Background: The tobacco industry has organized research institutions to generate misleading data on indoor air quality, including secondhand smoke exposure and health effects.
Objectives: To describe tobacco industry involvement in the organization and financial support of an air quality research laboratory in El Salvador.
Methods: We systematically searched tobacco industry documents on the internet from August 2007 to February 2008. We searched for air quality studies done in El Salvador and interviewed laboratory personnel.
Results: Philip Morris sought to establish a network of air quality laboratories throughout Latin America. In El Salvador, in 1997, through Tabacalera de El Salvador (Philip Morris’ subsidiary) and the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic Development (FUSADES), the industry organized an air quality research laboratory. FUSADES was part of the industry’s Latin American Scientific Network, which consisted of physicians hired as consultants who would send air samples from their research to FUSADES. Philip Morris Scientific Affairs personnel hired LabStat, a Canadian based laboratory, to provide technical assistance to FUSADES (train and assist the laboratory in air quality measurements). In addition, Washington based HMS Group successfully implemented a plan to upgrade the laboratory and obtain international certifications. HMS also assisted in searching for sustainable funding for FUSADES, including seeking funds from international aid for Hurricane Mitch.
Conclusion: Air quality studies that have used the FUSADES laboratory should be carefully interpreted given the support that this laboratory received from Philip Morris.
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