Mass Torts: State of the Art

Mass Torts: State of the Art

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Is Benzene a Teratogen?

Posted in Causality, Epidemiology
Back when I was an associate we had a refinery client with a benzene unit and the unit generated litigation along with the benzene. Interestingly, the union knew that benzene could cause fatal blood diseases back when the unit was built in the late 1950s. The union even sent down a benzene safety poster which… Continue Reading

“What Can We Get Away With?”

Posted in Molecular Biology, Reason
That’s not the kind of question about the current state of medical science that you’d expect to hear from someone charged with understanding and promoting public health. On the other hand, if the point is to demonize food, in this case a drink with sucrose (glucose + fructose),  it makes perfect sense. The NYTimes has gotten a look at… Continue Reading

Texas Supreme Court Declares a Provision of House Bill 4 Unconstitutional

Posted in The Law
Last week in Robinson v. Crown Cork & Seal the Texas Supreme Court provided an in depth analysis of the constitutionality of retroactive laws and held that the “innocent successor” limit on liability for asbestos-related personal-injury claims included in House Bill 4 is an unconstitutional retroactive law. The Supreme Court concluded that Texas Civil Practice… Continue Reading

People Really Hate to be (Thought to be) Wrong

Posted in Rhetoric
One of my pet theories is that people would desperately rather be considered right in their pronouncements (though actually wrong) than actually right (though considered wrong). It’s all to do with signaling, I think, but more on that another day. If indeed people prefer being thought right to being in fact right, all other things being… Continue Reading

Biases, Fear and Thyroid Cancer

Posted in Epidemiology
In the NYTimes’ "Consults" today an endocrinologist answers questions about whether thyroid cancer has to do with toxins or genes. The first question from "Toxins, Genes and Thyroid Cancer" inquires as to whether a cancer "cluster" in an office could be due to environmental (i.e. man-made) toxins. The endocrinologist correctly responds that the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased dramatically over… Continue Reading

Listeria Monocytogenes Outbreak Traced to Celery; Or Was It?

Posted in Epidemiology, Microbiology
  The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has shut down a San Antonio packager of produce for restaurants and schools following its determination that a L. monocytogenes outbreak thought to have been responsible for five deaths of immune compromised individuals originated at its facility. The company targeted for the shutdown is disputing the… Continue Reading

Beryllium Exposure Associated With Several Types of Cancer

Posted in Epidemiology
A follow-up of workers at beryllium processing plants showed significant associations with lung cancer, cancers of the nervous system, urinary tract cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Most diseases of interest showed a dose-response relationship and peak dose relationship. See: "Cohort Mortality Study of Workers at Seven Beryllium Processing Plants: Update and Associations With Cumulative… Continue Reading

Don’t Point Your Guns at Your Children

Posted in Reason
For whatever reason CNBC has decided to dredge up an old controversy; one over the safety of the Remington Model 700. Back in the day we worked on these cases and as a baby lawyer I got a lesson from one of the partners to whom I reported. He’d been an officer in the Army and… Continue Reading

A Placebo a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Posted in Causality, Reason
Do you comply with your doctor’s orders? If you’re on a daily medication do you always take it, every day, at the same time, with say the recommended glass of water? If you do, even if there’s no medicine in the pill, your odds of living a long and healthy life are good and getting better and it’s… Continue Reading

Why So Much Peer Reviewed Science Is So Wrong

Posted in Reason, The Law
Ever since Daubert , lawyers have been fending off motions to exclude by proclaiming that the scientific studies on which their experts relied were peer reviewed and thus unassailable. Sadly, judges tend to think that a peer reviewed paper must indeed be some incremental addition to the field’s body of knowledge. But are the claims in a… Continue Reading

Toxoplasma gondii: Sheep and Goats Have a Vaccine Against It. Why Don’t We?

