Medical doctors and health researchers ask McGill University to stop supporting the export and use of asbestos

Fri, Feb 3, 2012


February 2, 2012

Arnold Steinberg, Chancellor

Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal & Vice-Chancellor

Stuart Cobbett, Chair

Board of Directors

McGill University, Montreal, Quebec


Dear Mr Steinberg, Prof. Munroe-Blum, Mr Cobbett and Members of the Board of Directors of McGill University:

McGill has a long history of serving the interests of the Quebec asbestos industry. In 1965, the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association (QAMA) began to “seek alliance with some university, such as McGill … so that authoritative background for publicity can be had” . In the following year, this alliance materialised when QAMA began funding the asbestos epidemiology of McGill professor J.C. McDonald and his unit at McGill.

More than half of QAMA’s funds were provided by Johns-Manville and the Chairman of QAMA’S Institute of Occupational & Environmental Health, which allocated the funds to McGill for McDonald’s work, was Karl V. Lindell, Chairman of the Board of Canadian Johns-Manville Co. Limited. This is the company that owned and operated the Jeffrey mine at Asbestos, Quebec. It is the same mine whose asbestos Roshi Chadha, Member of McGill’s Board of Directors, has exported for the past 16 years. And it is the same mine that she and her husband, Baljit Chadha, wish to re-open so as to export millions of tons of asbestos to developing countries for years to come. Funds that the Chadhas have donated to McGill likely come from asbestos profits.

QAMA’s Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health and J.C. McDonald, McGill Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology, had significant influence around the world in putting forward information controlled and funded by the asbestos industry, information that was favourable to the industry’s interests.

In Europe right now, the asbestos industry and industry-funded organizations that put forward similar misinformation, are being investigated on criminal charges of causing death.

Attached is Exposing the “Myth” of ABC, “Anything But Chrysotile”: A Critique of the Canadian Asbestos Mining Industry and McGill University Chrysotile Studies, Egilman et al, AJIM 44:540-557 (2003). This article documents how the McGill QAMA-funded studies denied harm caused by chrysotile asbestos and were used to promote the marketing and sales of asbestos.

In light of this questionable background, we believe that McGill has a particular obligation to show intellectual and ethical integrity and to sever all ties with the asbestos industry. In particular, we request that McGill carry out the following:

1) Cease inviting leading asbestos exporter, Roshi Chadha, to sit as a member of the Board of Directors of McGill. Because of criticism, particularly from asbestos victims, Ms Chadha has, a few days ago, taken a leave of absence from the Board. We call on you to ask her to resign from the Board. Ms Chadha is involved in seeking to re-launch the deadly asbestos trade, and denies the clearly established scientific evidence that all asbestos is harmful to health. The Quebec Medical Association has said that the project she and her husband are pursuing to re-launch the Jeffrey mine is against the public interest and will lead to asbestos-related deaths. All sixteen of Quebec’s Directors of Public Health have likewise expressed strong opposition to the project, saying that it will lead to increased asbestos-related disease. McGill University states that it is dedicated to promoting knowledge and health. It is, therefore, inappropriate that someone who denies established scientific evidence and works directly against the efforts of the World Health Organization, the Quebec government’s health authorities, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Public Health Association is a McGill University Board member.

2) Cease using and cease promoting the use of asbestos. We were appalled to learn that, unlike le Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, the McGill University Health Centre has chosen to use asbestos-cement storm pipes and is putting forward asbestos industry misinformation that these pipes present no risk to health. It is particularly cynical that McGill is using asbestos-containing materials in a hospital building. As well as being willing to endanger its own workers and public maintenance workers, McGill will serve as a priceless “poster child” for the asbestos industry, whose marketing in developing countries will likely feature McGill’s new state of the art hospital.

