Longtime asbestos industry consultant, David Bernstein, discloses his industry ties

Thu, Aug 7, 2014

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Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca

David Bernstein is heavily financed by and works intimately with asbestos lobby organisations, such as the International Chrysotile Association. For more than a decade of writing papers and making presentations that promote the use of chrysotile asbestos, Bernstein has never disclosed this as a conflict of interest.

In June 2014, a complaint was sent to the publisher and editor of the journal, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, regarding the fact that in an article that the journal had published, entitled The health risk of chrysotile asbestos, Bernstein falsely stated: “There are no conflicts of interest.”

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine has now published the following correction:

The health risk of chrysotile asbestos: Erratum

During the editing process of the recent article by Bernstein [1], the conflicts of interest statement was wrongly amended from ‘No conflicts of interest relevant to this article’ to ‘There are no conflicts of interest.’ The publisher apologises for this error.

Dr Bernstein would like to take this opportunity to clarify that he works as a scientific consultant to the chrysotile asbestos industry and gives presentations worldwide on the science of chrysotile asbestos. In the last three years he has received payment for his consultancy services from: Honeywell, International Chrysotile Association and Zimbabwe National Chrysotile Taskforce.

Dr Bernstein received no payment, compensation or funding for the current article [1]. The article is solely his work and the opinions stated therein are his own.

REFERENCE

1. Bernstein DM. The health risk of chrysotile asbestos. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2014; 20:366–370. 

The Erratum has all the signs of being a compromise that has been hammered out by lawyers for Bernstein and the journal. Bernstein’s tactic of endeavouring to weasel out of declaring his flagrant conflict of interest by using the words “relevant to this article” is shamefully devious. The article in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine puts forward the same message that Bernstein has been paid by the asbestos industry for more than a decade to put forward. Furthermore, the article in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine enthusiastically and self-servingly promotes as being “of special interest” and “of outstanding interest” two other articles by Bernstein – the first being an article that was funded by and advanced the interests of Honeywell International Inc. and the second being an article which was funded by and advanced the interests of the International Chrysotile Association. Thus Bernstein’s article in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine was awash with undisclosed conflict of interest in violation of the journal’s Conflict of Interest requirements.

For the first time, however, Bernstein has been forced to disclose his conflict of interest and his ties to the asbestos lobby. Prior to working for the asbestos industry, Bernstein was financed for 18 years by tobacco companies.

Scientists and organisations call for Bernstein’s article to be retracted

In a letter of July 12, 2014, over one hundred scientists and thirty organisations wrote:

“We call on Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine to withdraw Bernstein’s article due to its bias, its scientifically flawed data, its selective literature review and its misrepresentation of facts. More than this, however, we call on Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine to withdraw the article because it contributes to harm to health.

It is to be hoped that Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine will not wish to serve as a vehicle that promotes discredited scientific information and that contributes to a continuing epidemic of asbestos-related deaths.

 

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