A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |     Dates

WARNING: This site deals only with the corporate corruption of science, and makes no inference about the motives or activities of individuals involved.
    There are many reasons why individuals become embroiled in corporate corruption activities - from political zealotry to over-enthusiastic activism; from gullibility to greed.
    Please read the OVERVIEW carefully, and make up your own mind.



Ventilation Scam Overview
ACVA (1987—1989)
Healthy Building Intern'l
HBI Australia
HBI magazine
John (Gray) Robertson
Peter Binnie
Simon Turner
Joe Robertson
Jeff Seckler
Reg Simmons
Richard Silberman
Tobacco Institute (US)
Alfred H Lowrey
sick building syndrome




[Temporary: while site is under construction]  

ACVA (1981—1986)    

(Air Conditioning & Ventilation Associates — Atlantic/Pacific)

This was the most active and prominent of the 'ventilation' companies that conspired with the tobacco industry to undertake fake indoor air quality testing of offices, homes and factories to 'prove' to owners, occupiers and legislators that workplace smoking was not a health hazard. ACVA later became Healthy Buildings International (HBI).

ACVA (1987 — 1989) (Next)
HBI 1989 — to present

Part 1 of 3

ACVA Atlantic was the original English air-quality testing company jointly owned by (John) 'Gray' Robertson and Peter Binnie . In 1981 Gray Robertson decided to try his hand in America while Binnie remained in the UK. By 1985 the American branch had come to a long-term arrangement with the US Tobacco Institute, and shortly after they acquired a secret partner, Simon Turner.

Simon was the son of British American Tobacco (BAT) executive AD Clive Turner who was both a public relations executive for British-American Tobacco (BAT) and the chief operator for the UK's Tobacco Advisory Committee (TAC) . Later Clive Turner also ran the Hong Kong and Asian Tobacco Institute out of Hong Kong so he was at the center of many science corruption and disinformation activites, and this made his son a valuable asset to ACVA.

Most of ACVA's most important Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing work was done in the USA, but with funding from the Tobacco Institute and Philip Morris they took their business globally. In March 1987 Gray Robertson decided to open an Australian/Asian branch based in Sydney which they called ACVA Pacific. It was run by Gray's brother Joe Robertson.

AH Lowery
ACVA Atlantic provided a number of services to the tobacco industry:
  • IAQ-testing projects were done for the Tobacco Institute, US tobacco companies and BAT. In the USA, most control was exerted by the Tobacco Institute, but elsewhere it was often privately commissioned by one or more of the cigarette companies (often sharing costs). Philip Morris also paid for some operations through the supposedly-independent Council on Indoor Air Research (CIAR).
  • Gray Robertson, Peter Binnie, and key staff members were also hired by the tobacco industry to undertake media tours, spouting the standard Tobacco Institute line that smoking wasn't a problem in buildings which were adequately ventilated. These press conference/tours were organised by the PR company Fleisman-Hellard (in the USA) who contracted to the Tobacco Institute.
  • Robertson, Binnie and key staff members were also paid to appear as witnesses for the cigarette companies at Congressional hearings, court cases, local and regional smoking-ordinance hearings, etc.
  • Gray Robertson was promoted by the tobacco industry's PR companies as a world expert on indoor-air-quality, and paid to lecture on the subject at various scientific conferences. The extent of his company's involvement with the industry was never revealed. Robertson and his staff also wrote articles and studies for scientific magazines.

Healthy Buildings International (HBI)

Eventually in late 1989, Gray Robertson, who controlled the company, renamed it Healthy Buildings International best known as HBI. [The new name appeared to have been used in the USA before it appeared in the UK and Europe, so for some time both names may have been in use.] ACVA/HBI also franchaised its operation, so other companies occasionally operated under this banner also. HBI Canada , for instance, was run by Howard Goodfellow , who also ran Goodfellow Consultants Inc.

The core business of these companies and their subsidiaries lay in servicing the tobacco industry rather than the clients who's buildings they tested. Their job was to discount the role that tobacco smoke played in indoor air pollution, exaggerate the risk of fungal and bacterial contamination, and promote the idea that increased ventilation rates (and therefore increased cost of heating and cooling) was the solution to building air problems.

