Updated November 10, 2012, This blog post was originally titled, GIHN’s Answers To Eleven Questions As Posted On Sickbuildings Support Group
at Yahoogroups.Com. It is regarding some questionable statistics and quotes in a position paper by a non-profit, Global Indoor Health Network
, Inc., (GIHN). Their focus concerns illnesses caused by poor indoor air quality, primarily from biocontaminants (mold, bacteria, etc.) that are frequently found in water damaged buildings.
It saddens us to report that even upon being provided the direct evidence indoor air pollutants are NOT scientifically proven to cause 50% of illnesses globally; and that GIHN based this outrageous statistic in their 2012 position paper “Common Toxins in our Homes, Schools and Workplaces
” solely on a misleading title of a news article out of Ghana
, South Africa, by an unnamed author; the 501(c)3 corporation has refused to correct this scientific fraud in health marketing.
“Why does this matter?
Science is about furthering our collective knowledge, and it happens in increments. Successive generations of scientists build upon theoretical foundations set by their predecessors. If those foundations are made of sand, though, then time and money will be wasted in the pursuit of ideas that simply aren’t right… Problems occur at all levels in the system, and we need to stop stubbornly arguing that ‘it’s not that bad’ or that talking about it somehow damages science. The damage has already been done – now we need to start fixing it.”
Guardian UK, November 2012 ~ Scientific fraud is rife: it’s time to stand up for good science
Our motto here at Katy’s is, “Exposing Environmental Health Threats And Those Responsible.” While we typically expose those who naysay causation
of environmental illnesses by the use of scientific fraud mass marketed into policies; we recognize that a spin in science for the purpose to mislead policy setters harms everyone, no matter which way it is spun. What we find most tragic about the GIHN paper is that by relying on overstated spin for the theme of the paper, it discredits the words and works of some fine environmental physicians who contributed to the paper and are attributed as being the sole authors.
As a result, we are informing the public to not spread this misinformation. It is harmful to those who know poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can and often does cause severe illnesses by making them appear to be hysterical zealots who must overstate the problem to get attention. While poor IAQ is indeed a serious problem harming many lives, it is ridiculous and discrediting to state it is scientifically proven to cause one out of every two illnesses worldwide, 50%. Contrary to the false concept being marketed by GIHN, no EPA study has ever made this finding.
So, if you are informing the public, physicians and legislators as to the seriousness of illnesses caused by poor IAQ, please do not follow GIHN’s directive and make a “Call To Action, Indoor Air Pollution Causes 50% of Illnesses Globally”
. Please do not
tell legislators, physicians and the public that you think this scientific fraud is a proven fact. It will only serve to discredit all of your words which are accurate and truthful. No EPA spokesman from Ghana or from the United States are corroborated as ever making any such outlandish statistical statement as is claimed in the GIHN position statement for source. There is no research paper which makes the finding indoor air pollutants cause half of the world’s illnesses. How GIHN did this twist of science and appears to be planning to continue on with mass marketing it, is called the “Big Lie Approach
GIHN is now using this approach to instill undue fear into the hearts and minds of those families who are already devastated by Hurricane Sandy. These people need facts to help them – not fear mongering and added confusion based on known false information. (They will get enough false information over this matter erroneously downplaying the severity of the problem from those who are concerned of liability for illnesses and damages.) November 10, 2012 Long Island News – After the Storm: The Health Effects of Mold and Indoor Air Contaminants | Long Island Exchange
As parroted from the GIHN Position Statement and shared with the already devastated victims of Hurricane Sandy:
“According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesman, indoor air pollution causes 50% of illnesses globally. This statistic should catch the attention of every physician, every lawmaker and every layperson reading this paper. That’s more than all the cancers and all the heart disease combined.”
Begin Original Post of October 23, 2012:
The following was posted on Sickbuildings Support Group @yahoogroups.com in regard to 11 questions posed to GIHN of questionable quotes and statistics. Sickbuildings is a 2897 member support group for those injured from biocontaminants in water damaged buildings. The group was formed in 1999. GIHN is a same subject non-profit corporation formed in 2010.
That is a well thought out reply and I appreciate you, Melinda and Cheryl answering the questions. Some history I remember as occurring differently, but it is close enough with which to work, moving forward. I still have some concerns about the position statement as it relates to lending credibility to change US public health policy; aiding the ability of the sick to obtain medical treatment from main stream physicians; and shutting down the deeply embedded deceit in policy that it is proven these illnesses are not occurring.
