Moolgavkar: No Increased Risk
Thursday afternoon continued following afternoon recess with David Bernick continuing his examination of Dr. Suresh H. Moolgavkar, an epidemiologist and bio-statistician from Bellevue, Washington.
Dr. Moolgavkar testified that EPA estimates overestimate the risk of lung cancer associated with exposure to Libby asbestos and that any accurate risk assessment should have been based on Libby-specific data. Moolgavkar testified that, “In referring to cancer, the Libby samples are less potent or less toxic than those used in the EPA estimates. For mesothelioma, there is no data indicating an increased risk for exposure greater than 15 fibers per milli-year.”
Direct examination of Dr. Moolgavkar then moved to the findings of the ATSDR Mortality Study, which focused on community exposures, which were at a much lower dose than occupational exposures. The study compared mortality rates in Lincoln County with background rates for the state of Montana and the United States. Moolgavkar testified that, looking only at cancer rates, the difference between Lincoln County and background rates was statistically insignificant. Similarly, he testified to statistically insignificant rates for mesothelioma, COPD and asbestosis. He stated, “There is no observed risk increase from environmental exposure.”
Dr. Moolgavkar went on to impeach some of James Lockey’s prior testimony, stating that it is probable that Lockey underestimated exposure levels before 1973. Moolgavkar also testified that Lockey overestimated the asbestos potency in Libby.
At 4:13 prosecutor Kris McLean began his cross-examination. Moolgavkar was consistently resistant to McLean’s lines of questioning. At on point, McLean asked Dr. Moolgavkar, “There are many exposure pathways, other than being a miner. Is that part of your determination?” To which Moolgavkar responded, “That is not what I said, for the second time.”
On cross, Moolgavkar testified that if you have an epidemiological study, it trumps any other kind of evidence.
Moolgavkar was particularly resistant to one of McLean’s questions. When asked if one needs dose information to determine the cause of an asbestos related disease, Moolgavkar responded, “Are you prejudging the cause? If you’re prejudging the cause then the question is circular. If you prejudge that a disease is caused by asbestos, then the diseased is caused by asbestos. I cannot answer the question.”
Mclean did manage to impeach Dr. Moolgavkar, over objection by Bernick, eliciting that W.R. Grace paid him for his research and that he had worked for the company in prior litigation. McLean also used his cross-examination to request expert preparation materials that apparently hadn’t been produced to the prosecution. Judge Molloy directed Moolgavkar to provided all the requested data.
– Bert Certain 12:00 pm