AH Lowery
Within the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning) world the hot dispute was between those individuals and companies who promoted "source control" [ridding the atmosphere of smoke and harmful chemicals in carpets, wallboard, paints, photocopy machines] and those promoting the idea of "exchange-rate control" [increasing the rate of expulsion and input of fresh air].

Almost identical problems were experienced with commercial aircraft, and the same argument about source-vs-exchange solutions existed there. Gray Robertson was trained by the tobacco industry to become an "expert" in air-craft air systems, and to speak on the subject around the world. He never suggested banning cigarettes as a solution.

From its inception, ACVA/HBI's projects were often funded, promoted, and partially controlled by the Tobacco Institute, Philip Morris and the other cigarette companies. These companies also funded development and controlled the design and standardisation of the equipment and the laboratory techniques used for indoor air testing.

Special equipment needed to be developed to test for carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, smoke particulates, and the nicotine remnant called cotanine. Nicotine breaks down quickly in air — which is why nicotine measurements are notoriously inaccurate and misleading. Particulate measurment was also fickle and highly dependent on the calibration of the machines. In most cases tobacco company laboratories performed this calibration, and also did the actual analysis resulting in the recorded measurements.

The tobacco industry:

  • promoted the principals of the company as 'IAQ experts' at public health and indoor-air-quality conferences;
  • paid for them to write letters-to-the-editor and op-ed articles for magazines and newspapers;
  • used them as witnesses in legislative and other inquiries;
  • touted them to the media as authorities on sick-building-syndrome;
  • funded their 'tours' and placed them on radio and television current affairs programs; and
  • paid for advertising and printed pamphlets to promote their business.

Eventually a whistleblower named Jeff Seckler appeared, and subsequently a US Congressional Subcommittee on Health and the Environment looked into HBI's activities and concluded that many of the figures they were using had been faked or misrecorded. Supporting testimony was given at this inquiry by another ex-HBI employee Reg Simmons. The Subcommittee also commissioned the US Navy expert on air-quality, Alfred H Lowrey, to look at some of HBI's data to determine whether figures had been concocted or manipulated. He confirmed that this was undoubtedly the case.

The Ventilation Industry Grows

HBI wasn't the only 'ventilation company' or 'indoor air-testing company' (also called 'HVACs' for Heating, Ventilation and Air Condition) being paid by the tobacco industry to do their dirty work, but it was clearly the most active, prosperous and enthusiastic, and it acted on a global scale.

After a few years watching ACVA expand and become rich, a number of other American 'ventilation' and IAQ-testing companies woke up to the advantages of copying the AVCA/HBI paradigm and made similar agreements with the Tobacco Institute.

In Europe, similar operators worked with the UK Tobacco Advisory Council, and others moved into Scandinavia, the Middle East and Asia. These firms were partly HBI's competitors, but they also collaborated in a gigantic scam organised through the Tobacco Institute and TAC. Since all of these companies preached a similar message, in unison they became a powerful influence over legislation. See Ventilation Company List.

HBI, however, stood out as the industry leader. It was the only one to produce a monthly mail-delivered glossy magazine, the HBI magazine which went out globally to office owners and managers preaching the message of the tobacco industry. This publication was funded and controlled by Philip Morris.

Legislative Influence

The tobacco industry used the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) reports generated by these supposedly 'independent ventilation companies' as evidence that indoor air quality wasn't substantially degraded by tobacco smoke pollution. They maintained that the problems of asthmatic-breathing, constant tearing, general neusea and illness, and regular afternoon headaches — all experienced by workers in air-conditioned offices — came about mainly because of bad design and inadequate maintenance of the air-exchange rates and ducting systems. Smoke in the air, they insisted, was just a sign that the exchange rates were too low.