More tomorrow. Thank you for sharing.
I am a member of Sickbuildings, and also a member of Global Indoor Health Network [GIHN], so I am answering the “open” questions that you have directed to me. Since I am NOT an officer or director of GIHN, I have relied in the knowledge of an officer and director of GIHN, to provide the below answers to your questions, as I did not have any direct participation in “authoring” the GIHN position paper that you are asking your questions about.
The answers below were provided by Cheryl Wisecup, GIHN’s President, and Melinda Ballard, a member of the GIHN Board of Directors. As a bit of background information, Cheryl and Melinda became involved in this issue when their families were harmed by mold in their homes. Cheryl’s mold story started in 2002 (10 years ago), and Melinda’s mold story began in 1998 (14 years ago).
[Begin Ms. Wisecup’s and Ms. Ballard’s answers (in italics)]
GIHN answer: It’s important to point out that there is a distinct difference between “position statements” and “peer-reviewed, published research papers.” There are different criteria for each of these formats. An organization writes and publishes its position statement without outside review. In contrast, peer-reviewed research papers are required to meet specific criteria and are reviewed by outside parties who are credentialed in the subject matter being addressed. As the name clearly states, this is a “Position Statement” for GIHN. (One of the GIHN credentialed members has started the process of preparing the paper to be accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.)
Position statements can be brief and without references, or they can be more formal and include a bibliography, references, executive summary, etc. One example of a simple position statement can be seen at the following link. This is AAEM’s position statement about Chemical Sensitivity. There are no references and only a short discussion of their position on this topic. http://www.aaemonline.org/chemicalsensitivitypost.html
For GIHN’s Position Statement, we took a more rigorous approach. We included citations for key statements, facts and statistics. We also included several additional components in the paper such as a Preface, Executive Summary, List of Tables, Introduction, Background, Research Methods, Findings, Call to Action, Bibliography, Appendix A and B, and Biographies and Conflict of Interest Statements for the six authors. We also included 240 references.
Peer-reviewed, published research papers follow a more rigorous set of criteria. One key criteria is that they must be written only by credentialed experts in that specific field. Since we knew that the GIHN paper would eventually be submitted for publication and to ensure that the message portrayed their extensive expertise in this field, we made sure that the GIHN paper was written, reviewed and approved only by the six credentialed experts listed as authors. The six credentialed experts included the three physicians on the GIHN Board of Directors. This approach was by design because neither Melinda Ballard nor Cheryl Wisecup are “credentialed experts” in this field and could not take part in the development of the paper.
1. How do you see making up yet another name, MERI, that does not have an ICD Code to describe these chronic inflammatory illnesses and thus no code by which physicians can use to describe to insurers who pay for the treatments they are trying to treat, as advancing US physicians’ ability to treat chronic inflammatory illnesses from exposure to poor indoor air quality?
GIHN answer: The decision regarding the name for the illness was made by the three physicians on the GIHN Board and that name was reviewed and approved by all six authors. It’s important to read the GIHN paper to understand our position regarding the name for this illness. The following statements are included in the GIHN paper.
In the GIHN Call to Action (our list of recommendations), we specifically state under #2 on the list: “Collaborate with key stakeholders to reach consensus on a common name for this illness” Here’s a good quote from page 18 of the paper which summarizes GIHN’s view regarding the name for this illness:
It is the opinion of this paper that a single unifying name would benefit all the various vested communities (treating physicians, researchers and sufferers) and that those who publish should come together and agree upon or newly develop such a name that would be easily remembered by and resonate with lay people, media and scientific personnel. For purposes of this paper only, rather than favor one group’s name or another’s, the phrase Multi-system Exposure Related Illness (MERI) will be used to refer to the disease.
2. The second paragraph in the preamble begins with the sentence, “Indoor air pollutants cause 50% of illnesses globally.” Where is the scientific data to support this claim? Who are the researchers who made this key statistical finding? And why is this key statistical finding of the position of GIHN not given cited reference if it is supported by scientific study?
