Medical Journal Publishes 'Junk Science' Asbestos Article

Refuses to print rebuttal

Lawrence Martin, M.D., FCCP

Return to Dr. Martin's asbestos index
Return to Dr. Martin's global index

Chest, the official medical journal of the American College of Physicians (ACCP), frequently publishes articles dealing with asbestos lung disease. In February 2004 an article appeared which does not measure up to Chest's scientific standards. The title of the article is Changing patterns in asbestos-induced lung disease.

The authors of this article falsely concluded that there is a rising incidence of asbestos lung disease in the U.S. Because their methods and assumptions were in error, their conclusions were as well, so much so that the article fits the category junk scicence. One characteristic of junk science is that 'garbage' or invalid data are selectively used to arrive at pre-conceived results. The invalid data in this article consisted of thousands of 'positive' chest x-ray reports of asbestos disease -- reports that were solicited and paid for by asbestos plaintiff attorneys, who stand to benefit monetarily from each positive report.

The process of using attorney-sponsored chest x-ray reports to generate bogus asbestos diagnoses has been discredited in both legal and medical publications. Yet the authors of the Chest article accepted every one of these thousands of x-ray reports at face value. The x-rays were not read by 'blinded' physicians, i.e., physicians ignorant of the asbestos claims, but only by doctors paid by the attorneys for their positive reports. Hardly a scientific or objective methodology. (For more information on the role of physicians in generating these bogus diagnoses, see Runaway Asbestos Litigation -- Why it's a Medical Problem).

I wrote a letter rebutting the article and pointing out these flaws. I cited numerous medical references that, in the aggregate, proved the authors' conclusions invalid (six of these references had previously appeared in Chest). Chest's editor-in-chief, Dr. A. J. Block, rejected my letter, stating "The ACCP and Chest do not wish to enter into any more asbestos controversy. Sorry." In response, I wrote to Dr. Block about the rejection, and sent a copy to officials of ACCP, plus the lead author of the article in question.

By refusing to publish a legitimate rebuttal to this poorly conceived and designed article, one that has medical-legal implications, Chest and ACCP appear to be in bed with asbestos plaintiff attorneys. Chest's actions -- first in publishing this article without any editorial comment, then in refusing to publish a rebuttal letter -- are certainly most unusual for a peer-reviewed medical journal beholden to scientific principles.

On this web site I lay out all the materials and make some recommendations. People interested in the subject can come to their own conclusions.

1. The Chest article in question - Changing patterns in asbestos-induced lung disease, Ohar, et al, Chest 2004;125:744-753.

2. My February 23, 2004 letter to Chest about the Ohar, et al article.

3. Chest's April 6, 2004 rejection of my letter, from Editor-in Chief Dr. A. J. Block.

4. My April 10, 2004 response to Dr. Block and ACCP regarding Item 3.

5. Response of Dr. Block and ACCP regarding Item 4.

6. Recommendations: What Chest and ACCP should do.

Posted May 1, 2004

Debugged March 24, 2010