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

Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals

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.”
Reply 2 comments

Won't stop (Score: 1)

by on 2016-02-21 19:50 (#14PCC)

This won't stop until people are prosecuted and sent to jail. That won' happen until there are laws on the books criminalizing this behavior. That won't happen until the same corporations peddling this information aren't the same corporations that buy politicians.


Re: Won't stop (Score: 1, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2016-02-22 05:14 (#14QA7)

It's actually very, very difficult to prosecute because they can always claim it's just a different interpretation of the same data, or certain details weren't known at the time, or the means of measuring have changed, or whatever. All of those are legitimate issues that have come up time and again, so it wouldn't be hard to use them as an excuse for your asbestos-is-a-safe-food-additive paper. Look at Robert Kehoe, the man who's most famous for telling us that tetraethyl lead was safe, he got his start at Kettering Labs "proving" that the known carcinogen naphthylamine was actually perfectly safe for use in paints, and went on from there. It took decades of fighting by some US cancer foundation whose name escapes me at the moment to get this overturned. So if it's that hard to overturn bought research "proving" that a carcinogen that produces cancer in nine out of ten employees exposed to it is safe, imagine how hard it'd be to overturn something far more vague.