In the final leg of a long and costly lawsuit against the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), U.S. district judge Hugh Lawson ruled in favor of ACGIH, dismissing claims by the National Mining Association and others* that the non-profit, scientific organization violated Georgia’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. (A complete case study on this matter appears at DefendingScience.org.) The court also rejected the industry-plaintiff’s attempt to resurrect related claims against the Department of Labor, reprimanding them with:
“The Court disagrees with the Plaintiffs’ asssessment that this case somehow breathes life into expired claims and will not entertain any discussions towards a count already dismissed.”
The Court defended ACGIH, saying it is:
“a non-profit association comprised of a group of scientists…more like an entity designed to promote ideas than one that engages in deceptive advertising in an effort to derive a financial benefit.”
Earlier claims by the industry groups against ACGIH as well as the Secretaries of HHS and Labor were also dismissed in federal court. These legal assaults concerned silica, n-propyl bromide (nPB), copper, and diesel particulate matter, which were listed on ACGIH’s Notice of Intended Change; industry plaintiffs want to prohibit ACGIH from:
“…considering, creating, publishing, promulgating, adopting, using, or recommending TLVs”
and DOL and HHS from
“allowing their officials and employees to seek, suggest, use, adopt, rely upon, promulgate, or enforce TLVs” for them.”(1)
In a news release issued by ACGIH, the organization’s chair stated:
“This ruling confirms our long-held position that ACGIH has the right to publish its scientific opinions that make the workplace safer. Occupational and environmental health professionals need to know they can rely on the information we provide.
“After almost four 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.”
When I read the original charges made against ACGIH, DOL and HHS back in 1999, I thought they were baseless and indeed “frivolous.” Yet, these industry-plaintiffs’ legal attack on ACGIH was anything but “frivolous.” The non-profit, volunteer science organization was forced to raise and spend significant sums of money in order to defend itself against this lawsuit. It surely wasn’t a trivial matter for ACGIH.
*The petitioners in the lawsuit against ACGIH were the International Brominated Solvents Association (IBSA), the National Mining Association (NMA), Aerosafe Products, Inc., and Anchor Glass Container Products, Inc. .
(1) See case study, reference: ,  Complaint, submitted to the US District Court, Middle District of Georgia, November 17, 2004. In: International Brominated Solvents Association, et al v. ACGIH et al (5:04CV394).
Celeste Monforton, MPH is a Lecturer and Researcher at the George Washington University School of Public Health. She joined ACGIH in 2006 and contributed to its legal defense fund.