Scientific journal withdraws asbestos article following complaints of scientific and ethical improprieties

Mon, Dec 12, 2016


Kathleen Ruff,

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) has published the following statement on the journal’s website:

ARTICLE WITHDRAWN: Airborne asbestos exposures associated with the installation and removal of roofing products

Jason T. Lotter, Ben Roberts, John L. Henshaw & Jennifer S. Pierce,

Pages D121-D131 | Accepted author version posted online: 28 Apr 2016, Published online: 07 Jun 2016


This article has been withdrawn.

No explanation is provided as to the reason for the withdrawal of the article, which has been on the journal’s website since June 7, 2016 until now.

After receiving complaints of serious scientific errors and ethical improprieties, the JOEH Board of Directors voted on August 10, 2016 to retract the article.

After two months of silence and inaction, however, the JOEH retracted its decision to retract the article. The President of the JOEH Board of Directors stated on November 14, 2016 that, instead of the JOEH retracting the article, the authors would withdraw the article.

The authors stated that the article was “the most comprehensive review of airborne asbestos exposures associated with the removal and installation of asbestos-containing roofing products conducted to date.” The conclusion of the article denied or created doubt about harm caused by chrysotile asbestos roofing, stating that the cumulative exposures associated with installing or removing asbestos roofing “would be well below published chrysotile no-observed-adverse-effect-levels (NOAELs) for asbestos-related diseases.”

A complaint was submitted to the JOEH, asking that the article be retracted because “it provides misleading information and contradicts some of the key original research that it references. Furthermore, the article groups together different types of roofing materials that are associated with very different airborne asbestos exposures while misrepresenting and falsely summarizing the data.”

The article was funded by Cardno ChemRisk, a consulting company which has been paid millions of dollars in consultancy fees by asbestos interests, and was approved by Charlie Blake, who was performing as a JOEH editor for this particular article and who has been paid millions in consultancy fees by asbestos interests.

Many problems remain unanswered

Many problems remain that the JOEH has ignored. In a letter sent on December 11, 2016, the JOEH was asked to:

  • Address the serious scientific and ethical improprieties.
  • Stop the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) from promoting the article on the ICA website to increase the sale of asbestos-cement roofing.
  • Inform JOEH subscribers who receive print copies of the journal that the article has been withdrawn.

One of the most serious issues facing the world is the threat to independent, evidence-based science by vested interests. If scientific evidence is perverted so as to serve private gain, it becomes difficult or impossible to establish public policy that serves the well-being of people and the planet.

Scientific journals have a particular responsibility to uphold independent science and ethical standards and to serve the public interest, not private gain.

The JOEH is being asked to uphold that responsibility.


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