Scientist, financed by the asbestos industry, falsely states that he has no conflict of interest

Thu, Jun 26, 2014


Kathleen Ruff,

David Bernstein is a consultant who, after working for the tobacco industry for 18 years, switched his services to the asbestos industry. He is the scientist who the asbestos industry most makes use of to promote its deadly misinformation that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used. Every reputable scientific body in the world, as Bernstein himself admits, rejects as worthless his position that chrysotile asbestos poses little threat to health and can be safely used.

In an article, Health Risks of Chrysotile Asbestos, just published by Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine,  Bernstein states the following:

Acknowledgements: D.M.B. has appeared as an expert witness in litigation concerned with alleged health effects of exposure to chrysotile.

Conflicts of interest: “There are no conflicts of interest.”

Bernstein’s statement, denying any conflicts of interest, is false.

For more than a decade, Bernstein has been financed by the chrysotile asbestos industry to provide a variety of services to advance its interests, such as writing articles that distort the scientific evidence and deny harm caused by chrysotile asbestos, such as participating in asbestos industry events around the world promoting the asbestos trade, such as speaking to media to promote asbestos use, such as lobbying United Nations agencies to advance the interests of the asbestos industry.

For these activities, asbestos industry companies and lobby groups have paid Bernstein more than a million dollars. Yet in the article, Bernstein falsely states that he has no conflicting interests.

 Bernstein helps to re-launch asbestos trade by Zimbabwe

Bernstein’s latest gig on behalf of the asbestos industry took place in Zimbabwe on May 29, 2014, when he was financed to assist the government of Zimbabwe in the launch of an initiative to re-open the asbestos mines and re-start exporting asbestos. In participating in this asbestos promotion event, Bernstein puts forward the same arguments that he puts forward in the article published by Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine.

The Zimbabwe Herald reports that: “Dr Bernstein, the toxicologist expert from Switzerland who spoke at the launch ceremony, indicated that no evidence has as yet emerged that links chrysotile to lung related diseases. He indicated that the common misconception that has been made is to compare our kind of chrysotile to the blue and brown asbestos types that were mined in South Africa and Europe. Dr Bernstein’s view is that the biggest mistake made was our failure to differentiate our mineral from the rest and calling them by the same name.”

Complaint submitted to scientific journal regarding Bernstein’s false statement on conflicting interests


A complaint has been submitted the publisher of Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine that Bernstein’s conduct violates the journal’s Conflict of Interests requirements.

The journal’s Conflict of Interests requirements state that authors “must state all possible conflicts of interest in the manuscript, including financial, consultant, institutional and other relationships that might lead to bias or a conflict of interest.” Authors must specifically disclose such conflicting interests as having received honoraria from or being on the speakers’ list of companies involved in the issue about which the author is writing.

Bernstein is a permanent fixture on the speakers’ list of asbestos lobby groups. There hardly is a single industry-organised event at which he is not a featured speaker. His continuous financial and consulting relationships with asbestos interests and his close collaboration with asbestos lobby groups, such as the International Chrysotile Association, make him appear to be an “honorary member” of these organisations.

The complaint notes that, in addition to receiving financing from the asbestos industry to write articles favourable to the industy, “Mr. Bernstein has received significant financing from the asbestos industry for more than a decade to travel around the world to speak at industry events and to the media to promote use of chrysotile asbestos. Mr. Bernstein has, for example, received financing from the asbestos industry to give presentations in Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Quebec, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Ukraine in support of the use of chrysotile asbestos. Mr. Bernstein has collaborated closely with asbestos industry trade associations, such as the Asbestos Institute, the Chrysotile Institute, the International Chrysotile Association, to promote the industry’s interests and to carry out political lobbying of UN organisations and various governments to advance the industry’s interests.”

The complaint makes the following request: “I request that Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine publish a correction that discloses the actual and extensive nature of Mr. Bernstein’s conflicting interests. I request that Mr. Bernstein disclose the list of commissions and how much he has been paid for them over the past five years by asbestos companies, asbestos products companies, asbestos industry trade associations, such as the International Chrysotile Association, and by governments promoting their asbestos industry, such as Russia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe, for writing papers, participating in meetings, speaking at events and speaking to the media, travel and accommodation, per diems, etc.”

The complaint notes that, “While asbestos is legally banned in Europe and de facto banned in the United States, so that it is no longer placed in homes and schools in the countries where your editors reside, this is not the case in a number of other countries, such as India and Indonesia. The article your journal solicited and published by Mr. Bernstein will be of great benefit to the asbestos industry in promoting use of chrysotile asbestos in those countries.”

The publisher of the journal has responded, “We are investigating this matter.”

It is to be hoped that the journal, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, takes its Conflicts of Interest requirements seriously.

We will learn whether this is the case or not.



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