John Yereb

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.


Jon Yereb (aka John Yerba) was a key air-quality testing staffer at Consolidated Safety Services who also provided witness services for the tobacco industry. The Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing scam was established in the USA when Gray Robertson of ACVA (later called Healthy Buildings International (HBI)) struck an agreement with the Tobacco Institute for them to provide customers and subsidise his operations, in return for his company systematically distorting the analysis of indoor air to discount the role of second-hand smoke. This developed into a hightly beneficial arrangement well exploited by both parties -- and then spread to other contracted IAQ-testing companies.

Building occupiers and owners were regularly coming under pressure to improve indoor air quality because smoke accumulated during the day. The Tobacco Institute received many inquires because companies realised that they faced the threat of law-suits from workers with asthma and other respiratory problems.

The unions were demanding action -- while trying to preserve the rights of their smoking members to smoke -- so they were boosting the idea of vastly increased ventialation rates, and the replacement or regular maintenance of air ducting system -- both very costly (although encouraged by the sheet-metal unions and companies, who did the work.). The only other solutions were to split the work-force and spend money creating non-smoking work zones, or to ban smoking in the workplace entirely -- which would reduce the demand for high-rate air-conditioning and for upgrades and maintenance..

Essentially the agreement between the Tobacco Institute and the 'ventilation companies" (IAQ testing/mainetnance) provided:

  • The Tobacco Institute and the cigarette companies would recommended the IAQ-testing/maintenance company to any building owner who contacted them seeking advice. In the 1970s, with the oil-rpice hike, ventilation systems were run at minimum air-exchange rates to preserve heat in winter, and maintain coolness in summer, so second-hand smoke accumulated throughout the day, and everyone got headaches and respiratory symptoms by night. Non-smokers wanted smoking bans
  • To hold back the tide of workplace smoking bans, an agreement was reached with ACVA/HBI (and later with other companies) that their staff would test the air in these buildings but discount the role of second-hand smoke in their IAQ Reports. Smoke was never to be the major source of indoor air pollution.
  • PR companies working for the tobacco industry would raise the spectre of 'sick-building syndrome' (SBS was largely a fiction) and conflate it with Legionairre's Disease. This would scare the unions and the building owners, and force them to upgrade or maintain their air-conditioning, and have the corrupt IAQ ventilation companies test the air and find everything other than tobacco smoke caused the problems. The Tobacco Institute and cigarette companies funded many 'definitive studies done in various states. The ventilation companies would usually find fungus spores, bacteria, glass-fibre and asbestos-dust in the ducting, and recommend replacement of the filtration systems and promote the need for long-term monitoring equipment and maintenance contracts.

All old buildings have measurable levels of these pollutants in their ducting. However the 'experts' in the pseudo-IAQ-testing company are in a position to modify and/or interpret the measurements in any way they pleased. The actual figures depended on the quality of the testing equipment, its location within the system and the skill of the operator. The laboratories that did any chemical or identification work on the air- and dust samples was even more suspect than the IAQ companies themselves: in fact, many US measurement were processed through the air-testing laboratory of RJ Reynolds which owned the tobacco company.

The Tobacco Institute provided their tame indoor-air-testing (IAQ) companies with glossy promotional material and often paid for the services of a major PR company to promote them. The company principals were often sent on organized media tours accompanied by Fleishman-Hillard PR staff who made all the contacts. Philip Morris funded Healthy Buildings International (HBI - probably the largest) to produce a glossy free magazine on IAQ, which was distributed around the world. [Note:HBI worked globally] This magazine was staffed by Paul Dietrich and the old crew who had run the "Saturday Review" magazine (secretly) for Philip Morris.
The second most enthusiastic of these pseudo-testing companies was [[[Consolidated Safety Services]] (CSS), a company that was set up by Jolanda Janczewski who saw the potential after having worked at another testing company -- ENV Corp.