GIHN answer: As stated above, the GIHN paper includes references for key statements, facts and statistics. References are included in the body of the paper (not in the Executive Summary) starting with page 1 of the Introduction. There are 240 references cited, and the reference for the above statement is included as footnote #1 in that section. This statement was made by Ebenezer Fiahagbe, a Senior Programme Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ghana. Research on this topic (and on many other important topics) is being done by experts throughout the world. The GIHN paper includes statements, facts and statistics from U.S. and international researchers and government officials.
[Note: Ebenezer Fiahagbe of the South Africa EPA made no such statement that indoor air pollution causes 50% of illnesses globally. The actual statistical quote Mr. Fiahagbe made that may be found within Reference No.1 of the GIHN position statement is,
“Mr Ebenezer Fiahagbe, a Senior Programme Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has said indoor pollution has been as among the top five environmental risks to public health which also contributes to an annual 8.5 million deaths globally.” – not that it causes half of all illnesses in the world.
In the GIHN Position Statement, they attribute the 50% statistic as being determined by a U.S. EPA spokesman – not Mr. Fiahagbe of the South African EPA. To quote from GIHN,
“..according to a United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesman, indoor air pollution causes over half of all disease globally.”]
Criticizing research and opinions coming from individuals and organizations outside the U.S. is a very dangerous and slippery slope that should be avoided because of disastrous consequences for all of us. Why? Because you are throwing the baby out with the bath water. In other words, imagine the results of excluding the opinions held by the World Health Organization (WHO), Indian Journal of Aerobiology, etc.
3. The authorship of the paper is attributed to Scott W. McMahon, M.D., Janette Hope, M.D., Jack Dwayne Thrasher, Ph.D., William J. Rea, M.D., Alan R. Vinitsky, M.D., Michael R. Gray, M.D., MPH. Which author wrote the sentence, “Indoor air pollutants cause 50% of illnesses globally”? Did anyone besides the stated authors ghost write sentences in the GIHN position paper? Who peer reviewed the paper for verification of accurate scientific reference for all statements made?
GIHN answer: As stated above, the six authors wrote, reviewed and approved the paper. They are credentialed experts in this field. There were no other authors and no non-credentialed people were involved in the writing of this paper. This is GIHN’s position statement (not a published, peer-reviewed article), so there was no outside peer review at this time. That step will occur when we prepare and submit the paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
[Note: No answer was provided as to who actually wrote the misleading theme of the paper that it is scientifically proven “indoor air pollutants cause 50% of illnesses globally” and that an Environmental Protection Agency made this finding.]
4. Several of the listed authors also sometimes serve as expert witnesses in litigation for those injured by biocontamants in water damaged buildings. How does GIHN see their names being attributed as authors of the position statement containing the sentence, “Indoor air pollutants cause 50% of illnesses globally” impacting their credibility when questioned by the defense as to the origin, research and validity of this key statement they are attributed as authoring?
GIHN answer: See answers above.
5. Were the general members of GIHN, whose names are being used to lend credibility to this position paper in implied endorsement, permitted to review and provide input into the position paper before its adoption? If not, why not, and who adopted it as the organization’ s position on behalf of the members?
GIHN answer: See the answers above. Only six authors were involved, and those six people are credentialed experts in this field. The general membership of GIHN did not review the paper or provide input. The GIHN Board of Directors made the decision to adopt the paper as the position statement for the organization (after the six authors approved the final version of the paper).
6. If one had a workers comp claim of chronic systemic inflammation from poor indoor air quality in the workplace, would they be able to use the name MERI to identify their injury and expect to obtain workman’s compensation payments for treatment and restitution of the injury?
GIHN answer: See the answers above regarding the name for this illness. In regard to the specific medical diagnoses being accepted by workers’ compensation review boards, each state has its own rules. All types of insurance — health, home, auto, life, worker’s comp, etc. — are state regulated. Decisions about workers’ compensation claims are determined on a case-by-case basis. As a reminder, recommendation #2 in GIHN’s Call to Action states that we want to “Collaborate with key stakeholders to reach consensus on a common name for this illness.”
7. Would you advise people experiencing various forms of chronic inflammation from poor IAQ to use the name MERI in court, in insurance claims and/or when trying to obtain insurance covered treatment from US physicians for themselves and their families?
GIHN answer: See the answers above regarding the name for this illness. The treating physicians would make decisions regarding the appropriate diagnosis for each patient.
