Company demands retraction of fatally flawed study that suppressed and mispresented data – and failed to disclose funding conflict – to arrive at a predetermined and false conclusion

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On January 26, 2022, GPS filed a civil complaint for defamation and unfair and deceptive trade practices in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina against Netherlands-based publishing company Elsevier for publishing and disseminating a false and misleading study involving GPS’s Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (“NPBI™”) technology. The filing can be found here. GPS filed the lawsuit after obtaining emails and deposing the lead author of the study which showed the full scope of the misrepresentations and flawed nature of the study.

The lawsuit lays out the following factual background: In March 2021, Elsevier published a study entitled, “Evaluating a commercially available in-duct bipolar ionization device for pollutant removal and potential byproduct formation,” (the “Study”) in the journal "Building and Environment". The Study, authored under the direction of Illinois institute of Technology professor Brent Stephens, was conducted with the predetermined outcome that GPS’s technology was ineffective and increased certain compounds. Emails attached to the complaint show that the authors ignored contradictory data and misrepresented the results. The lead author of the Study has admitted under oath in a deposition taken in another lawsuit that the underlying data reported in the study was false and contradicted the conclusions reached by the authors. The study has been used to make false statements and incorrect conclusions about GPS’s technology. The article’s lead author also admitted under oath in early January 2022 that there was no experimental control to test the ionizer in on and off conditions in the reported field study. The emails attached to the complaint show that Stephens was pushing to get media attention for his predetermined conclusions well before the test was concluded.

Also, as laid out in the 32-page complaint:

  • Data proving that GPS’s NPBI technology performs as advertised was suppressed
  • Test data was cherry picked while ignoring contradictory results.
  • The authors did not repeat any of the experiments in the study. Experimental replication is an essential step of the scientific process to ensure that data, analysis and results are reliable.
  • The authors failed to install and utilize the GPS device in a manner recommended by the manufacturer, thereby tainting all their results and making it virtually impossible to assess the data in any meaningful way.
  • Elsevier’s purported peer-review process was a sham as it failed to catch obvious flaws—in equipment, procedure and reporting. Each of these issues should have been caught in Elsevier’s peer-reviewed process before the Article was released.

The Article has been weaponized by GPS’s competitors to help create what they termed “bipolar backlash” to undermine GPS’s technology. Despite being presented with this evidence, Elsevier has yet to retract the Study.

Not surprisingly, Elsevier recently published a second study by Stephens apparently trying to correct the missteps of the first, flawed study. GPS knew about this study before it was published because GPS obtained emails between Stephens and Marwa Zaatari (a paid advisor for a GPS competitor) in which Zaatari is seen organizing the funding for the second study and helping to direct the testing. Knowing that the first study was flawed and suppressed data, the authors of the second study back away from the conclusion that ionization increases certain compounds and instead try to focus on particle reduction. However, the results are weak and, in fact, show the efficacy of GPS’s technology despite the flawed testing. Even in the second study, the authors conceal their relationship with Zaatari, a direct competitor of GPS that sells filtration, and who is also an advisor to enVerid which is also a competitor to GPS, when they state, “they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.” GPS has numerous emails where Zaatari is directing the testing and in one email Stephens notes his excitement that GPS’s competitors are supporting him because his work is “most likely going to help their industry.” The second study is as biased as the first study but is also an attempt by the authors to distance themselves from clear falsehoods of the first study.

About GPS

Founded in 2008, GPS is a leader in indoor air quality, with over 30 patents and 250,000 installations worldwide since its founding, including in research labs, schools, universities, health care facilities and airports. GPS devices work in conjunction with HVAC systems to help improve indoor air quality using a unique and patented low energy, soft ionization technology application called Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI™). GPS products are certified to UL 2998, UL’s stringent zero ozone standard. This independent certification is also compliant with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance and follows recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Education guidance. GPS is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina and has advanced testing chambers in Charlotte and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Media Contacts

Stephen White