Horrifying testimony about fatally burned babies by a doctor specializing in burn surgery convinced lawmakers not to restrict the use of neuro-toxic flame retardants. The doctor’s testimony, according to The Chicago Tribune, turned out to be untrue, and the doctor was financially reimbursed by what turned out to be a “chemical industry front group.” This week, Dr. David Heimbach gave up his medical license after Washington state officials brought up disciplinary action alleging the doctor lied about being an unbiased burn specialist when he was actually paid 240,000 dollars by a front group protecting the industry. The officials say Heimback falsified testimony and that the stories of babies suffering burns were often fictitious or falsified. According to the Tribune, giving up his license protects the burn doctor from suffering penalties and fines.
Washington’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission brought the charges against the doctor who headed the burn center at Harborview Medical Center after The Chicago Tribune investigative work exposed Heimbach’s association with a group called the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute in 2012, Kitsap Sun reported. Suzanne Mager, the attorney for the commission, said, “For a doctor to lose his license is a huge blow – and a sorrowful day.” Mager went on to say that the doctor was “world renowned for the good things that he had done.” Heimback once received an award for his deeds from the Dalai Lama.
Citizens for Fire Safety Institute claimed to be a coalition of doctors, educators, and citizens concerned about fire safety. According to Kitsap Sun though, the group “was created and entirely funded by three manufacturers of chemical flame retardants.”
The doctor told The Tribune that he gave up his license because he planned to retire an move to Hawaii. The doctor said, “Fighting back would require lawyers and probably several trips back to Seattle, and might well accomplish the same result.” The doctor explained, “In nearly 50 years of practice I have never been subject to a lawsuit or any discipline. I am sorry this whole business ever occurred.” When The Tribune first exposed the discrepancies in the doctor’s testimony, he told the paper that his testimony was meant to be anecdotal and that he “wasn’t under oath.”
The doctor’s “anecdotes” included descriptive stories of babies he claimed died because they were placed in bedding or in areas of their homes that did not have flame retardant protection. The doctor’s attorney later said that Heimbach changed the stories in order to protect the confidentiality of the babies that died. The doctor did admit to state officials during their questioning of his testimony that he was paid by Citizens for Fire Safety, and that he did not disclose the financial ties during his testimony. He says that until The Chicago Tribune broke their story, he did not realize that the organization was a front group for the flame retardant industry. “Mea culpa for this,” Heimbach wrote to the commission, saying perhaps he should have realized it was a flame retardant industry front group.
Flame retardants have been the target of health concerns ranging from cognitive delays to cancer for years, as Inquisitr previously reported. Brenda Eskenazi, a professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology, spoke about flame retardants, “It’s true that flame retardants make it longer for material to ignite—by three seconds,” she said. “But they also cause an increase in smoke, carbon monoxide, and soot.” A Harvard report also linked flame retardants to behavioral problems in children. In an article published in February this year in Lancet Neurology, doctors called several chemicals used around children, including the flame retardant compound polybrominated diphenyl ethers, “developmental neurotoxicants.”