8. In 2010, GIHN attempted to lay claim to the Policyholders of America position statement regarding Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome from Water Damaged Buildings as the position statement of GIHN. What occurred that caused GIHN to retract this claim and what is the purpose of this MERI position paper attributing a new name to these illnesses?
GIHN answer: GIHN did NOT lay claim to the POA/CIRS paper. A previous entity known as ACHEMMIC adopted the POA/CIRS paper as its position statement. ACHEMMIC was an informal group of experts and individuals. The POA/CIRS paper was published on July 27, 2010. GIHN is a formal, nonprofit corporation (a legal entity) that was established on September 16, 2010.
[Note: We happen to know this is incorrect and that one of the authors of the POA paper, who was a former board member of GIHN and is a leader in the IAQ building sciences, wanted his name withdrawn from authorship of the POA paper if GIHN was going to claim it as their position statement in self promotion as they attempted to do. We have the documents.]
Melinda Ballard, President of the Policyholders of America, provided the following additional information: The CIRS paper was published under POA’s name because POA was a longstanding nonprofit corporation. In contrast, ACHEMMIC was an informal group of experts and individuals (not a formal business entity and not a corporation). The POA/CIRS paper was authored by Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D., Scott McMahon, M.D., Laura Mark, M.D., and Jack Thrasher, Ph.D. (Dr. McMahon and Dr. Thrasher are also authors of the GIHN Position Statement.) The authors of the CIRS paper made the decision to release the paper under POA’s name because it was an established legal entity that had been working with this subject matter for many years.
9. The paper states, “Interestingly, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s (ACOEM) 2011 position paper cites no study published after 2002 and does not reference the General Accounting Office’s (GAO) report of 2008 or the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report of 2009—both of which summarize the existing scientific data and flatly contradict the opinions of the ACOEM’s naysayer paper.” Are you aware of any direct actions taken by the Executive Director of GIHN to aid the false concept to remain in public health policy that it is scientifically proven these illnesses are not occurring, as mass marketed into policy and to the courts by ACOEM, the Manhattan Institute think-tank, the US Chamber of Commerce and Veritox, Inc.? If so, what specific action, did the GIHN Director take to discredit the advocate who was the catalyst who caused the GAO audit upon which this paper relies to lend credibility? What did the Executive Director do to leave her bare from protection from the attack of naysayers? What have the Executive Director and the members of GIHN done to correct this error and the continuing damage done to the advocate and thus the issue and the injured as a whole?
GIHN answer: GIHN is comprised of experts and laypersons throughout the United States and in eight other countries. Every member of GIHN has been working hard to help raise awareness for this important public health issue. Many of our members have been working in this arena for many years (several with 10-20 years of experience with this subject matter). Some of our members are credentialed experts in this field, and some are ill and have lost their health, homes, jobs, and personal property due to firsthand experiences with mold, mycotoxins and other indoor contaminants. Each member contributes in a variety of ways (i.e., writing letters and emails, doing research, communicating with elected officials, creating videos, spending thousands of hours talking on the phone with mold-injured families, sharing their expertise and personal experiences, contacting media outlets and national leaders, etc.). GIHN’s president and members of the Board of Directors have also been actively involved in this arena for many years. The effectiveness of the individual and collective efforts of GIHN members can be seen in a variety of ways including credentialed members being asked to speak at conferences and testify before legislative committees, an increased presence on social networking sites, a significant increase in visitors to the GIHN website, a growing worldwide membership that currently includes individuals from nine countries, the publication of a position statement with specific recommendations for action, building relationships with other organizations with common interests, media interest in our press releases, an ever-increasing network of experts and laypersons from around the world, etc.To correct the confusion regarding Sharon’s membership role in specific groups, Sharon was a member of an informal group known as ACHEMMIC (an informal group of individuals–not a corporation, so there was no Board of Directors). She was a member of the original “Executive Committee” for ACHEMMIC (not a Board member). She was never a member of GIHN and, thus, was never on the GIHN Board of Directors. She has been involved in a personal legal matter that does not involve GIHN. GIHN is a corporation and does not get involved in personal legal matters.
