Toxic Mold -- Wall Street Journal Uncovers Medical Association's Alleged Conflicts of Interest -- Advocacy Groups Call for Senate Investigation

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Advocacy groups say they applied mathematical calculations to make the leap that human illness could not plausibly occur if one is exposed indoors. The leaders of ACOEM put their imprimatur on the statement. The insurance industry and its surrogates have since brandished it like the biblical jawbone of an ass. Advocacy Groups see this as an abuse of political clout and power that has harmed US Citizens.

Amid Mold Suits, Experts Wear Two Hats

After years of working together to enlighten the public of the serious illnesses caused by mold, advocacy groups are thankful to the Wall Street Journal for bringing the matter to greater light. Upon completing a six month investigation, veteran Wall Street Journal reporter, David Armstrong, wrote of the leaders of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, ACOEM, permitting a litigation defense corporation, Veritox Inc (aka GlobalTox Inc) to author the association's policy paper regarding mold induced illnesses. The two Veritox authors were not prior members of the physician trade association. They are not physicians.

The Wall Street Journal article, Page One, January 9, 2007. "Amid Mold Suits, Experts Wear Two Hats" may be read at: -or-

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine mold policy paper is at the heart of the contention over the Toxic Mold Issue. The paper claims to prove humans could not plausibly be exposed to enough mold toxins within a damp indoor environment to cause symptoms of ill health. "Highly unlikely at best, even among the most vulnerable of subpopulations" is what the non-physician authors wrote.

As referenced by the WSJ, to make this key finding, the authors borrowed data from one rodent study in which mold was forced into the trachea of rats. They then applied calculations to make the leap that human illness could not plausibly occur if one is exposed indoors. The leaders of ACOEM put their imprimatur on the statement. The insurance industry and its surrogates have since brandished it like the biblical jawbone of an ass. The finding carries much weight within the courts as it is portrayed to be the opinion of thousands of environmental physicians.

But the EPA and the Institute of Medicine, Damp Indoor Spaces Committee, have both identified the technique used by ACOEM to make the key conclusion, as non-acceptable methodology for determining existence or absence of human illness from indoor mold toxin exposure. The finding represents an affront to anyone with rudimentary logic skills. It is a complete non sequitur, where the premise does not support the conclusion.

Since the ACOEM mold paper's publication in November of 2002, it has saved worker's compensation insurers, property insurers, general liability insurers and building stakeholders, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. Insurance industry surrogates - the paid witnesses - including some ACOEM members themselves - and the lawyers, have earned millions in fees. Of more importance, the sick receive no medical treatment and no compensation for devastated lives and financial ruin.

ACOEM is a medical trade association made up of approximately 7000 physicians. The organization writes evidence based protocol for the treatment of injured workers under the platform of Workers Comp Reform. Several of their evidence based conclusions are currently being used to determine what illnesses and injuries will and will not be treated and/or covered under workers compensation insurance guidelines.

In California, under State Senate Bill 889, ACOEM evidence based guidelines are also known as Medical Treatment Utilization Schedules, MTUS, and are the law that physicians must follow when determining treatment for their patients. ACOEM affiliated clinics, American Occupational and Environmental Clinics, are government funded through the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry and a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health. (NIOSH).

The article points out several members of ACOEM serve as experts for the defense in mold litigation. They promote the legitimacy of the mold policy paper while billing as much as $700 per hour. The US Chamber of Commerce has promoted the document throughout industry by trumpeting it as scientific proof that serious mold induced illnesses are merely a result of "trial lawyers", "media reports" and "Junk Science".

When interviewed for the WSJ article, Dr. Jonathan Borak, overseer of the mold policy peer review process, indicated he was unaware the authors had conflicted interests. Yet, within the subpoenaed documents referenced within the WSJ article, was an email authored by him in Sept, 2002, Dr. Borak acknowledged he was aware the paper would have "currency in other ways and other places" for the authors. The email also referenced concern that the ACOEM mold paper was a "defense argument" that would be turned into "garbage" if rejected by the Board of Directors.

Although reported to exist, the mold policy paper authors' conflict disclosure statements were never made available to the members of ACOEM, even when requested. Within the subpoenaed emails referenced within the WSJ article, was one written in 2003. An ACOEM member wrote, "Related to this topic, some weeks ago many of us on the list were anticipating the conflict of interest statements from the JOEM [Journal of ACOEM] in regard to the authors of the 'Mold Statement' adopted by the ACOEM. It seems they got lost in the mail. This question arises if this is just an oversight, or if such a disclosure of conflicts is purposeful, as many of us who are members of ACOEM who actually see patients with mold exposure were excluded from the discussion."

Needless to say, consumer, worker, health and environmental advocacy groups are calling for a senate investigation and will be on the Hill this week requesting the investigation.

Sharon Kramer

Mycotic Disease Awareness



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