AH Lowery
This is, of course, both axiomatic and misleading. Robertson and his cohorts consistently claim that poor-quality office air problems were produced by a range of defects:
  • inadequated exchange of air (office managers try to keep the escape of air to a minimum to save on heating and cooling bills)
  • VOC's (volatile organic compounds) being released from synthetic carpets, photocopy machines, acrylic paint, and other office chemicals
  • imported street pollution (some building air intakes are on the ground floor)
  • fungal growth in air-conditioning ducts (ducting tends to get moist)
  • bacterial contamination in air-conditioning ducts and water systems (hinting at Legionella)

Every one of these claims has an element of truth, but each lacks any sense of proportion when compared to smoke levels in the average office building. In the 1980s, 60% of workers in most offices were smoking more than a packet of cigarettes a day.

ACVA/HBI and their associates (together with the PR companies hired by the tobacco industry) were also the main global promoter of the concept that sick building syndrome (SBS) SBS became a popular a euphemism in the 1990s, and the term was deliberately intended to suggest that the fatal Legionairre's Disease was also a substantial risk factor, since it also was caused by inadequate maintenance of air-conditioning systems. In promoting this scare-story, they naturally had the support of air-conditioning manufacturers and maintenance companies who were also leading a crusade for better and more profitable maintenance standards.

They also had the support of a large section of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) which set American standards, which were used by most countries as global standards. In addition to HBI/ACVA executives (Robertson and Turner) who were on various ASHRAE committees, the tobacco industry also had some staffers with influence, and also secretly paid consultant scientists (eg. Elia Sterling) and staffers from other ventilation companies on these committees.

They never actually controlled ASHREAE's ventilation standards, but they were highly influential and managed to avoid any formal statements from ASHRAE that tobacco smoke was the major problem.

See these related documents

ACVA (1987—1989)
HBI 1989—on

Some key documents

1976 An illness caused by a bacterium later known as Legionella pneumophilia struck 182 people attending an American Legion convention in an air-conditioned hotel in Philadelphia. Twenty nine people died immediately from pneumonia-type symptoms, with another 5 subsequent fatalities. The disease was later identified as a variation on another disease named Pontiac Fever.

    This was the original scare-story which was later exploited by the chemical industry (which had a formaldehyde problem) and the tobacco industry (with passive smoking problems) as "sick building syndrome."

History of company

    Extract from a 1985 speech by Gray Robertson: ACVA Atlantic Inc. was incorporated in 1981 to market the technology that the founders of ACVA helped develop whilst working with Winton Laboratories in England. The co-founders of ACVA, i.e. myself and Mr.Peter Binnie were respectively the lnternational Technical Sales Director and the Technical Director of Winton. [Note: in conflict with Robertson's C/V]

    Whilst at Winton, Peter Binnie and I were specifically involved in the study of internal pollution problems throughout industry such as asbestos, heavy metals etc., in dealing with cross infection problems in hospitals and operating rooms, in identifying bacterial and fungal problems in libraries, museums, schools, medical laboratories and general offices. We developed the reputation as international trouble-shooters and have been called in to investigate numerous sick buildings throughout Europe, Scandinavia and Asia and in particular in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

    We attributed the key reason for our success to the fact that we recognized the need to harness the diverse talents of Air Condtioning Engineers, Microbiologists and Chemists, three different disciplines unused to working together.

1981: According to Gray Robertson this is the year they incorporated as ACVA Atlantic in the USA. Peter Binnie's CV says he was Technical Director of Winton Labs in London from 1977 until 1980.

However note that Binnie remained in the UK until 1985-86 running "an affiliated organization". See below.

    Letter from Donald K Hoel at Shook Hardy & Bacon to Bryan Simpson of INFOTAB [dated Aug 5 1985]
During the INFOTAB Board of Directors meeting in Marlow on July 18 and later that day at the dinner meeting with the TAC scientists, I mentioned the preliminary project that the ETS Advisory Group had underway with ACVA Atlantic, Inc. I had mentioned that an affiliate organization was located in the UK and promised to find out more information concerning this.

    Mr Robertson advised that the person to contact would be Mr Peter Binnie, 11 Moores Green, Wokingham, Berkshire, phone [0734-787071.]

