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Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health [Hardcover]

by David Michaels
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 23, 2008 019530067X 978-0195300673 1
"Doubt is our product," a cigarette executive once observed, "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 a controversy."
In this eye-opening expose, David Michaels reveals how the tobacco industry's duplicitous tactics spawned a multimillion dollar industry that is dismantling public health safeguards. Product defense consultants, he argues, have increasingly skewed the scientific literature, manufactured and magnified scientific uncertainty, and influenced policy decisions to the advantage of polluters and the manufacturers of dangerous products. To keep the public confused about the hazards posed by global warming, second-hand smoke, asbestos, lead, plastics, and many other toxic materials, industry executives have hired unscrupulous scientists and lobbyists to dispute scientific evidence about health risks. In doing so, they have not only delayed action on specific hazards, but they have constructed barriers to make it harder for lawmakers, government agencies, and courts to respond to future threats. The Orwellian strategy of dismissing research conducted by the scientific community as "junk science" and elevating science conducted by product defense specialists to "sound science" status also creates confusion about the very nature of scientific inquiry and undermines the public's confidence in science's ability to address public health and environmental concerns Such reckless practices have long existed, but Michaels argues that the Bush administration deepened the dysfunction by virtually handing over regulatory agencies to the very corporate powers whose products and behavior they are charged with overseeing.
In Doubt Is Their Product Michaels proves, beyond a doubt, that our regulatory system has been broken. He offers concrete, workable suggestions for how it can be restored by taking the politics out of science and ensuring that concern for public safety, rather than private profits, guides our regulatory policy.

Named one of the best Sci-Tech books of 2008 by Library Journal!

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Editorial Reviews


"In Doubt Is Their Product, David Michaels gives a lively and convincing history of how clever public relations has blocked one public health protection after another. The techniques first used to reassure us about tobacco were adapted to reassure us about asbestos, lead, vinyl chloride-and risks to nuclear facilities workers, where Dr. Michaels' experience as the relevant Assistant Secretary of Energy gave him an inside view. And if you're worried about climate change, keep worrying, because the same program is underway there."--Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief, Science

"We live in an age of unprecedented disinformation, misinformation, and outright lying by those in power. This important book shows who profits by misleading the public-and who ultimately pays with their health."--Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

"This well-researched book by someone who truly knows the system is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the cozy relationship between industry and regulatory agencies on matters that affect the health and safety of our families and neighbors. The cited examples illustrate how, with the help of irresponsible members of Congress and other public officials, corporate greed can trump any sense of ethics, morality, and human compassion."--Neal Lane, former Science Advisor to President Bill Clinton and former Director of the National Science Foundation

"This brave, shocking book exposes the abuse of science by government and industry in ways that endanger the workplace, the home, the water supply, the air quality-in fact, our planet as a whole. David Michaels speaks authoritatively from his firsthand experience as a champion of occupational safety and health. He tells a terrific story."--Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter

"In Doubt Is Their Product, David Michaels calls out the corporations you'll recognize them that bankroll lobbyists and unethical scientists to attack factual evidence that their products, such as asbestos, lead, and tobacco, are deadly."--Vanity Fair, Green Issue, May 2008

"In Doubt Is Their Product, David Michaels calls out the corporations you'll recognize them that bankroll lobbyists and unethical scientists to attack factual evidence that their products, such as asbestos, lead, and tobacco, are deadly."--Vanity Fair, Green Issue, May 2008

"David Michaels has written a powerful, thorough indictment of the way big business has ignored, suppressed or distorted vital scientific evidence to the detriment of the public's health."--Nature

From Newsweek, 5/12/08 _ That science can be bought is hardly news to anyone who knows about tobacco "scientists." But how pervasive, effective and stealthy this science-for-hire is-as masterfully documented by David Michaels of George Washington University in his new book, "Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health"-will shock anyone who still believes that "science" and "integrity" are soulmates. In studies of how toxic chemicals affect human health, Michaels told me, "It's quite easy to take a positive result [showing harmful effects] and turn it falsely negative. This epidemiological alchemy is used widely." -Sharon Begley

From Nature, 6/12/08 _ David Michaels has written a powerful, thorough indictment of the way big business has ignored, suppressed or distorted vital scientific evidence to the detriment of the public's health. Doubt Is Their Product catalogues numerous corporate misdemeanours, especially in the United States, from the criminal neglect of the dangerous nature of asbestos and the lies told by the tobacco industry, to the suppression of adverse findings of deaths caused by the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx and the increased risk of suicide among teenagers taking selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors for depression. The book concludes with a list of prescriptions for securing better regulation and greater protection for the public, mainly through increased public disclosure of vested interests. -Dick Taverne

"The book is a shocking portrayal of the tactics used by corporate America to delay public health and environmental regulation of their products for the sake of profit...It is a must read for anyone interested in public health and environmental protection."--Chemical & Engineering News

"...Doubt Is Their Product reminds one of deeper risks that threaten scientific fields and democratic deliberation. ...The scientific community and the public need to be on guard against such abuses; Michaels's history of these events sounds an alert that must not be ignored."--Durrants

One of Library Journal's top 10 sci-tech books of 2008!

