he contributed was rewritten by
Dr. Saxon to be "a lot more negative." He says the paper
wrongly says mold isn't proven to cause allergic rhinitis,
with symptoms like wheezing, sore throat and sneezing. Dr.
Saxon denies the authors had a bias but says they applied a
high standard for proving mold causes a particular effect.
He says he didn't skew the content of Dr. Portnoy's section
but rewrote it because it was "too diffuse." Dr. Terr in
San Francisco didn't return a call seeking comment.
In New York, the Frasers are appealing the refusal of the
trial judge, state Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner
Kornreich, to let their expert testify that indoor mold
caused their health complaints.
...Their appeal attacks the credibility of mold position
papers drafted by scientists who work for defendants. "What
you have here is defense experts authoring papers under an
official guise," says their attorney, Elizabeth Eilender.
Justice Kornreich declined to comment.
Write to David Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org
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