BIO-PROTECTION AND CORRUPTION:
A DEADLY COALITION
Douglas R. Haney - Bio-health environmental research psychologist
Copyright © April 2008
Throughout the “Industrial Revolution” American workers were the pride and joy of ingenuity and productivity worldwide. American workers were considered indispensable “Movers and Shakers” and “Primary Assets” of the industrialized world. Today, “As the World Turns,” into a “World Economy System,” American workers are exploited and maligned through what it seems is a collaboration of unscrupulous employers, government agencies, elected officials, insurance corporations, healthcare management organizations, pharmaceutical corporations, and specifically in California, an unconstitutionally sanctioned Workers’ Compensation System.
The California State Constitution mandating California’s “compulsory” workers’ compensation system established in 1913 legislated as the Boynton Act, and reenacted in 1917 as the California Workers’ Compensation and Safety Act, referred to as the “compensation bargain” regulates that, “employers assume all liability for work-place injuries or deaths, without regard to fault, and the employee receives relatively quick payment of benefits. Employees give up the ability to pursue other remedies through the civil tort system and employers are protected from unlimited liability for injuries and deaths of their employees.”
It is abundantly obvious to even the novice reviewer of Mr. Bell’s Workers’ Compensation case that from the beginning adherence to California law was completely vacated by what essentially ended as a pathetic cascade of improper litigation and injustice, sloppy investigation activity, gregarious civil rights denial, and total disregard for provisions and spirit of the Boynton Act. The reason that Mr. Bell’s case is so important is that it offers a “textbook” view of a catastrophic process that California workers who are unfortunate enough to experience, are presently going through. For Mr. Bell, it was total violation of due process, with serious lasting unhealthy consequences.
My work is primarily dedicated to environmental health research in Biopsychology, focusing on treatment development in assisting the medically ill, mentally afflicted, and chemically addicted members of our society. My work normally does not tend to overlap into investigative activities concerning government. However, at present, as the principal environmental consultant to the case of “David bell vs. Agraquest, Inc.” this is where it has lead… by chance, and not by choice.
There are three major threats and issues that have emerged out of this Workers’ Compensation case that “all” American workers, “all” American citizens, and “all” people worldwide, should be extremely concerned with because it represents a microcosm of where politics, power, and greed, meet the proverbial “extremely complex road” of 21st century Molecular Sciences:
First: If bio-pesticides are going to expose workers to new and unstudied microbial species research and development using soils and other environmental samples extracted from undeveloped foreign and domestic land sources, laboratory and production environments for such enterprise need to be very closely monitored though a very strict process of checks and balances just as are observed in the control and release of medications monitored and regulated by the FDA. Cautions and adequate handling training should be insurances that all workers, and the public at large, are completely protected. This was not the case with Agraquest, Inc., in reviewing Mr. Bell’s employment situation.
In the case of Agraquest Inc., it was alleged from Mr. Bell’s testimony of personal observations and employee interactions that, not only was this biopesticide company searching worldwide in its boast of a 22,000 microbe specimen collection, but that many of the soils that contain literally hundreds of thousands to millions of unknown, unstudied live-celled microbes per ounce were allegedly being smuggled past airport security and customs officials. When Mr. Bell inquired as to Agraquest Inc., in 2006, he was informed that this company was not legally registered or licensed for bringing soils and/or microbes into the United States through the U.S. Department of Agricultures’ Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
What all of this means is that the potential for genetic species bio-integration with other microbes of known or unknown origin is real, and that live cellular fusions, and/or mutations could essentially cause idiopathic (i.e., diseases of unknown cause or cure) in plants, other live microbiological cells, single and double stranded viruses, animals and humans, that virtually could wipeout whole civilizations. I reported that aspect of this vital case to Congressman Dan Lungren and his chief staff personnel, investigators of Workers’ Compensation Fraud Units in Yolo and Sacramento Counties, and anyone else that would listen, in vain. Congressman Lungren to this date, has provided no response whatsoever to this potential “Homeland Security” nightmare.
In the wrong hands, in an uncontrolled and regulated laboratory setting, this anomaly is a potential time bomb. Congressman Lungren currently serves as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cyber Security. One might think that he would have been interested. It is comforting to know that our national leaders are knowledgeable enough in the Molecular Sciences that they can totally ignore the potentially lethal genetic and toxic chemistry properties of the microbial world in order to produce numerous manufactured products from perfumes and colognes, medicines and over-the counter drugs, to the foods, clothing, and beverages we Americans drink.
No wonder micro fungi are so deadly as pathogens (i.e., disease causing microorganisms), we as humans have all the intellect, yet they have survived for nearly two billion years by doing what they have always done… decay live human, plant, and other microbial cells in a process called “decomposition.” We humans are so smart, but yet, …so ignorant.
Second: That in the due course of business, biotechnology corporate executives should be held personally accountable for the health and safety their employees. Also, that executives are personally held accountable for immediately contacting and accurately reporting to the EPA, OSHA, and other federal and state regulatory and monitoring agencies (regardless of previous declarations, approvals, or guarantees) that its product(s) might have previously achieved as safe for public sale or use. Biotechnology corporate executives should be held accountable for the health and safety of any person transacting business with their company who has suffered an injury or illness perceived or reported to be caused as the result of exposure to any product they manufacture.