    Bryan, I think it might be worthwhile if one of the scientists on the TAC group contact Mr. Binnie to explore the possibilities of some ETS project similar to that which is begining, in pilot stage, in the US. Some of the data and information that this organization may already have in hand might also be of benefit.

Sick Building Syndrome is invented

1981: Also in this year Theodor Sterling (not connected with ACVA) recommended that the tobacco industry utilise the Legionella scare by promoting the idea of the Sick Building Syndrome . This was the foundation of the ACVA/HBI business.

1981: A later (undated) Press Release says

"Robertson estimates that as many as half of the office buildings, hospitals, government buildings and other major structures in the US may be suffering from this problem, which he terms "Sick Building Syndrome." Trained in bacteriology and chemistry in his native England, Robertson is co-founder and president of a Virginia firm called ACVA Atlantic Inc.

    Established in 1981 as the first company of its kind in the U.S., ACVA specializes in inspecting, diagnosing and cleaning up "sick" air-handling systems in major buildings.

    "We already know that dirty air conditioning is a significant health hazard," says Robertson, who manages ACVA with his partner, microbiologist/zoologist Peter Binnie. "The first fatal epidemic of Legionnaires' Disease was traced to bacteria growing in a dirty air-conditioning system.

Smoke and Computers

1982 July 17: A report on the new Bergen (Dutch) Philip Morris factory — the world's largest and most modern — says that "Smoking in Philip Morris factory is forbidden." because there are "Computers on Duty!"

Congress Subcommittee

1985: From the 1994 Dec 10 Staff Majority Report of the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. [439 Pages]

Healthy Buildings International began its relationship with the tobacco industry in 1985. At that time, the company was a small and obscure indoor air firm. In addition to the president and vice president, it had only two technical employees and operated under the name ACVA Atlantic.

    Over the next nine years, however HBI grew to be an international presence in the indoor air field. This was due in large measure to the patronage of the tobacco industry.

1985 March 13,: The Tobacco Institute's Committee of Counsel meeting report lists work being done by friendly scientists and contracted lobbyists. AVCA/HBI is being investigated by Tom Osdene of Philip Morris USA.

ACVA is a commercial organization that monitors air conditioning systems for commercial buildings, hospitals, etc. They have never recommended prohibiting smoking. Dr Osdene is meeting with them later this month. It is possible that this organization can be of great help."

[This turned out to be the understatement of all time. The marriage between the tobacco industry and ACVA and its later incarnation HBI lasted for 30 years.]

1985 Mar 19: Notes of a meeting held between ACVA and the tobacco industry representatives. Those at the meeting were

  • Gray Robertson of ACVA
  • Peter Binnie of ACVA
  • Bill Klopfer - public relations head at the Tobacco Institute
  • Marvin Kastenbaum - director of statistics at the Tobacco Institute
  • TSO (Tom Osdene) - Science & Technology Director for Philip Morris
  • John Rupp, the key tobacco lawyer of the law firm Covington & Burling
ACVA is to "assemble its experiences/findings" on the cause of discomfort with indoor air." under a preliminary contract with the Tobacco Institute. [Note: The ACVA is meeting with PR people and lawyers, not with the tobacco industry's indoor air quality scientists.]

1985 Mar 20/E: Indoor Air Quality - Alternative Strategy
    This is either a Bill Klopfer's or Tom Osdene's report after the meeting with ACVA, and it probably signals the beginning of the serious relationship between ACVA/HBI and the tobacco industry.

New Focus:

The central argument ACVA Atlantic Inc. (a firm specializing on indoor air quality) makes is that indoor smoke is merely a symptom of a larger problem; inadequate ventilation. Inadequate ventilation causes several serious problems including fungus and bacterial contamination.

    These pollutants often cause illness and discomfort, which are then blamed on cigarette smoke — a more visible and socially acceptable object of attack. Although banning or restricting smoking may provide some psychological relief, it fails to address the basic cause of indoor pollution nor resolve the physiological impact of non-smoke pollutants.