Posted in Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Reason, Risk, The Law
It”s becoming apparent that Toxoplasma gondii is responsible for an awful lot of human suffering around the world. The parasitic organism causes birth defects and spontaneous abortions, neurolgical impairment, eye damage and is increasingly suspected in Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s. T. gondii infects human cells and reproduces within them eventually setting up shop in cysts… Continue Reading

Really? The Maker of the Sabin Polio Vaccine Should Have Been Subjected to Ruinous Liability?

Posted in The Law
Bruesewitz, et al v. Wyeth, Inc., et al just had to be bloggable but at first glance the debate appeared to rest largely on the interpretation of a typically modern law in which Congress had produced (probably intentionally) an incoherent mess. Digging further into oral argument, the government’s claim that the CDC regularly updates its advice on… Continue Reading

Getting the Causation Cart Before the Benzene Horse

Posted in Epidemiology, Reason
Let’s assume you’re trying to prove that benzene causes a host of cancers of the hematopoietic system – essentially all lymphohematopoietic neoplasms. Wouldn’t it be clever to argue that the best studies are those that confirm your bias; i.e. that benzene just has to cause acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL, AML, etc.)? Better yet, wouldn’t it… Continue Reading

Some Very Old Articles About Asbestosis

Posted in Vintage Proofs
From 1924: "Fibrosis of the Lungs Due to the Inhalation of Asbestos Dust"; from 1928: "A Case of Pneumoconiosis: Result of the Inhalation of Asbestos Dust". ; from 1929 "Asbestos Dust and the Curious Bodies Found in Pulmonary Asbestosis"; also from 1929: "Clinical Aspects of Pulmonary Asbestosis";  and from 1931: "Recent Views on Pneumonoconioses".These short but well… Continue Reading

Schools: Highly Effective Virus Transmission Sites

Posted in Epidemiology, Molecular Biology
Two weeks after kids go back to school, doctor visits for flu-like symptoms spiked in 2009. Why? It looks like schools catalyzed "community-wide transmission" of H1H1 pandemic influenza. See "School Opening Dates Predict Pandemic Influenza A(H1N1) Outbreaks in the United States". The authors suggest vaccination begin before kids return to school. There’s good news for… Continue Reading

Citing a 16% Increase in Risk of Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events FDA Recommends Meridia Use be Discontinued

Posted in Epidemiology, Risk
New data from the Sibutramine (Meridia) Cardiovascular Outcomes (SCOUT) trial showed little weight loss but significant increased risk of non-fatal heart attack, stroke, a cardiovascular event requiring resuscitation and cardiovascular death. The FDA suggests that those taking Meridia for weight loss stop taking it, speak to their physician about alternate treatments and contact a physician… Continue Reading

Chronic High Noise Exposure and Coronary Heart Disease: A Strong and Consistent Association

Posted in Epidemiology, Industrial Hygiene
In "Exposure to Occupational Noise and Cardiovascular Disease in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999 – 2004"  researchers report a doubling or tripling of the risk for coronary heart disease among workers chronically exposed to high occupational noise. Meanwhile, other studies are showing that men subjected to aircraft noise from… Continue Reading

All Things in Moderation: Drinking While Pregnant Edition

Posted in Epidemiology, Reason, Risk
Does the dose make the poison? In toxic tort litigation plaintiffs have long argued that at the unmeasured and unobserved low dose end of the dose-response curve risk doesn’t reach zero until the dose reaches zero. To support their claim they point to regulators’ linear no-threshold risk models, they try to throw the burden of proof on defendants and they conclude… Continue Reading

Mounting Evidence That Delaying Introduction of Certain Foods to Infants’ Diets Causes Allergies

Posted in Molecular Biology
The idea that children, and especially infants, are somehow exquisitely susceptible to environmental harm such that exposures to immune system challenges should be put off until that system is "strong enough" has been around for awhile. The lack of any good science to support the claim hasn’t prevented it from becoming established medical guidance; especially when it comes to allergenic foods… Continue Reading