by David Michaels
From the September 27, 2008 issue of Science News
In Doubt Is Their Product, published in April, epidemiologist David Michaels describes the growing corporate practice of “manufacturing” scientific uncertainty to thwart regulation of products that appear to pose risks. Michaels encountered the practice firsthand with beryllium, a metal used at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities, while he was the Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health. Now head of George Washington University’s Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy, or SKAPP, Michaels spoke with senior editor Janet Raloff about this doubt-generation movement.
Where did you get your book’s title?
It comes from a 1969 memo by a Brown & Williamson tobacco executive. He said: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’” linking smoking with lung cancer. That tobacco campaign continues to this day, now focused on the issue of secondhand smoke. Before the 1980s, industry could always say that even if smoking does cause cancer, individuals choose to smoke. But as studies emerged showing that nonsmoking spouses also face an increased risk of lung cancer, the stakes changed. Recognizing this potential new liability, the industry hired more and better scientists and strategized how to disparage the cancer studies in order to avoid regulation.
You can document all this?
Absolutely. In great detail. READ MORE