    We should refocus our efforts against smoking restriction legislation and regulation to a general promotion of comprehensive indoor air quality review and improvement. This is analogous to our efforts on the "self-extinguishing" cigarette — to focus on overall fire prevention and isolate its supporters as anti-smoking.


  1. Mobilize all scientific studies of indoor air quality (e.g., radon, wood stoves, gas stoves, formaldehyde, asbestos, etc.) into a general indictment of the air we breathe indoors. Use a scientific front — especially some liberal Nader group.
  2. Use this material to fuel PR offensive on poor indoor air quality.
  3. Create a model indoor air quality bill [with] focus on ventilation, filters, inspections, etc. Smoking would not be dealt with directly.
  4. Make presentations to all trade associations on the real indoor air quality issue.
  5. Organize firms like ACVA into a traveling road-show to hawke their wares to government and businesses much like the antis sell their advice to business and government on smoking policies.
To execute this program would require money, staff time and a first-rate PR firm.
      They have been fed what they wanted to hear, that indoor air quality improvements can be promoted without reference to cigarette smoking — and they plan accordingly.

1985 July 17: Gray Robertson's presentation at the Institute of Professional Energy Managers, says that since 1981 ACVA had worked for the US Government in such areas as the Department of Health and Human Services, Customs and Excise, Coastguard, Federal Reserve Bank, Architect of the Capital, etc.

It also came as a surprise to us when we analysed our data and found:
  • Tobacco smoke was only implicated in approx 5% of the buildings studied.
  • Organic vapors and gases including formaldehyde and radon gas contamination also occurred in less than 5% of the buildings studied.

        Generally, if we found a high concentration of tobacco smoke and/or high levels of gases and vapors, these were normally the result of poor or in some case of virtually negligible ventilation.
He implicated dirt in the ventilation system as being the primary cause of problems and got down to selling his company's services:
The answer is ACVA, the unique Air Conditioning and Ventilation Access System. The ACVA system is effective, simple and economicai. It is based on the ACVA Point.[Inspection access port]

    The ACVA Point provides the vital access which enables Inspection, Monitoring, and if necessary, Cleaning and Sanitization of the entire air conditioning system.

    The ACVA Points are placed at strategic locations along the ductwork. The Points can be fitted through false ceilings or walls directly into the ductwork. There is also an ACVA Point which is designed specifically for flexible ducts.

    A continuous, low cost, monitoring service is now available based on the use of our unique ACVA SAMPLAIRES. A small number of these specially designed monitors are fitted to ACVA points in each building.

    Once installed a small quantity of the air passing through that section of ductwork is bled off and passed through a filter capsule. Any contaminants, dusts, fibres, microbial spores etc are trapped inside the filter cassette. At a pre-arranged frequency, usually quarterly or every six months, our technicians visit the site and replace the filter cassettes with new ones.

    These samples and the filter cassettes are returned to the laboratory for examination, cultivation, analysis and evaluation. A comprehensive report is then prepared describing the tests made, the results obtained and our conclusions and recommendations.

1985 Aug 7: Gray Robertson send along his quote to conduct the pilot house surveys to the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) at the request of Kornegay at the Tobacco Institute. He will charge $300 per home — a total of $13,300 for 36 homes in the proposed project. Travel and accomodation adds $1000 for each of three regions. He comments:

For your information, most if not all of this expense could be offset by the sale of the Comprehensive Inspection report to each Home Owner.

1985 Aug 10: /E Notes of a CTR executive meeting. (Handnote by B&W)

3. Home Ventillation Evaluation, ACVA
    Contract is on way to CTR. This is a pilot study. Twelve homes in three areas will be surveyed by ACVA. TI will arrange home selection.

    The survey is of total air quality measurements — includes: bacterial, fungi, CO and CO2, air asbestos, formaldehyde, radon if a basement, airborne respirable particles.

    The group/committee asked that outside measurements of CO, when indoor CO taken. Temperature and relative humidity measurements will be made. The group suggested that mobile homes not be included in the pilot study

[Why is this a 'pilot' study? What is being 'piloted' other than the PR potential?]

