Scientific improprieties in the asbestos industry funded research of McGill professor

Sun, Oct 6, 2013


Kathleen Ruff,

Here is a powerful, detailed and damning scientific analysis of  improprieties in the research of Prof. J.C. McDonald on Quebec asbestos miners – The Past is Prologue, Universities in Service to Corporations: The McGill-QAMA Asbestos Example.

This analysis was presented by Prof. David Egilman at the McGill asbestos conference on October 1, 2013. It is clearly presented and well worth reading. At the conference, no response was provided to the damning information that Prof. Egilman put forward.

Prof. McDonald’s research was financed with one million dollars by the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association (QAMA). Prof. McDonald used his research to promote the use of chrysotile asbestos around the world. His research continues today to be used by the global asbestos industry to promote the sale and use of chrysotile asbestos. It was used, for example, by the global asbestos lobby at the May 2013 Rotterdam Convention conference to help defeat the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance.

McGill continues to state that Prof. McDonald’s research was conducted “according to the rigorous scientific standards for which McGill is known”. McGill has not however addressed the detailed and damning evidence that Prof. Egilman has put forward.

Prof. Egilman and other scientists have called on McGill to carry out an official investigation under the university’s research integrity regulations. McGill has, to date, refused to do so and instead has carried out an internal review and consultation, which have been flawed by bias, lack of transparency and misinformation.

Prof. Egilman’s presentation documents how:

1) Prof. McDonald and his McGill colleagues recognized that the outdated technique they used in the Quebec asbestos miners study (midget dust impinger) to estimate asbestos fibre levels was an inaccurate technique and only 13% better than a random guess.

2) Using this faulty technique, the results obtained by Prof. McDonald showed that exposure to chrysotile asbestos protects people from cancer.

3) Recognizing that this result was nonsense, Prof. McDonald manipulated the data arbitrarily to make it show different results, which he then put forward.

4) The results that Prof. McDonald put forward replicated the position of QAMA, which was that chrysotile asbestos is essentially “innocuous” except at astronomically high exposure levels. QAMA said that while astronomically high exposure levels had existed in the past, this was no longer the case and chrysotile asbestos thus could and was being safely used. QAMA and Prof. McDonald said that high exposure levels to chrysotile asbestos would cause no harm to health and they opposed stricter exposure regulations. Stricter exposure regulations would cost QAMA a lot of money. Prof. McDonald’s research findings supported QAMA’s position. He also argued in support of QAMA’s position at national and international public policy hearings, without disclosing that his research had been funded by QAMA.

5) In his publications, Prof. McDonald repeatedly cited another McGill academic (Prof. Patrick Sebastien) as having the data on which Prof. McDonald’s conclusions about the innocuousness of chrysotile asbestos were based. Prof. Sebastien has stated, however, that this is inaccurate and that he does not have the data.

6) McGill referred Prof. Egilman’s complaint to McGill’s research integrity officer for advice, saying that “the Faculty does not currently have all required records and data in hand to assess definitively in regard to research integrity.” Prof. McDonald’s data is still missing. However, the research integrity officer recommended that no investigation be undertaken.

7) Prof. McDonald’s findings, that exposure to high levels of chrysotile asbestos causes no harm to health and that it can be safely used, are contradicted by the findings of independent scientists. Not a single independent scientist or scientific body supports Prof. McDonald’s findings.

You can read the full presentation here:

The Past is Prologue, Universities in Service to Corporations: The McGill-QAMA Asbestos Example


, ,

Leave a Reply