Book: “Doubt is Their Product” — how the industry confuses the public and the science

“Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing controversy.”
Tobacco company Brown and Williamson, “Smoking and health proposal”

Doubt is Their Product, published in 2008, is written by Dr. David Michaels, epidemiologist and former Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety, and Health.

This is a “must read” for anyone dealing with industries and special interests that pollute and harm public health and the environment.

He writes in the Introduction (my emphasis):

I ran the process through which we issued a strong new rule to prevent chronic beryllium disease, a debilitating and sometimes fatal lung disease prevalent among nuclear weapons workers. The industry’s hired guns acknowledged that the current exposure standard for beryllium is not protective for employees. Nevertheless, they claimed, it should not be lowered by any amount until we know with certainty what the exact final number should be.

Anyone who has worked on industry-related health and safety issues, including Smart Meters and wireless radiation, has heard the words “conclusive”, “proof”, “certainty”, “sound science” as opposed to “junk science”, “cherry-picking” and other similar terms. These are terms used to game the science and confuse the public. Language and framing are very important parts of industry strategy.

Doubt is Their Product exposes the industries, the product defense firms they employ, and the methods. It is critical information to give to others and to take to public hearings on issues including fracking, GMOs, nuclear power, Smart Meters, cell towers, and wireless tech in schools.

Product defense firms include Exponent, Gradient, and the Weinberg Group.

Exponent has helped defend MTBE, asbestos, g-forces used in amusement park rides, the pesticide atrazine, and Smart Meters.

Michaels concludes his book:

Industry has skillfully turned what should be a debate over policy into a debate over science. The retreat from regulation is fueled by the product defense experts who specialize in manufacturing uncertainty and creating not sound science, as they disingenuously claim, but something that sounds like science in order to allow toxic exposures to go unregulated and victims of these chemicals to go uncompensated.

…It is vital that those charged with protecting the public’s health understand that the alleged desire for absolute scientific certainty is both counterproductive and futile. To wait for certainty is to wait forever. The fundamental paradigm of public health is and must be to protect people on the basis of the best evidence currently available.

And that must be done now.


Doubt is Their Product:
How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health
by David Michaels
Published Oxford University Press, 2008
ISBN 978-0-19-530067-3  Hardcover

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