Study shows how asbestos defendants pay for “scientific” research

This blog has often written about the use of medical and scientific testimony to prove that exposure to airborne asbestos fibers causes many serious illnesses, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. If an asbestos case in North Carolina or elsewhere goes to trial, both the plaintiff and the defendants can be expected to present scientific evidence to support their respective cases. Virtually all of this evidence is provided in the form of oral and written testimony by supposedly qualified scientists whose conclusions are the result of pure scientific research. Many people wonder how can both sides be right? Shouldn’t science be able to provide a single answer?

While many scientific issues cannot be irrefutably resolved in favor of one side or the other, the link between asbestos product exposure and mesothelioma is not one of them. Most responsible researchers long ago concluded that the only cause for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Yet defendants in asbestos cases continue to provide supposedly unbiased expert testimony to fight the plaintiffs’ claims. A recent article in the journal published by the Center for Public Integrity now provides a highly critical examination of what it calls “science for sale.”

The article begins by telling the story of a lawyer who defended asbestos firms and tried to concoct a theory that cigarette smoking causes mesothelioma. Unfortunately, the hypothesis had been conclusively rebutted by the U. S. Surgeon General. The study then describes how a firm known as Gradient Corp. repeatedly provides expert testimony to defend manufacturers of asbestos products and other toxic chemicals. The study shows how Gradient’s scientists consistently provided testimony that favors the firm’s private clients. Much of the testimony is submitted to federal and state regulatory agencies in order to prevent or limit government regulation of the material or chemical in question.

The study argues persuasively that industry-sponsored research is commonly biased in favor of the industry clients. The study also cites a number of instances in which articles published by industry-supported scientists has been thoroughly criticized by most, if not, all independent researchers. The study is far too long to be summarized in a single blog post. We will provide additional summary in future posts.

Source:Center for Public Integrity, “Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals: