Koop Bias For Latex Gloves?

When former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop testified before Congress that latex gloves weren't a health risk, he failed to mention that a latex glove manufacturer was paying him, The New York Times reported Friday.

Mary Beth Zupa, a spokeswoman for Koop, acknowledged he had signed a four-year, $1 million contract in 1994 with WRP Corp., the glove manufacturer. She said the contract didn't last the full four years and that it had nothing to do with WRP's latex division. Koop denied to discuss the matter.

One of the nation's most recognizable health experts, Koop dismissed warnings from scientists that powdered latex gloves could cause serious and even life-threatening allergic reactions.

He reportedly telephoned Dr. Linda Rosenstock, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in 1997 to say a warning against latex could cause health workers to abandon gloves that could protect them against infection.

NIOSH studies show that 10 percent of such workers regularly exposed to the gloves developed allergies.

In March, Koop testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Work Force, telling the panel that the hazards being linked to the gloves were exaggerated.

Sanford Lewis, a lawyer for Healthcare Without Harm, said Koop's influence on public policy could have been lessened had the WRP contract been disclosed.

"Would even Dr. Koop have sounded so convincing if he had disclosed his financial deal with the glove company?" Lewis asked.

Documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that WRP paid a "spokesman" $656,250 in consulting fees through February 1997. A WRP representative told the Times that Koop was that individual.

Koop was criticized earlier this year over his partial ownership of the Web site, designed to present objective health information. For a time, he was entitled to a commission on products sold through the site.