1985 Aug 13: He is now being contracted by the Tobacco Institute to appear at regional ordinance hearings. This is a statement made by Gray Robertson of ACVA Atlantic to the Board of Health, Nassau County, NY.

ACVA Atlantic was incorporated in 1981 to market in the United States the technology that we developed while working in England with Winton Laboratories Company.

    [At Winton] we identified bacterial and fungal problems in Libraries, Museums, Schools, Medical Laboratories, Offices and Government Buildings. We developed a reputation as international trouble-shooters and have been called in to investigate numerous "sick buildings" throughout Europe, Scandinavia, and parts of Asia including Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

    Our investigations of large buildings include any form of internal pollution of the air. This includes Carbon Dioxide and Monoxide, Organic vapors, Formaldehyde, Asbestos, Fiberglass, Radon Gas, Airborne Particulate Matter, Tobacco Smoke, Allergenic Dusts, Bacteria and Fungi. This experience embraces more than 115 major buildings representing well over 22 Million square feet of space.

    In addition to the private sector, we have done considerable work for State and Federal Government Agencies. This includes work for the Department of Health and Human Services Building, Coastguard Building, Customs Building, Supreme Court and Longworth House for the Architect of the Capitol, Federal Reserve Bank, Carroll County Environmental Health Department, Philadelphia Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, Portsmouth Naval Hospital etc. etc.
He then claims that only 4 percent of buildings had a tobacco smoke problem (none to dangerous levels), while 74% suffered from fungal contamination (27% at a level dangerous to health), and 70% with bacterial contamination (25% at a level dangerous to health).
On repeated occasions we have isolated allergenic microbes in these systems producing headaches, sore eyes, coughs, rhinitis, hypersensitive pneumonitis etc.

    Usually we have totally eliminated these complaints or drastically reduced them by eliminating the microbes concerned. In virtually every single case so far the focus of the suffering employees prior to our involvement had been on inadequate ventilation, stuffiness, tobacco smoke, outside air fumes induced into the building etc. etc., the real problem was rarely considered.

    Undeniably, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, tobacco smoke and formaldehyde, if allowed to concentrate in the environment, cause staff complaints. However, in our experience the presence of these contaminants is an effect rather than the cause of the problem.

    It is an interesting observation that we have never found tobacco smoke to be the sole problem, rather its presence in any quantities in the inside air is usually an indicator of other problems.

1985 Sep 4: A letter to Pete Sparber [Issues Manager at the Tobacco Institute] from Bill Sklar and Paul Johnson [A-K Associates — the TI's PR firm in Sacremento & Washington DC] following a meeting where the services of ACVA were promoted. They want to invite ACVA to work in their area.

  This is to offer follow-up ideas on our meeting of last week concerning the possibility of having ACVA offer indoor air pollution diagnostic service on a showcase basis in several dozen communities nationwide.

    We discussed the concept of finding a third (fourth?) party to accept TI funds, pass them through to ACVA and announce the availability of ACVA's free or subsidized sample survey to local governments nationally. We said that communities under 50,000 population (the National Asso. of Towns and Townships membership) would be too small, considering our goals (too little bang for the buck).

    Our targets are probably local elected officials in mid-sized communities who are or are likely in the near future to be considering public smoking restrictions.
  • ACVA itself ... Raises the questions, "Where did the money come from?" and "Isn't your survey therefore biased?"
  • Corporation... A company with a vested interest in construction, retrofitting, or indoor air filtration or testing might be a good prospect for being the intermediary party (or TI partner). The downside is that fingers will be pointed at them for "trying to make an issue where none exists" — i.e., trying to create a market for their equipment. But ACVA's scientific evidence of contamination, infestation, etc., would still carry a lot of impact.
  • An independent publication — ie, a magazine or journal, either for profit or not, that is not affiliated with any of the above categories but which is read and respected by our primary target audience (elected local government officials).

