Last weekend, I spent a few hours working on a service project on a grassy hill in the Bayview District of San Francisco. The project involved hand-picking turnip and plantain overgrowth to make room for the eruption of the predicted late-spring wildflower blooms. The leader of the project was a restorative landscaper for the City of San Francisco who clearly knew his weeds from bulbs at an expert level.
I couldn’t help myself, and asked him when we might see a ban on Roundup in San Francisco. Our supposedly environmentally-conscious mayor London Breed has been mute on the subject, despite hosting the two cancer trials in her own jurisdiction. Much to my shock, the landscaping leader replied that he hopes Roundup isn’t banned because they use it regularly to tame overgrowth and let other, more desirable growth flourish in the landscape. He also stressed that they use it just to spot-treat weeds here and there, and that the Plaintiffs in the trials appeared to use a lot of Roundup.
A little while and several yards of weeding later, he explained that his education was scientifically rigorous in organic farming and holistic health, but that Roundup is a helpful tool. I bit my tongue and considered that when Stella McCartney first launched her cruelty-free, vegan-friendly clothing line, devoid of animal skins or feathers, she quickly learned that lecturing people on her beliefs was far less effective than quiet words and subtle jokes on animal rights. But wow, it takes a lot of self-control because I wanted to spill to this awesome family man EVERYTHING that I’ve learned.
I asked how restorative landscapers in the state of California get their information. There are occasional, small conferences in which they convene and share best practices. Guess who else shows up at these conferences? Bayer. Bayer wants to be sure that the landscapers know that Roundup won’t give them cancer. I asked him to check out my post on the real Roundup exposure levels from Dr. Sawyer’s testimony in the Johnson trial. No Tyvek suit is going to help protect their bodies from the ultra-penetrative surfactant in the formulated Roundup. I also suggested that we get Dr. Sawyer on a roadshow of some kind to explain the truth of how much toxic exposure these earnest landscapers are actually receiving over each spray session.
Dr. Sawyer will be testifying with even more information for the Pilliod trial on Thursday. Agent OJ will be on hand to report back!
But today, we hear from Plaintiff expert Dr. Weisenburger. Also, I lay eyes on the Pilliods for the first time, who will bravely sit through today’s discussion on their personal health histories for the jury to evaluate.
I heard mumblings yesterday that Dr. Weisenburger had been hit by the flu. I half expected a rescheduling of his testimony today, but realize from a loud cough that he is sitting one chair in front of me in the gallery awaiting his cue. Poor guy, I can’t believe that he is going to take on a high-stakes debate while febrile and presumably medicated.
Direct Testimony of Dr. Weisenburger
Dr. Weisenburger is an esteemed hematopathologist with a focus on lymphoma biology. He currently works at City of Hope. For more of his background, click here.
Plaintiff attorney Mike Miller is up to perform the direct examination, and his family once again fills the seats on the Plaintiff side of the gallery. Weisenburger seems peppier than I expected, and cruises through the direct. The topics covered are similar to those in Hardeman, which you can read here.
A few highlights:
- A dynamic animation shows the mechanics of cancer, in which Roundup penetrates through the skin and into the body, creates oxygen-free radicals and causes DNA damage. Miller prompts Weisenburger several times to narrate the animation so that we know what we are watching.
- Both Pilliods had the B-Cell NHL subtype. Al’s was systemic, Stage 4 disease.
- Weisenburger worked on the NAPP study which supported the conclusion Roundup causes NHL. A paper presenting the data is currently under journal review and expected to be published soon.
- Miller guides Weisenburger through the same epidemiology that we have heard about for several days, including the AHS.
Monsanto objects to the testimony as being cumulative, and I have to agree. A recess is called, and Smith directs the Plaintiff attorneys to refine their testimony to be less exorbitantly cumulative. She also says that it is their risk to take in boring the jury with the same story repeatedly based on the same narrow set of evidence.
When the jury returns, the rest of the epidemiology is run through at a more reasonably rapid pace.
After speaking with the Pilliods, Weisenburger performed some calculations to estimate the number of times that Al and Alberta Pilliod sprayed Roundup through the years:
- 75% of the time, Albert sprayed. That equates to 13-67 times/year and approximately 729 times total. Albert also performed the mixing of the Roundup.
- 25% of the time, Alberta did the spraying, equating to 8-27 times/year, or 270 times in her lifetime
- Neither wore protective equipment, and would be regularly exposed to Roundup on their bare skin
Alberta Pilliod suffered from lymphoma of the brain and other health conditions:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroid Autoimmune Disease
- Obesity (though she appears lean to me now)
- Previous bladder cancer in which no chemo was used in treatment
Dr. Weisenburger concludes that Roundup more likely than not caused her NHL.
Al Pilliod suffered from diffuse, Stage 4 NHL and other health conditions:
- Age 69
- Repeated infections of Herpes Virus
- Skin cancer caused by sun exposure while surfing and sailing
- A strange 1-2 month bout with what was loosely diagnosed as Ulcerative Colitis, but actually went away too soon to be such a chronic autoimmune condition
Dr. Weisenburger concludes that Roundup more likely than not caused his NHL.
