Friday, October 20, 2006
Disputed Report on IBM Workers Is Finally Published, in Peer-Reviewed
By SUSAN BROWN
A long-suppressed report by a Boston University researcher of elevated
cancer rates among semiconductor workers at IBM factories was published
online on Thursday in the open-access peer-reviewed journal Environmental
Health: A Global Access Science Source.
"Mortality Among U.S. Employees of a Large Computer-Manufacturing Company:
1969-2001," a paper describing the study, by Richard W. Clapp, is available
on the journal's Web site.
For the study, Mr. Clapp analyzed data about employee deaths and work
histories obtained from IBM's company files during a lawsuit over worker
illnesses. He was a consultant for the plaintiffs in that trial. Although
his analysis was revealed during a deposition, it was not allowed in the
trial itself. IBM has claimed that the company data were provided in
confidence and cannot be made public. The company has also contended that
the data that Mr. Clapp used were not appropriate for his analysis.
Peer reviewers have disagreed three times. Mr. Clapp has twice submitted
papers based on the analysis to other journals. He withdrew the first
submission, to Medical Clinics of North America, after receiving a stern
legal warning from lawyers for IBM.
The second submission successfully passed through peer review at Clinics in
Occupational and Environmental Medicine but was rejected by the company
that publishes that journal. The publisher, Elsevier, said at the time that
the journal published only reviews and that Mr. Clapp's paper contained
original, previously unpublished results. A guest editor and other authors
whose work was scheduled to appear in the same issue as Mr. Clapp's
boycotted the journal by withdrawing their papers in protest.
In order to establish the right to publish the paper, "we had to go to
court," Mr. Clapp said in an interview on Thursday. A lawyer for the
plaintiffs in the original litigation sought clearance from a state court
in Westchester County, N.Y., for the report to be published. In March, the
judge issued a ruling that finally allowed Mr. Clapp to publish his findings.
"I was free and clear and wouldn't be in contempt of court if I did," he said.
The online journal that made Mr. Clapp's paper available is published by
BioMed Central, which has more than 150 peer-reviewed open-access journals.
In his report, Mr. Clapp concluded that men and women involved in
manufacturing at the company died of cancer more frequently than people in
the general population, although he was unable to draw any conclusions
about what chemicals might be responsible.
Mr. Clapp is pleased to have the results finally made public, saying he
hopes the information will help to protect future workers from harmful
exposure. "It finally saw the light of day."