>PMJ talks to ALA re RFG

From joseph@oasis.rad.upenn.edu Sun Sep  8 15:13 PDT 1996
Date: Sun, 8 Sep 1996 18:16:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: Peter Joseph 
To: oxybusters <76422.2633@compuserve.com>
Subject: PMJ talks to ALA re RFG (fwd)
On Saturday, September 7, I gave a 20 minute talk to the Pennsylvania 
Chapter of the American Lung Association entitled "Can RFG create an 
asthma epidemic?".  In it I outlined my reasons for believing this is 
true.  Except for my personal symptoms, I de-emphasized the anecdotal 
data and emphaszed various recent statistical data, incluing increases in 
asthma and other diseases in Philadelphia.  I made it clear that I was 
directly opposed to the major policy of the ALA in supporting the use of 
RFG.  The ALA believes in this because they think RFG lowers ozone and 
has no adverse health effects.  I showed them my data from Philadelphia 
indicating no reduction in ozone during the summer of 1995 when RFG was 
first used.  I also briefly discussed the ALA's own data on 
hospitalization for asthma and other respiratory diseases.  This data 
shows that in all 13 cities studied the LEAST amount of hospital 
admissions occurred during mid summer when ozone concentrations are at 
their HIHGEST.  I showed by statistical analysis that the increase in 
admissions in winter months is positively correlated with MTBE usage and 
not with cold temperatures.
I had expected that my presentation would be seen as extremely 
provocative and that I would be challenged into heated debated.  Exactly 
the opposite happened.  There were no questions at all, and a few 
attendees expressed great interest in my ideas in private discussions.
During coffee break, I was approached by two pulmonologists from New 
Jersey.  (The New Jersey branch of the ALA was also a sponser.)  One 
doctor congratulated me several times for my "courage" in presenting this 
data.  If he has reason to believe that I am in some danger for 
presenting this data, he did not explain it.  He expressed the opinion 
that neurological sensitivity to chemicals is important in various types of 
respiratory disorders, a point on which we agreed.  The second 
pulmonologist told me rather sheepishly that he had seen a patient who 
had driven gasoline trucks with MTBE-RFG and felt he had developed 
respiratory disease from it.  He told me that he (the doctor) had tried 
to learn about this problem by calling someone at Mobil Oil company, 
only to be told that MTBE was safe and could not cause the problem.  When 
he told that to his patient, the man never came back.  The doctor's attitude 
seemed to be that he had learned something valuable from me.  I advised 
him to contact the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at 
Rutgers University for more unbiased information.  I have 
previously heard of many many cases of people who had unsatisfactory 
treatment from their doctors who doubted that their problem could be 
related to MTBE.  This was the first time that I heard about this sort of 
interaction from the physician's perspective. 
Evidently, there were no policy making ALA people at the meeting, or if 
there were, they chose to remain silent.
Peter M. Joseph, Ph.D.
Professor of Radiologic Physics in Radiology
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA, 19104
Telephone 215-662-6679
email joseph@rad.upenn.edu