Scientists in almost every government agency have long anguished, or at least been significantly POed, at the efforts of lobbyists, corporations and many political appointees to corrupt science by forcing the appointments of industry-paid experts on to panels deciding vital public health issues.
Obviously, many of the knowledgeable experts in many fields work for industry. That’s where the money is and, frequently, that’s where cutting edge research is done.
But what about industry stifling science?
There is an almost endless litany of examples of industry controlled or funded “scientific journals” publishing questionable studies and then preventing non-industry experts in the same field from showing why the work was flawed, bogus. or misleading. This is seen in almost every public health field from pharmaceuticals, to pesticides to chemical exposure to global warming.
Examples of this can also be found in the hearing rooms on Capitol Hill. Just look at the testimony and evidence submitted over the past eight years to Sen. Patty Murray in her effort to finally institute a real ban on asbestos. There are dozens of submissions from “scientists” insisting that asbestos is not harmful. Many of the same “authorities” are submitting identical “evidence” to House investigators working on their version of the ban legislation. It takes little effort to show that these experts routinely work for industries involved with, or being sued over, the deadly fiber.
However, even some of the strongest critics of corporate interference in the regulatory process agree that many industry “experts” have a place at the table deciding government policies but only as long as the connection those experts have to industry is disclosed. A greater concern is when the “industry first” gang uses their clout to silence scientists that have contrary opinions of the hazard of the substance or policy being debated.
We reported on such a case in February. The tale involved Dr. Deborah Rice, a leading authority on health effects from toxic agents who was fired from her position on an EPA peer review panels. The dismissal came after the American Chemistry Council complained that Rice, who works for the state of Maine, was not impartial because she had previously expressed concerns about the health effects of decabromobiphenyl ether (deca), a chemical widely used as a flame retardant.
Well, industry and the EPA now are being asked by Congress to explain why Rice was dismissed. The House Energy and Commerce Committee said yesterday that it will launch, what it calls “a landmark investigation” of the actions of the chemical industry lobby group.
Committee chairman Rep. John Dingell and Rep. Bart Stupak, chair of the committee’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, demanded that the American Chemistry Council answer a long list of questions designed to determine the degree to which chemical industry money and influence has corrupted science and decision making at the EPA “and potentially endangered the health of all Americans.”
Dingell also said that peer-reviewed journals play an important role in shaping and informing scientific debate about the safety of consumer products. “Our Committee intends to determine what influence the chemical industry yields over the scientific community and whether that influence is proper,” said the Michigan Democrat.
The committee is also evaluating thousands of internal chemical industry documents collected by the public interest Environmental Working Group. The documents show that for decades the chemical industry has worked to corrupt the scientific process and deceive the American public about the health risks of their chemicals, said Richard Wiles, executive director of EWG.
“This is a landmark investigation. For the first time the public will find out exactly how the chemical industry uses their influence to corrupt government science at the expense of public health,” Wiles added.
Here is a <a href=”<a href=”Letter to the ACC“>”>link to the letter the committee sent to the ACC.