Cross of Dr. Weisenburger
A very serious man with an intimidating glare stands to perform the cross. He is the Bayer legal team superstar Tarek Ismail. I see that Ismail is a successful veteran defender of Bayer, having served as lead trial counsel in the 2018 Xarelto injury case that delivered a verdict to the Defense. His website also highlights several impressive recommendations:
“Leading trial lawyer Tarek Ismail enjoys a fantastic reputation in the market thanks to his extensive experience handling high-profile cases in the pharmaceutical and medical devices arena.” – Who’s Who Legal (recognized 2010-2018)
Very quickly, I understand how Ismail has garnered such a strong reputation. Unfortunately, Dr. Weisenburger is falling increasingly ill throughout the long afternoon, and his mind is a bit jumbled with fever and virus. I’m wondering why we aren’t calling it off for the day, as he sweats, asks for questions to be repeated, pulls at his tie to find comfort, and coughs repeatedly into the microphone.
Over the course of the cross, I swear I do doubletakes because from the angle at which I am sitting, Weisenburger looks shockingly like Robert California (played by James Spader) on The Office.
I’m thinking Robert California because something about Weisenburger’s ill state has made his body language shift to an attitude of the coolest one in the room – reclined and can’t be bothered to follow the rules of yes/no answers to Ismail’s questions. Given his outstanding testimony in Hardeman, I’m sure that is not the impression that he is trying to make. I think he just really needs to get to bed.
The cross continues for several hours. It is not fantastic for the Plaintiff. Ismail is strikingly prepared to attack Weisenburger with well-substantiated reasons why autoimmunity, Herpes, and skin cancer could also be likely causes of the Pilliod duo’s cancer.
I don’t really want to relive the uncomfortable moments of the cross examination, but Ismail raised a few interesting points that are worth highlighting.
As per wikipedia, in genetics, a chromosome translocation is a chromosome abnormality caused by rearrangement of parts between nonhomologous chromosomes. A gene fusion may be created when the translocation joins two otherwise-separated genes.
One such translocation that is associated with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma is T1418. Alberta Pilliod tested T1418 negative. According to Weisenburger’s study, that negative should put her at lower risk of NHL from pesticide exposure:
Both studies found that the association between pesticide exposures and risk of NHL was largely limited to t(14;18)-positive NHL cases.
We also learn that Mrs. Pilliod smoked for many years. In another paper co-authored by Weisenburger, they conclude that:
Among women who had ever smoked cigarettes, there was an association with risk of t(14;18)-negative NHL (odds ratio (OR) = 1.9, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1, 3.3)
That is some strong evidence that Weisenburger tries to put into context, but he is ordered to stop adding qualifiers to yes/no answers.
After some pointless squabbling over Weisenburger’s estimates of total days that each Pilliod sprayed Roundup (truly meaningless really because it was clearly a lot and often), Ismail moves into the topic of autoimmune conditions as potential causes of the NHL.
Amidst the squabbling, Weisenburger frustratedly states: “I had to clarify my yes/no answer. I hope you let me do that.” I feel for him. This whole limitation to yes/no is ridiculous when such comprehensive questions obviously need comprehensive answers in order to be accurate. Particularly when discussing sophisticated academic research.
Ismail presents many papers supporting the hypothesis that autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Inflammatory Bowel Disease are causes of NHL. Weisenburger argues that if Al had really suffered from IBD, it wouldn’t have permanently disappeared after just 1-2 months of symptoms. It is a serious, chronic disease.
We see Al’s intestinal exam reports, and they show inflammation and *possible* Ulcerative Colitis (IBD). The treatment was STEROID ENEMAS. That poor man – with what we know about the thin, delicate membranes of the bowels, that certainly was not a small amount of systemic steroid absorption that happened throughout his body. Moreover, immunosuppressants like steroids can actually induce NHL.
Accordingly, Weisenburger argues that the NHL that correlates to some autoimmune conditions can often be attributed to the medications used to treat the autoimmunity vs the condition itself.
Ismail rudely asks Weisenburger: “Are you through? GREAT.” Lovely. I miss Delightful Dickens.
I’m shifting in my seat because I SO badly want to get to the front of the room to explain that either by direct dermal absorption or indirectly triggering an autoimmune condition, Roundup has caused their NHL!!!
I’ve mentioned previously that Roundup can damage our intestines to the extent that they become “leaky”. As a result of this damage, toxins that were never supposed to enter our bloodstream from the intestine are now ushered through intestinal membrane pathways designed only for beneficial nutrients.
When these toxins enter the bloodstream, the body erroneously begins to attack itself in an autoimmune response. Please see my previous post for more description of this phenomenon.
In a few years, addressing leaky gut will be a mainstream treatment for many different types of chronic disease. Fortunately, many of us have already improved our health and reduced symptoms of autoimmunity through functional approaches of changing diet, reducing toxins, and healing our guts.
Weisenburger heads back to bed, and we are dismissed for the day. Bayer wins the day because of witness illness. It’s a big bummer, but nothing that Weisenburger could help. Good for him for hanging in there for the long day of questioning.
Tomorrow, we will complete Dr. Weisenburger’s testimony and then move into some video testimonies. I’ll be bringing my (highly caffeinated) organic tea bags.
© 2019 Kelly Ryerson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED