Substances like asbestos and arsenic, whose poisonous properties seem incontrovertible, have become subjects of ceaseless debate. With the aim of obscuring the truth, corporations are steering millions of dollars to scientific consulting firms. Some of these consultants, for example, maintain there are “safe” levels of asbestos despite statements to the contrary from the World Health Organization and many other august bodies. Air pollution, the hired guns say, really isn’t the killer the Environmental Protection Agency makes it out to be.
Tainted science affects us all. It is used to fend off, or lessen the sting of, lawsuits filed on behalf of sick people. It freezes the regulatory process, forcing the EPA to redo chemical reviews underlying rules designed to protect public health. It has swayed the Food and Drug Administration and made it harder for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers.
It creates doubt where little or none existed.
Stay with us over the next two weeks as we show you, among other examples, a defense lawyer who “suggested” an outlandish scientific theory to paid researchers all too eager to bite, and an entire industry that slanted a nationwide study to get the results it wanted. As a former EPA scientist told us, “It just seems like you can just make up your own facts now.”
— Jim Morris, managing editor for environment and labor