There were a number of these corrupt companies --ranging from one-man firms working locally, up to multi-million dollar international operations with subsidiaries and franchaisees around the world.

There were also genuine indoor air testing companies that refused to get into bed with the tobacco industry. The division is usually spoken about in the literatures, as the distinction between those companies analysing the air and emphasising the need for "source control" (reducing the source of the problem -- like tobacco smoke) and those who promoted largely fictitious causes, along the lines of 'sick building syndrome', and prescribed the need for the building owner to radically boost ventilation rates. (and so allow the smokers to keep smoking).

Documents & Timeline

  • John Yereb worked for Consolidated Safety Services on IAQ testing.

1986 Jun 27: A Tobacco Institute Scientific Witness list on IAQ has his name. This file includes a couple of copies of a pre-drafted statement from Consolidated Safety Services Inc, with the name blank (to be filled in later). [Note: It carries a hand-note "New and improved"]
It promotes the standard tobacco industry line:

"Just as you would not expect to ban cooking or the use of a fireplace in a home when the problem lies within a faulty range-top hood or clogged chimney flue, the elimination of cigarette smoking does not solve the problem of inadequate or poorly maintained ventilation systems.

It is unfortunate that many policymakers have chosen this course of action before understanding the causes of occupant sickness. While their intention to improve the quality of employee environments has been admirable, their actions have been misdirected and have left workers with a growing problem.

We had the opportunity earlier this year to survey thousands of federal employees for the American Federation of Government Employees in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. What is most interesting about this population of employees is that in 1986, the General Services Administration had implemented a smoking policy that restricted smoking in all federal buildings, and yet sick building syndrome is still very prevalent."

This was fairly standard witness statement from these companies; most of their business depended on the tobacco business subsidies that made their services cheap enough to encourage business. They often also won contracts to upgrade the ventilation systems (especially the air-ducting, which won them the support of the sheet-metal union. [2]

1990: The Tobacco Institute's Confidential notes on Public Smoking hearings:
Consultants: who they are, how long have they been working for TI, what they do.


  • TI consults with 37 ETS and IAQ scientists : 14 are members of university or medical school faculties ; 23 are professional consultants ; 11 are exclusively expert on IAQ.
  • Scientific disciplines include chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry, statistics, medicine, environmental science, biostatistics and industrial hygiene.


The document lists the following activites of these consultants (headlines only).

  • How we use them
    • Prepare and deliver testimony.
    • Conduct briefings with legislators; regulators ; lobbyists; and coalition allies.
    • Conduct two ETS and one IAQ media tour per month.
    • Conduct empirical IAQ research.
    • Monitor scientific developments on ETS and IAQ.
    • Prepare articles for publication.
    • Submit letters to editors of scientific and general audience publications.
    • Attend and report on scientific conferences.
  • Kinds of things they do
    • Testify on federal, state and local smoking restriction and indoor air quality bills and regulations -- explaining complex scientific information in straightforward lay terms.
    • Appear on television and radio talk shows -- often in debate formats -- in areas where smoking restriction activity is underway.
    • Assist the industry in responding to media reports by preparing c=itiques of adverse research.
    • Help reassure allies that they are on solid scientific ground. [3]

1990 June: A Tobacco Institute]] Issues paper for the Regional and State Divisions on the ways to defend smoking rights. It deals with "Tight Building Syndrome", "Sick Building Syndrome" and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues, and lists consultants who are available to help under two categories:

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)

[ENote: very one on this list is a well-known, long-term science lobbyist for the tobacco industry. These were all considered 'safe' scientists for the State or Regional Directors to contract as witnesses, etc. at Local Ordinance or State Assembly hearings.]

Scientific Witness Teams on Indoor Air Quality

[Note: Both of these companies were engaged in commercial indoor air quality analysis under a scheme where they were paid by the Tobacc Institute to discount smoke as a source of building problems. They were also available as witnesses and for media tours to discount smoke as an environmental health issue. ]


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