[Note: Sharon Kramer left the group she helped start in 2010 because of lack of transparency of the now President of GIHN, as did three other of the original eight Executive Committee members of the original group, ACHEMMIC. She has experienced unbridled retaliation at the hands of compromised courts of California for exposing science fraud in policy over this issue involving the US Chamber of Commerce that was mass marketed into public health policy and to the courts in the early 2000’s. This spin she exposed was in the opposite direction of GIHN’s and was that it had been proven water damaged buildings do not harm by paid for hire authors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce & Manhattan Institute think-tank, who are also prolific expert defense witnesses in toxic torts/mold litigations. This scientific fraud was for the purpose of misleading US courts to deny liability for causation of illnesses and remains in many policies and courts to this very day – directly because of what the California courts have done by unlawful means to willfully aid it to continue by trying to silence Sharon of the fraud and their role in aiding it. Crystal Stuckey, owner of this blog, was also a founding member of the group, ACHEMMIC, but declined to be a member of GIHN.]
We acknowledge that Sharon Kramer has played an important role in this arena. Sharon has worked tirelessly for many years to help advance this cause, including her involvement with getting the GAO recommendations in 2008 and getting the Wall Street Journal to write an important article in 2007. Similar to the GIHN position statement, neither of those documents were peer-reviewed research papers, but they were important steps in moving this issue forward.We also recognize and acknowledge many other experts and laypersons who have contributed to this cause over the past 10-20 years. It is an ongoing battle, and each individual contribution is important to achieving victory.
[Note: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our ‘friends.” Martin Luther King Jr. We find it to be bastardizing of our years of hard work, that has come at tremendous expense to help the environmentally injured when the inroads we have made into policies which have added true legitimacy to the plight of many, are intermingled as allegedly supporting the false concept GIHN is promoting that it is proven indoor air pollutants cause 50% of illnesses globally. We are always glad to see our work used to advance science. We do not want our work to be misused to promote this fear mongering spin in science. We know there are many scientists, physicians and researchers referenced in implied support of the GIHN paper who do not want to see their years of hard work abused in this manner either. We are concerned of the harm GIHN is doing to the credibility of the work of those who know poor IAQ harms, by not only presenting spins in science, but promoting the concept that the organization is endorsed by those whose work it uses in self promotion, when it is not.]
10. GIHN claims “GIHN has members throughout the United States and in seven other countries who have united to share our collective knowledge, expertise and life experiences to advance the understanding and awareness of this very important public health issue.” What has GIHN done to promote or curtail the understanding of these illnesses becoming current accepted science in public health policy by state and federal agencies and teaching universities?
GIHN answer: See answers above. Melinda Ballard, president of POA, provided the following additional comments: There are many ways one can achieve broader understanding of a major public health issue. I prefer not to bring a butter knife to a gun fight. We are out-gunned by an army with limitless funds. Our army includes many experts as well as many mold-injured people who have lost everything, have no money and only a handful of weapons. We certainly have the truth on our side but don’t have much else. No one has ever called me “chicken,” but to gain ground in the policy discussion, we must look reasonable.
Back in “the day” — 1999, our army of soldiers totaled about 10,000. It may have been more, but only 10,000 of us actually were aware our illness was related to our home, work or school environment. Today, there are easily more than 10 million who KNOW we are sick because of mold and other contaminants unique to water-damaged buildings, and our numbers are growing rapidly.
Our numbers alone will help kick their butts, but we need the researchers and patients alike to come forward and take a stand. However, the stand we take must be well thought out and not appear to be motivated by anger. Throwing mud (or trying to throw mud) at our own is not helping advance knowledge or public policy.
11. If it was known by the members that GIHN leadership took direct action which has curtailed the advancement of science and medicine over this issue in state and federal public health policy, would the members of GIHN still want their names used to lend credibility to this organization?
GIHN answer: GIHN has NOT taken steps to stymie scientific or medical understanding. Quite the opposite. GIHN has been working hard to advance this issue on a variety of fronts. One important component is the significant number of research papers available on GIHN’s website. Maintaining and updating this database of resources requires a huge time commitment. GIHN is actively communicating with a wide audience of interested parties on a daily basis including thousands of emails and letters to medical organizations, researchers, government agencies, school districts, journalists, corporations and countless individuals and families who are affected by mold and other indoor air contaminants. GIHN spends an enormous amount of time initiating and building a growing network of contacts throughout the world.
If GIHN members have additional questions, they can contact Cheryl or Melinda directly
. (or Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org