In our November 25, 2015 post, we discussed an exposé of the chemical industry’s use of paid-for pseudo-“science” to misrepresent the hazards of toxic chemicals to the academic community, governmental regulators, judges and juries. Brown and Grossman, “What we don’t know is killing us,” In These Times (11/1/15).
As David Heath writes in a February 8, 2016 article for the Center for Public Integrity, this is not an isolated phenomenon, or one that’s likely to disappear any time soon. Heath describes a prominent consulting firm that has been paid millions of dollars by large firms defending polluters and makers of toxic materials. The scientists employed by the firm ̶ and numerous others in the industry ̶ spend much of their time attempting to manipulate scientific journals into publishing attacks on any studies that suggest links between illness and toxic chemicals, or “cherry-picking” data to suggest that chemicals pose no risk to human health. In one case, this involved dressing up a defense lawyer’s theory regarding the causation of a plaintiff’s mesothelioma as a “scientific hypothesis.”
The purpose behind this high-paying work is two-fold:
(1) to help corporate funders block governmental regulation, and
(2) to stymie injured plaintiffs who seek compensation in court.
And the strategy works. Witness the fact that the vast majority of toxic chemicals remain unregulated. Residents of Hoosick Falls, New York, who were recently informed that their water was contaminated with PFOA, a chemical so toxic that consumption of water with concentrations in the parts per trillion range poses a carcinogenic risk, were shocked to learn that, because of effective lobbying and rigged “science,” the compound was not classified as “hazardous” under federal law.
Witness also the hurdles courts have placed in the path of plaintiffs in toxic tort cases where proof is made even more difficult by the “scientific” criticisms directed at plaintiff’s experts by “mainstream” professionals, whose lucrative connections to industry are often obscured.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys must do what it takes to expose the improper biases and technical deficiencies of the defense’s so-called “experts.” This is a lengthy, complicated and expensive endeavor. People who have been harmed by exposure to chemicals have a right to seek a remedy in the courtroom. To succeed, they must choose their attorney carefully, determining whether he or she has the ability and sheer persistence necessary to navigate what the well-heeled spokesmen for industry have made a difficult path.
Read more about our environmental toxic tort practice here.