Research at the University of California on the pesticide DBCP, which discovered hazards connected with the chemical, including potential sterility on test animals, was funded directly by the Shell Chemical Co. and the results were sent directly to the firm in confidential reports rather than published.
The research was conducted by Dr. Charles Hine, a clinical professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. The reports, dating from November, 1954, to April, 1958, were marked "confidential report" in capital letters, and were written on university stationery.
The papers were released today in hearings conducted by the California Department of Industrial Relations. The state is investigating why workers using DBCP (dibromochloropropane) were never informed of the medical hazards by either Shell or Dow Chemical Co., the other major American producer.
The state officials who were conducting the hearings also were questioning the propriety of public facilities being used for private research.
At least 95 cases of sterility among male pesticide workers have been discovered in plants in California, Texas, Michigan, Colorado and Arkansas. The chemical has also been linked to possible birth defects and cancer. Hine, who currently works half-time at the university medical school, remains s consultant to Shell Chemical. He told the hearing that his position with the university in 1947 complemented his relationship with the chemical company.
Shell continued to fund "directed research" by Hine using university facilities on a variety of chemicals until 1962. The company continues to underwrite university projects but they now are funded through the regents although the money is still earmarked for projects directed by Hine.
But in a sometimes heated exchange, Hine denied allegations that the university was disguising direct funding. Hine argued that the money is used to support many projects not related to chemical research, including student stipends.
"I have done research which is in their [Shell's] interest," he admitted. "But I have done work in my own interests."
Hine estimated that half his time is spent seeing patients and teaching. He is also director of Hine Laboratories, is the medical consultant for various companies on workers' compensation claims, and works for a law firm that represents tobacco companies.
Though he was seated in the audience during Hines's appearance and was previously scheduled to testify. Dr. William Reinhardt, acting dean of the medical school, declined to take the stand.
Later, in a telephone interview, Reinhardt said he thought his testimony was unnecessary, Dr. Hine "made a fine rebuttal," he said. Reinhardt did acknowledge, however, that he was not aware of any other medical school professor who consulted with industry to the extent of Hine. "It is a particularly unusual situation," he said.
Handwritten research notes on the DBCP experiment in 1957 show that Hine concluded "testes ver atrophic" three different times. The notes were either underlined or in capital letters. However, the research paper sent to Shell downplayed potential sterility problems.
Hine testified that in 1968, he recommended that Shell do more research on potential sterility problems. He told the hearing that the company declined to, responding that the tests were not required by federal agencies, and thus Shell would not conduct them.
Although it is no longer the practice at the University of California, Hine contended that directed research continues in medical schools around the nation. "It goes on at other universities, I'm sure," he said.
"I appear in a dual role," said Hine. "One has to on these matters. But I try to separate them everywhere I can."
Hine was also accused by the hearing officers of misrepresenting himself in other matters. Chief Counsel Peter Weiner noted that Hine testified at hearings on lead exposure in 1975, identifying himself then as a private citizen and not as a paid medical consultant with ASARO, a producer of lead.
Hine responded that identification was not necessary as he was not appearing on behalf of the company.
Weiner also pointed out a letter Hine had written to a local newspaper downplaying potential healh hazards to nonsmokers in public places. According to Weiner, Hine signed a letter as a professor of the medical school without relating his consulting relationship to tobacco interests.