Judge Rules in Favor of ACGIH in TLV Lawsuit

A federal judge on May 6 ruled in favor of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists in a lawsuit that sought to block that group from publishing its threshold limit values (TLVs).

In a summary judgment ruling issued on May 6, a federal judge in the United States District Court in Macon, Ga., dismissed the last of four counts in a lawsuit against ACGIH, initiated by the International Brominated Solvents Association (IBSA), National Mining Association (NMA) and other plaintiffs. Three counts previously were dismissed in March 2005.

The remaining count against ACGIH for violations of Georgia’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA) was dismissed by Judge Hugh Lawson in a ruling that represents a major victory for ACGIH and, particularly, the occupational and environmental health community. The count sought to prevent ACGIH from publishing its threshold limit values (TLVs) on the basis that they are “false and deceptive because they are not supported by credible science,” and that “they disparage the goods, services or business of another by false or misleading representation of fact.”

In its ruling, the court stated that “ACGIH, a non-profit association comprised of a group of scientists that adopts workplace safety exposure levels, is more like an entity designed to promote ideas than one that engages in deceptive advertising in an effort to derive a financial benefit.” Further, the court “remains unconvinced that the cause of action created in the UDTPA should be able to stifle ACGIH’s dissemination of its opinions as to what exposure levels of certain substances are in fact safe.” The court then granted ACGIH’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denied the plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

“This ruling confirms our long-held position that ACGIH has the right to publish its scientific opinions that make the workplace safer,” said ACGIH Board of Directors Chair Lawrence M. Gibbs. “Occupational and environmental health professionals need to know they can rely on the information we provide. We stand by our policies, procedures, processes and our TLVs. After almost 4 years of enormous expenditure of ACGIH financial and human resources in defending against this litigation, we view this as great news for the association, for the continued freedom of expression of scientific opinion and for the entire occupational and environmental health profession.”

As with any district court ruling, the plaintiffs may pursue an appeal of the court’s order. “If IBSA, NMA or any other plaintiffs elect to file an appeal, ACGIH will continue a vigorous and thorough defense of its position,” stated ACGIH Executive Director A. Anthony Rizzuto. “We are confident that the Court of Appeals would affirm ACGIH’s right to express its scientific opinions and that ACGIH would once again prevail.”

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