        Such an independent organ would have no bias regarding smoking; it would have instant recognition among the municipal officials we are trying to reach; it already exists as a regular news outlet for our target group; it would welcome the opportunity to offer groundbreaking survey news to its readers; and because it has a narrow audience, the major national media would have no problems pubiicizing the results as hard news.
    [A handwritten marginal note suggests "Legislation Policy" as the magazine — which was a lobby-tool run by Paul Dietrich of the National Center for Legislative Review (NCLR), then used by the Tobacco Institute]

1985 Sep 20: Susan Stuntz , Vice President in charge of Issues Management at the Tobacco Institute has been getting information on the development of new ASHRAE ventilation standard [virtually global IAQ standards] and the BOCA codes [building operator codes] and thinks they may be useful to Gray Robertson.

1985 Dec 4: John Rupp, the tobacco lawyer from Covington & Burling, advises Bill Kloepfer as to the current membership of the Indoor Air Pollution Advisory Group (IAPAG) , created by the lawyers at the Center for Health and Human Toxicology (CEHHT) in the Medical School of Georgetown University. These are the original "Whitecoats" (although the term wasn't used for them).

    The group, until now, exclusively university academics, has been operating for a few years providing witness services for the tobacco industry around the world. It grew out of a group run by Myron Weinberg (Wienberg Consulting Group) and it operates a large scientific database for the tobacco industry using the University's mainframe computers.

Gray Robertson has been admitted to the IAPAG ranks. It is a very exclusive club of smoker-deniers.

1985 Dec 13.: Gray Robertson at ACVA bills the Tobacco Institute "$1182.84" for attending Covington & Burling's IPAG meeting at Georgetown University on December 5 and for a followup meeting the following day. He charges out at the "agreed rate of $750 per day".

    He has come under the supervisory control of Susan Stuntz, VP in charge of Issues Management at the TI.

    He is also charging the Tobacco Institute "$1136.50" for attending another meeting with Howard Rubenstein [Who has been running a plan of action to counter the New York public smoking restriction], and a fourth meeting of Tobacco Companies Executives at the Intercontinental Hotel on December 12th. [He has now made the big-time!]

Agenda of the Followup meeting

1985 Dec 19: The Tobacco Institute is paying ACVA "$2319" for two different invoices issued on the 13th. [Note: the ACVA's Vendor Number is #011730 (which can be used as a search term in the tobacco archives.]

1986/E: The Tobacco Institute's list of research projects on ETS (under the control if its ETS Advisory Group) includes a number of air-testing projects:

  • IITRI [Illinois Inst. of Tech] [Demetrios] Moschandress and David Sterling [son of Theodore Sterling] designing Questionnaire for ETS exposure.
  • [Theodore] Sterling doing Critical Evaluation of ETS Health Risk Models.
  • Guy Oldaker doing Aircraft IAQ with PASS. [RJR project on measuring smoke levels in aircraft]
  • Gray Robertson of ACVA evaluation of Home systems (they did Florida and Boston - Home microbiological studies)
  • ACVA also conducting some urgent IAQ testing in New York restaurants to defeat NY Council ordinance requiring non-smoking areas.
  • Nicotine Monitor evaluation by Guerin & Jenkins at Oak Ridge [Nat Labs]
  • ETS and Asthmatic response study at Tulane University (Salvaggio, Lehrer Stankus)
  • [the use of] Particulates as a marker for ETS — [Sal] DiNardi
  • Case Control studies evaluation, by E Lee Husting at the Uni of South Florida
  • Chemical Analysis for Briefcase sampler. Carol Erikson [IT Corp Tennessee]

See both

1986 March 4: - 7 [Probably presented at the Philip Morris Corporate Affairs Conference]. A Philip Morris executive (Probably Bill Murray) has formulated a Corporate Position Paper which carries elements of the ACVA/HBI approach. It says:

We support scientific inquiries into air quality which examine all elements of quality: ventilation standards, bacteria, fungi, proper maintenance, etc. Our position is that tobacco smoke is only a symptom of an indoor air problem — a warning signal that something else is awry.

    We oppose studies, committees, or legislation that use air quality as a front for attacking smoking. Restricting smoking is never an acceptable solution to an indoor air quality problem. This position applies to workplaces, restaurants, airplanes, public transportation, and other facilities open to the public.

