Scientist Reinstated At EPA After Disclosure Of Tobacco Lobbying
NEW YORK (AP) _ A scientist dismissed from an Environmental Protection Agency review panel on smoking under pressure from the tobacco industry has been reinstated, the EPA announced Wednesday.
″I’m extremely pleased at the results,″ said the scientist, Dr. David Burns of the University of California, San Diego. ″I think it reflects the EPA reconsidering the importance of the public policy decision they were making.
″I think that the information they received from the press and the scientific community was that there was a tremendous concern about the influence of the tobacco industry on this kind of scientific panel,″ he said.
The Associated Press reported last week that Burns had been dismissed from a panel chosen to review two forthcoming EPA reports on the health effects of second-hand cigarette smoke.
The Tobacco Institute, an industry group, and Rep. Thomas Bliley of Virginia, a tobacco industry ally, had lobbied vigorously to remove Burns from a committee of the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, a standing group of independent experts.
Steven Bayard, manager of the EPA’s project on passive smoking, said then he had never seen such a response to industry pressure in his 12 years at the EPA.
Burns had been selected as a special member of the committee for the review of the passive smoking reports.
After the success of the tobacco industry’s lobbying effort was disclosed, Donald Barnes, the Scientific Advisory Board’s staff director, asked the board’s executive committee to advise him on whether to appoint Burns, according to EPA officials who spoke on condition they not be named.
The executive committee voted unanimously to reinstate Burns, the officials said.
Barnes didn’t return telephone calls to his office.
Brennan Dawson, a Tobacco Institute spokeswoman, said Wednesday that restoring Burns to the panel would endanger the group’s ability to do its work fairly.
″David Burns cannot be considered to be an objective party in this issue and that is very well documented,″ Ms. Dawson said. ″We have a panelist that doesn’t belong.″
Mark Pertschuk, executive director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights in Berkeley, Ca., said he was delighted with the EPA’s decision to reinstate Burns.
″I think it was the only ethical thing at this point that they could do,″ he said. ″To have given in to the tobacco industry would have been a horrible statement about the impartiality of the peer review process.″
Burns was told on Aug. 10 that he had been appointed to the panel, and he was sent drafts of the passive smoking reports.
The job of the advisory panel is to review the EPA reports on passive smoking to assure their scientific accuracy.
Burns has worked on the Surgeon General’s reports on smoking since the 1970s. He was editor of the 1986 report on passive smoking.
On Aug. 10, the Tobacco Institute, an industry group, wrote EPA Administrator William Reilly protesting Burns’ selection.
″Frankly, we are mystified how an individual with Dr. Burns’s long and intense involvement with the antismoking movement can be expected to contribute to a reasonable, objective examination″ of the EPA reports, the letter said.
That was followed on Sept. 18 by a letter from Rep. Thomas Bliley, R-Va., a tobacco industry ally. He wrote the EPA without mentioning Burns by name, but he urged that the panel ″consist of qualified individuals who have not already prejudged this issue in any manner.″
EPA officials said they understood that to be an objection to the appointment of Burns.