In Mr. Bell’s case, even though he reported that he suffered an injury and/or illness through his exposures to Agraquest’s substandard and unhealthy laboratory environmental conditions and products, his employer, the California Workers’ Compensation Board, and to this date, his Congressman, various other members of Congress contacted, and both the Sacramento county and Yolo county Workers’ Compensation Fraud units have let him down.
Mr. Bell’s case clearly demonstrates that business and government are designed to protect each other, and not specifically designed to protect the public when “White Collar Crime” is overlooked or placated because clashes with overall profits of stockholders and American enterprise.
In Mr. Bell’s case, as Americans also observed through government failures and “finger-pointing” escapades during Hurricane Katrina, economic and political preservation seemed to overrule the immediate priority of recovery and protection from personal injury and death of American citizens. In the 21st century “intellectual age” of modern day politics in America, as it stands, federal, state, and local agencies are purposely incorporated to provide protection for government entities and interests, and not necessarily the interests of American citizens when a catastrophic event occurs. This was not always the case in America as our forefathers collectively were not as brazenly ignorant or callus.
California law regarding worker health and safety was originally very clear to this regard: “The California State Constitution provides that the workers' compensation system include provisions for adequate comfort, health, safety and general welfare of all workers and their dependents in order to provide relief from the consequences of injury and death incurred in the course of their employment.”
Third: That the California Workers’ Compensation system, a compulsory system that no longer exemplifies or resembles its original 1913 Boynton Act mandate, needs to be fully investigated for fraud and deceit upon the citizens of California. This system has been bastardized over the years though public and “closed door” manipulation by officials elected as supposed “public servants, Of the People, By the People, For the People.”
This system has degraded to a point where insurance companies that originally were not intended as “Principals” in this “No-Fault,” “non-litigation,” “arbitration,” Workers’ Compensation System (i.e., “Principals” being specifically recognized constitutionally as employer and the employee) now seem to fully control it. Not only is this system controlled by members of the Insurance Industry appointed to the highest administrative levels of operation; in Mr. Bell’s case, we discovered that former insurance defense attorneys are serving as Commissioners. A system that was not intended to operate as a court system is now operating as exactly that in treating the ill and/or injured worker as essentially a criminal until found guilty and bent on further victimization of the victim. An original system of simple “arbitration” has become an injustice system of Constitutional and Civil Rights violations, without regard for due process. During this fiasco, Mr. Bell was actually told by the Commissioner during one of his hearings specifically that, “Mr. Bell, in my courtroom you have no civil rights.”
California also recently (as in the past) adopted medical illness/injury review guidelines of the American College (that is definitely not a “college”) of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The problem with this particular set of guidelines is three-fold:
First, these guidelines as adopted are “scientific review consensus” based upon “peer review” of medical knowledge gained from journals, experiences, etc., instead of sound “scientific review/proof” based, scientific standards of specific medical research.
Second, the ACOEM currently is defending itself against allegations, even from its own membership, that its directorship contracted a “baseless” unorthodox “toxic mold” research study document for use and acceptance by its majority of Qualified Medical Examiners (who often rate worker personal illnesses/injuries) members in following their own established ACOEM guidelines. Dr. Richard Lipsey, who testified in a Sacramento Superior case where this particular study underwent a hearing for use as testimony states: “I testified in the Kelly-Frye Hearingin the Harold vs. California Casualty et al case in Sacramento in April of 2006 involving Kelman, Robbins and others from Veritox's 2004 summary of rodent studies regarding the risk from inhaled mycotoxins in indoor office and residential environments. The judge excluded the Veritox study of 2004 by Veritox's Bruce Kelman and others based on my testimony that selected rodent studies cannot be used to make conclusions that mycotoxin levels can never get high enough in the air to harm humans, i.e., ...that human mycotoxicoses are implausible following inhalation exposure to mycotoxins in mold-contaminated home, school or office environments. I told the court such a conclusion is junk science and the judge decided not to allow the study to be considered by the jury in the Harold case. The Harold
family was awarded over $2 million in that case. (Superior Court, County of Sacramento, Case # O2AS04291)
Coincidently, speaking of “Toxic Mold,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now subscribe to the following statement: “Information obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that molds can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins. Some of the molds that are known to produce mycotoxins are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings. Exposure pathways for mycotoxins can include inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact.
The CDC goes on to state that much of the information on the human health effects of inhalation exposure to mycotoxins comes from studies done in the workplace and some case studies or case reports. And that many symptoms and human health effects attributed to inhalation of mycotoxins have been reported including: mucous membrane irritation, skin rash, nausea, immune system suppression, acute or chronic liver damage, acute or chronic central nervous system damage, endocrine effects, and cancer.”
And third, there is little need to elaborate on this. What is important is that the California ACOEM guidelines for Workers Compensation are highly suspect when their own administrative leadership publicly decries that: “Doctors Feel Push to Downplay Injuries: Group Tells OSHA of Pressure By Companies” in a newspaper article posted on: Saturday, 19 April 2008, by Ames Alexander, in the Charlotte Observer, N.C.