In light of the harm McGill has caused over the years by serving as a vehicle for the asbestos industry’s deceptive propaganda, it is truly shameful for McGill to continue in 2012 to oppose and undermine the work of the WHO and Canada’s health leaders who have called for an end to the use of any asbestos. The WHO is working, in particular, to end the use of asbestos-cement materials, which have caused so many asbestos-related deaths. As Dr Fernand Turcotte, Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, stated, McGill has regrettably chosen to play the role of acting as a business card for the asbestos industry.

McGill’s role is also quite puzzling given that Principal Munroe-Blum has observed directly the support given (in a straw vote) by about 1,000 epidemiologists attending the Third North American Congress of Epidemiology in Montreal in June 2011 to a call for Canada to cease the use of asbestos, including its mining and export. Only a few abstained when asked to vote following a presentation by Dr. Colin Soskolne, then president of the Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics (the Principal’s own disciplinary base), on bridging epidemiologic methods with ethics in which he used Quebec and Canadian government support for the Quebec mining and exporting of asbestos as an example of failure to apply this principle.

Our letter raises serious questions that go to the heart of what intellectual and ethical standards McGill wishes to observe and what reputation it wishes to hold in the world.

We ask that the Board give full discussion of our concerns. We would be happy to provide additional documentation and to appear at the Board meeting, should you so wish.

We look forward to receiving your response as soon as possible.



DR FERNAND TURCOTTE, MD, MPH, FRCPC, Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec

DR PIERRE GOSSELIN, MD, MPH, Professeur adjoint de clinique, Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec

DR JOHN R. KEYSERLINGK, MD, MSc, FRCS , FACS, Surgical Oncologist, St Mary’s Hospital & Hôpital du Sacré Coeur; Director, Ville Marie Oncology Center, Montréal

DR PIERRE DESHAIES, MD, MSc, CSPQ, FRCPC, Professeur de clinique, Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec

DR YV BONNIER VIGER, MD, MSc, MM, FRCPC; Directeur du Département de médecine sociale et préventive de l’Université Laval; Président de l’Association des médecins spécialistes en santé communautaire du Québec

MICHELINE BEAUDRY, Ph.D., Professeure retraitée (Université Laval); Responsable, Commission santé, conditions de vie et services sociaux, Québec Solidaire, Québec

DR ÉRIC NOTEBAERT, MD, MSc, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Montreal, Quebec; Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

ABBY LIPPMAN, PhD, Professor Emerita, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montréal

EDWARD W. KEYSERLINGK, LLM, PhD, Professor of Medical Ethics & Health Law (retired), Faculty of Medicine, McGill University; former member, Law Reform Commission of Canada; formerly the Public Service Integrity Officer, Government of Canada

LOUISE VANDELAC, PH.D., Professeure titulaire, Département de sociologie; Directrice de l’Institut des sciences de l’environnement de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, Québec

DONNA MERGLER, PhD, Professeure émérite, Département des sciences biologiques et Cinbiose, Université du Québec à Montréal

DR BRUCE P. LANPHEAR, MD, MPH, Clinician Scientist, Child & Family Research Institute, BC Children’s Hospital and Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC

COLIN L. SOSKOLNE, PhD, Professor, School of Public Health, University of Alberta; Fellow, American College of Epidemiology; Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini; Immediate Past-President, Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Canada

MICHAEL BYERS, LLB, PhD, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, University of British Columbia, Canada

JERRY M. SPIEGEL, MA MSc PhD, Director, Global Health Research Program, Liu Institute for Global Issues; Associate Professor, School of Population & Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

DR CHRISTOPHER W. LEE, MD, FRCPC, Medical Oncologist, BC Cancer Agency; Chair, Mesothelioma & Thymoma Working Group, NCIC Clinical Trials Group Lung Disease Site Committee

DR KAPIL KHATTER, MD, CCFP, MES, Past President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ottawa, Canada

DR. KEVIN C. MURPHY, Clinical Associate Professor, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

HAILEE MORRISON, Executive Director, Lung Cancer Canada with endorsement from the Board of Directors and President Dr. Natasha Leighl

