Manganese Meta-Analysis Further Undermines Reference Manual’s Toxicology Chapter

Last October, when the ink was still wet on the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence (3d 2011), I dipped into the toxicology chapter only to find the treatment of a number of key issues to be partial and biased.  SeeToxicology for Judges – The New Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence” (Oct. 5, 2011).

The chapter, “Reference Guide on Toxicology,” was written by Professor Bernard D. Goldstein, of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and Mary Sue Henifin, a partner in the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll, P.C.  In particular, I noted the authors’ conflicts of interest, both financial and ideological, which may have resulted in an incomplete and tendentious presentation of important concepts in the chapter.  Important concepts in toxicology, such as hormesis, were omitted completely from the chapter.  See, e.g., Mark P. Mattson and Edward J. Calabrese, eds., Hormesis: A Revolution in Biology, Toxicology and Medicine (N.Y. 2009); Curtis D. Klaassen, Casarett & Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons 23 (7th ed. 2008) (“There is considerable evidence to suggest that some non-nutritional toxic substances may also impart beneficial or stimulatory effects at low doses but that, at higher doses, they produce adverse effects. This concept of “hormesis” was first described for radiation effects but may also pertain to most chemical responses.”)(internal citations omitted); Philip Wexler, et al., eds., 2 Encyclopedia of Toxicology 96 (2005) (“This type of dose–response relationship is observed in a phenomenon known as hormesis, with one explanation being that exposure to small amounts of a material can actually confer resistance to the agent before frank toxicity begins to appear following exposures to larger amounts.  However, analysis of the available mechanistic studies indicates that there is no single hormetic mechanism. In fact, there are numerous ways for biological systems to show hormetic-like biphasic dose–response relationship. Hormetic dose–response has emerged in recent years as a dose–response phenomenon of great interest in toxicology and risk assessment.”).

The financial conflicts are perhaps more readily appreciated.  Goldstein has testified in any number of so-called toxic tort cases, including several in which courts had excluded his testimony as being methodologically unreliable.  These cases are not cited in the ManualSee, e.g., Parker v. Mobil Oil Corp., 7 N.Y.3d 434, 857 N.E.2d 1114, 824 N.Y.S.2d 584 (2006) (dismissing leukemia (AML) claim based upon claimed low-level benzene exposure from gasoline) , aff’g 16 A.D.3d 648 (App. Div. 2d Dep’t 2005); Exxon Corp. v. Makofski, 116 S.W.3d 176 (Tex.App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, pet. denied) (benzene and ALL claim).

One of the disappointments of the toxicology chapter was its failure to remain neutral in substantive disputes, unless of course it could document its position against adversarial claims.  Table 1 in the chapter presents, without documentation or citation,  a “Sample of Selected Toxicological End Points and Examples of Agents of Concern in Humans.” Although many of the agent/disease outcome relationships in the table are well accepted, one was curiously unsupported at the time; namely the claim that manganese causes Parkinson’s disease (PD).  Reference Manual at 653.This tendentious claim undermines the Manual’s attempt to remain disinterested in what was then an ongoing litigation effort.  Last year, I noted that Goldstein’s scholarship was questionable at the time of publication because PD is generally accepted to have no known cause.  Claims that manganese can cause PD had been addressed in several reviews. See, e.g., Karin Wirdefeldt, Hans-Olaf Adami, Philip Cole, Dimitrios Trichopoulos, and Jack Mandel, “Epidemiology and etiology of Parkinson’s disease: a review of the evidence.  26 European J. Epidemiol. S1, S20-21 (2011); Tomas R. Guilarte, “Manganese and Parkinson’s Disease: A Critical Review and New Findings,” 118 Environ Health Perspect. 1071, 1078 (2010) (“The available evidence from human and non­human primate studies using behavioral, neuroimaging, neurochemical, and neuropathological end points provides strong sup­port to the hypothesis that, although excess levels of [manganese] accumulation in the brain results in an atypical form of parkinsonism, this clini­cal outcome is not associated with the degen­eration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons as is the case in PD.”).

More recently, three neuro-epidemiologists have published a systematic review and meta-analysis of the available analytical epidemiologic studies.  What they found was an inverse association between welding, a trade that involves manganese fume exposure, and Parkinson’s disease. James Mortimer, Amy Borenstein, and Lorene Nelson, “Associations of welding and manganese exposure with Parkinson disease: Review and meta-analysis,” 79 Neurology 1174 (2012).

Here are the summary figures from the published meta-analysis:


The Fourth Edition should aim at a better integration of toxicology into the evolving science of human health effects.

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