Story 2016-02-21 14NME Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals

Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals

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in science on (#14NME)
The emails offer a rare glimpse into a world where corporate interests can dictate their own science and scientists for hire willingly oblige. It’s a phenomenon that’s grown in recent decades as government-funded science dwindles. Its effects are felt not only in courtrooms but also in regulatory agencies that issue rules to try to prevent disease. The National Institutes of Health’s budget for research grants has fallen 14 percent since its peak in 2004, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. With scarce resources, there’s little money for academics to study chemicals that most already deem to be toxic. Yet regulatory officials and attorneys say companies have a strong financial interest in continuing to publish research favorable to industry.

Gradient belongs to a breed of scientific consulting firms that defends the products of its corporate clients beyond credulity, even exhaustively studied substances whose dangers are not in doubt, such as asbestos, lead and arsenic. Nearly half of Gradient’s articles that are peer-reviewed are published in two journals with strong ties to industry, Critical Reviews in Toxicology and Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. Gradient’s scientists rarely acknowledge that a chemical poses a serious public health risk. The Center for Public Integrity analyzed 149 scientific articles and letters published by the firm’s most prolific principal scientists. Ninety-eight percent of the time, they found that the substance in question was harmless at levels to which people are typically exposed. “They truly are the epitome of rented white coats.”

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/02/08/19223/meet-rented-white-coats-who-defend-toxic-chemicals
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