Industry Groups Fighting ACGIH 'Very Satisfied' With TLV Decision

When U.S. District Judge Duross Fitzpatrick dismissed three of the four counts against the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) in a lawsuit filed by the International Brominated Solvents Association and other plaintiffs, the plaintiff's attorney Henry Chajet commented, "We're very satisfied."

ACGIH has an explanation for Chajet's satisfaction: The continuing lawsuit by industry groups who want to block ACGIH from publishing workplace exposure levels for four chemicals is an effort to bully ACGIH and prevent it from releasing hazard information on substances that industry wants to use.

Plaintiffs can also proceed on a second count against the Department of Labor. Chajet added, "We'll now have an opportunity to prove our case."

In a written response received via e-mail to questions from Occupationalhazards.com, ACGIH argued that the lawsuit is, "yet another in a series of attempts by well-funded industry groups to intimidate ACGIH from publishing information and scientific opinions about the potentially adverse health effects of exposures to substances used in the workplace."

ACGIH maintained that, "only one limited claim remains against ACGIH -- whether ACGIH's TLVs constitute product defamation under Georgia state law."

Still, the litigation is far from over and the statement admits that the lawsuit "has been expensive and disruptive to ACGIH -- which is a not-for-profit volunteer organization of health and safety professionals with very limited resources."

The industry groups allege that ACGIH's threshold limit values (TLVs) for chemical substances and physical agents are illegally adopted, illegally enforced by the federal government and economically oppressive to the businesses they represent.

The International Brominated Solvents Association, a non-profit trade association, along with the National Mining Association, AeroSafe Products Inc. and Anchor Glass Container Corp., sought to block ACGIH from proposing, adopting or publishing TLVs for 1-bromopropane (nPB -- n-propylbromide), copper, silica and diesel particulate matter.

Collectively, the four plaintiffs contend that the TLVs for the four substances are adopted by ACGIH and enforced by the Department of Labor in violation of federal and state law.

In a recent interview, Chajet charged that ACGIH keeps secret the author and reviewers of the TLV. "There's a process problem here -- no one can participate in person, ACGIH meetings are closed, the whole process is closed."

But according to the ACGIH statement, these allegations once more raise the issue of industry intimidation.

"ACGIH does not publicly identify TLV subcommittee members in order to discourage aggressive attempts by interested parties to influence individual committee members through direct contacts at their homes or places of employment."

It is too soon to tell whether the lawsuit will have a chilling effect on the TLV process. For now, ACGIH maintains that, "this lawsuit, and others like it….have not intimidated ACGIH or its members."

After discovery on the remaining two counts, and motions, Chajet predicted the trial would begin in October, although he accused ACGIH of attempting to delay the trial date.

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