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Congress To Review Tobacco Industry Data on Indoor Air Quality


January 1995

Congressional investigators are looking into data provided to the House Subcommittee on Health and Environment by a tobacco industry-supported environmental evaluation firm (Doug Levy, "Probe Disputes Smoking Studies," USA Today, Dec. 21, 1994, p. 3D).

A Congressional report finds there are "serious questions of scientific fraud" in the data collected by Healthy Buildings International, Inc. (HBI) of Fairfax, Virginia. The report states that the data was designed to refute the Environmental Protection Agency's assertions about the dangers of cigarette smoke to indoor air quality. HBI, the report says, engaged in "a widespread pattern of significant data alteration" in its testimony before the Subcommittee on Mar. 17, 1994.

An indoor air expert at the Naval Research Laboratory reviewed HBI's data and found a number of problems, including more than 150 "significant alterations," bogus air quality readings, and a number of data fabrications.

"I think the credibility of their whole argument is very much shaken by these accusations," said Rep. Henry Waxman, the former Subcommittee Chairman.

The Congressional report says that HBI "may have attempted to mislead the Subcommittee in its investigation."

New Subcommittee Chairman Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) has said that he will review the report, according to spokesperson Robert Meyers.

Gray Robertson, president of HBI, told NewsBriefs that the report was not issued by the Subcommittee but by one individual who is no longer working on Capitol Hill. Robertson claims this author has "a fundamental misunderstanding" of indoor air testing. The testimony on which the report was based, moreover, was taken solely from former HBI employees who are now in litigation with HBI.

"The 'bottom line' response to these allegations is that if we have engaged in such systematic fraud we have been remarkably unsuccessful, since our data matches all that found in the North American scientific literature," Robertson said. "In fact, if anything, we show figures that show a slightly higher contribution of ETS [Environmental Tobacco Smoke] to particulate levels in buildings than other researchers."