DR RICHARD J KLASA, MDCM, FRCPC, Lymphoma and Melanoma Tumor Groups, Division of Medical Oncology, British Columbia Cancer Agency & Department of Experimental Therapeutics, BC Cancer Research Centre; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of British Columbia

DR. DORIE-ANNA DUECK, BSc (Maj), BSc (Med), MD, FRCPC, Medical Oncologist, Thunder Bay Regional Cancer Program; Assistant Professor, Northen Ontario School of Medicine

DR THEODOROS TSAKIRIDIS, M.D., P.h.D, Juravinski Cancer Center, Hamilton, Ontario

DR ANDREA BEZJAK, MDCM, MSc, FRCPC, Radiation Oncologist, Leader, Lung Cancer Program, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ontario

DR JESSE SHUSTIK, BA Hons. (McGill), MDCM (McGill); Medical Oncologist, BC Cancer Agency, British Columbia

DR HANNAH CAROLAN, MD, FRCPC, Radiation Oncologist, British Columbia Cancer Agency

DR LIAM A. MULROY, MD, FRCPC, Radiation Oncologist, Nova Scotia Cancer Center; Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University

DR JOHN CHO, MD, PhD, FRCP(C), Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Medicine Program, University Health Network; Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Toronto, Ontario

DR EDWARD YU, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Department of Oncology, The University of Western Ontario

DR. DONNA E. MAZIAK, MDCM, MSc, FRCSC, FACS, Professor, University of Ottawa; Program Director, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Ottawa Hospital, Ontario

DR HELMUT HOLLENHORST, MD, BRMC, QE II Health Sciences Centre, Capital Health Department of Radiation Oncology; Associate Professor Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia

DR DOROTHY UHLMAN, MD, FRCPC, British Columbia Cancer Agency

DR ROBERT D. WINSTON, MD, FRCPC, FACP, Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC Division of Medical Oncology, British Columbia Cancer Agency

DR C.E. DE METZ, MD, FRCPC, Head, Radiation Oncology Program, Program Medical Director, Oncology (Acting), Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario at KGH, Queen’s University, Ontario

DR CONRAD B FALKSON, MB, ChB FCRad(Onc)(SA), FRCPC, Associate Professor and Academic Radiation Oncologist, Queen’s University and Cancer Center of Southeastern Ontario, Kingston General Hospital, Ontario

KATHLEEN RUFF, Senior Human Rights Adviser, Rideau Institute; Recipient of National Public Health Hero award 2011 by Canadian Public Health Association for exposing the continuing deceptive misinformation of the asbestos industry


ANNIE THÉBAUD-MONY, PhD, Director, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), France; Specialist in occupational cancer, University Paris 13, France

DR DAVID EGILMAN, MD, MPH, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Brown University; President, Global Health Through Education Service & Training, Massachusetts, USA

DR THOMAS H. GASSERT, MD, Visiting Scientist in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health; Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA

DR SANJAY CHATURVEDI, MD, FAMS, FIPHA, FIAPSM, Professor & Head, Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Delhi, India

PROFESSOR JONNY MYERS, Director: Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health Research, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Health Science Faculty, University of Cape Town, South Africa

DR JOSEPH LADOU, MD, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of California School of Medicine, USA

PROFESSOR LESLIE LONDON, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health Research, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Health Sciences Faculty, University of Cape Town, South Africa

RICHARD A. LEMEN, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.; Assistant Surgeon General, United States Public Health Service (ret.); Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.), USA

DR PHILIPPE GRANDJEAN, MD, DMSc, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, USA

DR HELENO RODRIGUES CORRÊA FILHO, MD, DrPH, Epidemiologist; Associate Professor, UNICAMP, Faculty Of Medical Sciences, Department Of Collective Health, Brazil

DR SALOSHNI NAIDOO, MBChB, FCPHM, MMed, DOH, PhD, Discipline of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

DR MORRIS GREENBERG, MB, FRCP, former HM Senior Medical Inspector of Factories; former Senior Medical Officer, Divison of Toxicology & Environmental Health, Department of Health, UK