1986 Apr 11: This is an internal memo from the Public Relations (Kloepfer) section of the Tobacco Institute to the President (Chilcote) about on-going activities. He says:

ACVA Home Air Analysis: Covington & Burling law firm (C&B) advising Robertson of changes in procedure suggested by ETSAG; reminded John Rupp of this 3/24; he put Michaelson on the task 4/4.
    [Translation: The TI is paying ACVA to do air testing of a number of homes in an attempt to measure the presence of other dangerous chemicals/gases (VOCs and radon). These figures could be used to confound the research into the passive-smoking problem.

        Lawyer John Rupp of the Tobacco Institute's law firm Covington & Burling has advised Gray Robertson to make changes to the testing procedure as suggested by the ETS Advisory Group (mainly lawyers).

        Wm Kloepfer (Tobacco Institute PR head) reminded John Rupp (of C&B) about this suggestion on 24 March. So, 4 April, Rupp put his associate Michael Michaelson on the job.

    Note: "Dr" Michaelson (a lawyer) was also the supposed 'coordinator' of the later study on air-quality in New York restaurants later this year.]

1986 May 6: The April - Monthly Status Report from Ogilvy & Mather to Susan stuntz at the Tobacco Institute. They are working on:

  • Labor Management Conference at Loew's L'Enfant Plaza Hotel (owned by Lorillard)
  • Preparing 'Smoking in the Workplace Kit"
  • Locating a suitable building in San Francisco tor "Indoor Air Quality Assessment" [later done by ACVA/HBI and used as evidence that anti-smoking measures aren't needed]

1986 Sep: to December: ACVA staff, the lawyers from Covington & Burling, Philip Morris, and RJ Reynolds are working with a Portable Air Sampling System (PASS) on the testing of offices and restaurants in New York City.

July 1, 1986 the Mayor's Committee on Smoking and Health recommended that smoking be restricted in certain indoor public environments within New York City. Subsequently, a bill was proposed to the City Council to the same effect.

    The committee's recommendations, however, lacked measurements conducted within the environments that could be affected by the bill. In recognition of this deficiency, the Tobacco Institute initiated a project to make such measurements in order to provide the basis for a reasoned response against the proposed bill.
Lawyer "Dr" Michael Michaelson of C&B was the 'coordinator' of the study of New York restaurants and he was using John Carlyle, John Madaris and Reg Simmons of ACVA to do the actual sampling work. This was the first trial of the PASS equipment.]

1986 Oct: Gray Robertson was promoting Sick Building Syndrome in an early piece by columnist Paul Lander (and note the Seminar being advertised below)

1986 Oct 31: Fleischman-Hillard PR is proposing to the Tobacco Institute that they should draft a letter for Gray Robertson to send to TV anchor, David Horowitz ("Fight Back") who had asserted that "tobacco smoke is a major source of indoor air pollution." They want to use this opportunity.

How about a letter to Fight Back! from Gray Robertson, praising the program for raising the issue but clarifying the ranking of the various pollutants. On your approval, I will draft such a letter to submit for Gray's signature.

1986 Dec: /E Gray Robertson was promoting Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) in an (undated) early piece by columnist Paul Lander. This story manages to introduce two forms of exotic health scare:

  • the first was the suggestion that SBS might cause miscarriages:
  • the second that colds and flu are somehow related to air-conditioning systems rather than viruses.
Robertson said sick buildings make "a colossal contribution to worker absenteeis, 50% of which involves upper respiratory problems. This effects the economy as well as productivity.
[Note: a labor union seminar is being advertised directly below this article.]

1986 Dec: /E Budget papers for the year show that ACVA Atlantic was generating $57,235 in revenues from the Tobacco Institute (quite apart from its Philip Morris and other work).

See these documents
ACVA (1987 — 1989) (Next)
HBI 1989 — to present
HBI magazine
HBI Australia/ACVA Pacific
J Graham (Gray) Robertson
Jeff Seckler (whistleblower)
sick building syndrome (SBS)
Ventilation Scam Overview

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License