Apr. 19--NEW YORK -- A leading group of occupational doctors is taking the unusual step of speaking out publicly against pressure from companies to downplay workplace injuries. To outline their concerns, the physicians have sent a letter to federal workplace safety regulators and held a conference session in New York City on Monday. They're also planning to testify before Congress. If successful, their campaign could affect the treatment of injured workers and might help change how the government assesses workplace safety. "Our members feel they are being methodically pressured ... to under-treat and mistreat," said Dr. Robert McLellan, president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. "...This is a grave ethical concern for our members. It's a grave medical concern."
His group represents 5,000 doctors; some treat workers referred to them by employers, while others work directly for companies.
Employers are supposed to record all injuries requiring time off work or medical treatment beyond first aid. It's an honor system, and the injury logs are used by regulators and others to gauge plant safety. Low injury rates allow companies to avoid scrutiny from workplace safety regulators and may help managers earn four-figure bonuses.
In a hotel meeting room in New York, doctors said this helps explain why some employers urge them not to treat injuries in a way that would make them reportable. A cut, for instance, must be recorded if the worker gets stitches, one doctor told the room of more than 60 colleagues. But if the doctor simply covers the cut with a bandage, it doesn't have to be reported.
Workplace injury and illness rates -- a key factor in determining whether regulators inspect a company -- have been declining nationwide in recent years. But some experts suspect that's partly because employers aren't reporting all on-the-job injuries.
McLellan, an associate professor at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire, says he thinks employers are "vastly underreporting" the extent of workplace injuries. "Players in the system may willfully produce records that don't reflect reality," he said in an interview. He said he grew more concerned about corporate pressures on doctors in September, during a conference in the Carolinas. Since then, he said, he has heard from dozens of doctors. That led him to contact the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and he expects to discuss his concerns with top agency officials next month. His group will likely propose that OSHA more vigorously investigate the accuracy of company injury logs. It may also ask regulators to rely on a broader array of workplace safety measures -- and to rewrite rules so that companies have fewer incentives to underreport. McLellan also wants occupational doctors to testify before congressional committees examining workplace safety.
Ethical physicians sometimes lose business to those who bend to the wishes of employers, some doctors and workers' compensation lawyers say.
In the Carolinas and some other states, injured workers generally must visit doctors approved by their employers if they want workers' compensation to pay for the treatment. Companies incur higher costs for compensating workers for medical care and lost wages when they're injured on the job.
Employers tend to send workers to doctors who can help them keep costs low and productivity high, according to attorneys who represent injured workers. Doctors become popular with companies if they rarely order time off work for injured employees, or if they seldom recommend costly treatments or conclude injuries are work-related, those lawyers say.
"If you get past the infirmary and sent to a doctor, you're getting sent to a doctor that lives on the plant," said lawyer David Davila, who until recently worked in Columbia, S.C.
Atlanta lawyer Bruce Carraway has represented more than 400 injured poultry workers and says that in more than half of those cases, independent physicians gave different assessments than the company doctors.
Dr. Josephus Bloem, an orthopedic surgeon from Rocky Mount, said he used to get referrals from Perdue Farms. But in the 1990s, the company became unhappy that he usually recommended surgery for workers with carpal tunnel syndrome. "Their top doctor once visited me and complained that I was too expensive, which I took as pressure to review my approach," Bloem said. Not long afterward, the referrals stopped.
Dr. Roger Merrill, Perdue's chief medical officer, said the company had discovered that many workers who got less invasive treatment -- such as splinting, exercise and ibuprofen -- fared better than those who got surgery. "We had a better way to treat folks," he said. But Bloem wondered whether health concerns were the only factor. "In the end," he said, "the money wins." In their quest to keep injuries off logs, company officials without medical training sometimes provide inappropriate treatment, doctors at the New York conference said.
Dr. Peggy Geimer, corporate medical director for a chemical company in Connecticut, spoke of the "tremendous amount of pressure" on company staff to provide treatment beyond their level of expertise. She recalled how one supervisor dealt with an injured worker who spilled an acidic chemical on his arm: He applied potash, which is sometimes used to clean up chemical spills -- unaware that it would only make the burn worse. McLellan said he doesn't recall his group ever before taking such a strong stance on the issue. As one doctor at Monday's conference put it: "We need to treat the patient. Not the log."
This article of course speaks volumes as to the purpose and illegalities taking place in the California Workers’ Compensation system. My personal take on it is that Governor Schwarzenegger’s Senate Bill 899, the “Return To Work Opportunities” reform bill that is already realizing double-digit premium reductions for industry, is a prime example of how California government is responding to the needs of its workers. California Workers do not need an overhaul of the Workers’ Compensation System as much as they need a complete overhaul of the California government way of legislating system, and workers such as Mr. Bell need a system of justice that believes in the constitutionality of “fair and impartial due process of law.” This story has many other appalling aspects to it could simply put, not fit into a short article. However, it is a true story indeed… for thousands of California workers who are currently living through it or whom have been through it.