DR LINDA GRAINGER, Editor: Occupational Health Southern Africa journal, South Africa

PROFESSOR MOHAMED F. JEEBHAY, MBChB PhD, Occupational Medicine Specialist; Associate Director – Occupational Health Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health Research, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

ANDRÉ CICOLELLA, conseiller scientifique, Institut National de l’Environnement Industriel et des Risques (INERIS) France; Président du Réseau Environnement Santé France

CHRISTIAN VÉLOT, PhD, Généticien moléculaire, Université Paris-Sud XI, France

DR TUSHAR KANT JOSHI, BSc. MBBS, MSc. Occ. Medicine; DLSHTM Occ. Health; FFOM; Fellow Collegium Ramazzini; Director, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi; formerly National Consultant Occupational Health, WHO India

BARRY I. CASTLEMAN, ScD, Environmental Consultant, USA

DR MARCEL GOLDBERG, MD PhD, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Versailles University and Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, France

PROFESSOR CRAIG SLATIN, Sc.D., MPH, Department of Community Health and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA

DR DOMYUNG PAEK, MD, MSc, ScD, Dean, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Korea

DR PETER ORRIS, MD, MPH, FACP, FACOEM, Professor and Chief of Service, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, USA

DR ARTHUR L. FRANK, MD, PhD, Professor of Public Health, Drexel University, USA

DR PAUL BOUSQUET, médecin de prévention, Conseil Général de l’Ardèche, France

DR VILHJÁLMUR RAFNSSON, MD, PhD, Professor in Preventive Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland

GUADALUPE AGUILAR MADRID, PhD, Unidad de Investigación en Salud en el Trabajo, Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI.IMSS, México,

DR VINCENT NAVARRO, MD, PhD, Professor of Health Policy, The Johns Hopkins University, USA

PROF. IGNATIUS T.S. YU, MBBS(HK), MPH(Texas), FAFOEM, FHKCCM, FHKAM (Community Medicine), MIEHF, FACOEM, FFPH, FHKES, FHKIOEH (Hon.). Specialist in Occupational Medicine, Medical Advisor of Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre, Professor of School of Public Health & Primary Care of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

FERNANDA GIANNASI, Civil and Health and Safety Engineer; Labour Inspector, Brazilian Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment; General Manager, State Program on Asbestos of the Regional Superintendence of Labor and Employment, State of São Paulo, Brazil

DR. WING SHUN CHAU, MBBS (HK), FHKAM (Surgery), Chairperson of Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre, Specialist in Cardiothoracic surgery, Hong Kong

DR. FU KEUNG IP, MBBS (HK), FRCS (Edin), FHKAM (Orthopaedic Surgery), Board member of Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre, Specialist in Orthopaedics, Hong Kong

DR. TSUN YAN LO, MBBS (HK), FHKAM (Community Medicine), Board member of Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre, Specialist in Occupational Medicine, Hong Kong

K.F. LEUNG, ROT, Vice-chairperson of Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre, Hong Kong

PATRICK SO, ROT, Board member of Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre, Hong Kong

JENNIFER SASS, Ph.D., Professorial Lecturer, Deptartment of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, George Washington University, USA

EUGENE K CAIRNCROSS, BSc; PhD. Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa

JACQUES TESTART, biologiste, directeur honoraire de recherches à l’Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), France

DAVID OZONOFF, MD, MPH, Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, USA

PROF. HEMANTHA WICKRAMATILLAKE, Occupational Health / Coordinator MPH Program, Institute of Health Sciences, University of Brunei Darussalam; Visiting Professor, Drexel University, USA; Visiting Professor, Chulalongkong University, Thailand; Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini

DR ANNIE J. SASCO, MD, MPH, SM, DrPH, Director of Research, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Medical Cancer Epidemiologist for Prevention, Bordeaux Segalen University, France

PROF. DEAN A. FENNELL, PhD, FRCP, Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology, University of Leicester & Leicester University Hospitals, UK


NOTE: Institutions named for identification purposes only


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