Received an Honorable Mention in the Society for Environmental Journalism's 2009 Awards for Reporting on the Environment for the category Rachel Carson Environment Book Award.

About the Author

David Michaels is a scientist, former government regulator, and the current appointed head of OSHA. During the Clinton Administration, he served as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health, responsible for protecting the health and safety of the workers, neighboring communities, and the environment surrounding the nation's nuclear weapons factories. He currently directs the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. In 2006, he received the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award for his work on behalf of nuclear weapons workers and for advocacy for scientific integrity.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (April 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019530067X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195300673
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Industry gives us cargo-cult science May 26, 2008
If we believe David Michaels, industry charlatans all learned from the tobacco industry 50 years ago. The industries that rely on doubt have been blossoming ever since: beryllium (did you know that there was a beryllium industry? I did not), asbestos, and popcorn, among others.

Yes, popcorn. Were you aware that there is a condition called "popcorn lung" (officially bronchiolitis obliterans)? I was not. It's called that because one of the main ways to contract it is by working in a factory that manufactures one of the ingredients -- namely diacetyl -- for the butter flavoring in popcorn. Every time you open a steaming bag of butter-flavored microwave popcorn, you are inhaling a bit of this chemical. The more of it you eat, the more likely you are to contract a devastating lung ailment. (And this isn't the sort of disease that you'd only get by eating an implausibly large quantity of popcorn. Real popcorn consumers have actually acquired it.)

The agency responsible for protecting workers from this sort of hazard is OSHA. The one responsible for protecting food consumers is the FDA. This division of labor comes in for some well-deserved scorn in Doubt Is Their Product; it has left the government fairly impotent to respond to threats against the public health. This book could be read alongside Marion Nestle's Food Politics and What To Eat as a single thread about the assault on helpful government regulation.

In their nonstop fight against that sort of regulation, companies have pulled out all the stops to inject systematic doubt into the public discussion. The most pernicious of these, it seems to me, is the creation of sham peer-reviewed journals.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How industry shanghaied science May 9, 2008
Conflicts of interest among members of EPA review panels have weakened governmental safety standards on toxic chemicals in the environment and in everyday consumer products. Outrage over long-standing reliance on "science for hire" by the chemical industry has prompted Congress to investigate EPA's procedures for reviewing toxic chemicals, including PBDE flame retardants and bisphenol A. These examples are just a small window into how great the tampering and influence of the chemical industry has been over EPA regulation of toxic chemicals. A new book by David Michaels, an epidemiologist and the director of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, documents a seemingly endless list of examples of mercenary scientists misleading the general public and the regulatory community about the true dangers of chemical exposures, starting from lead, asbestos, and tobacco, and continuing to chromium, berillium, perchlorate, benzene, plastics chemicals, and various other environmental and occupational health hazards.

The book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the best application of science in the interests of promoting public health. For a great review, readers can also go to the article by Newsweek's Sharon Begley, "Whitewashing Toxic Chemicals."

One stunning quote from the book describes the tricks of the trade that industry lobby and product defense firms use to derail the regulatory process: "They profit by helping corporations minimize public health and environmental protection and fight claims of injury and illness. In field after field, year after year, this same handful of individuals and companies comes up again and again...
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Reading December 1, 2008
This book is an examination of campaigns by industry to thwart attempts of government, especially the United States government, to protect the health of workers and citizens. Michaels has had a long history in public health working in both the public and academic sectors. In this book, he traces the history of numerous cases of industries that have escaped safety regulations and the dire consequences of their actions.

Michaels observes that industries trying to escape regulation commonly do so by raising the flag of uncertainty. That is, they take advantage of the fact that it is logically impossible to prove an effect conclusively, but rather, all science can do is provide evidence that strongly suggests connections between cause and effect. This has allowed the tobacco industry to fight and delay warnings about the health risks of tobacco smoking. It also has also slowed down response to the climate change crisis, as contributing industries claim we must wait for more evidence before we take any action. He notes that industry often manages to establish doubt concerning the findings of scientific research through media reports that cite conflicting opinions on the topic. However, these media reports do not look into the sources and funding of the conflicting opinions; they contrast volumes of evidence found by independent and publicly funded research with "research" funded by industry or created by industry think tanks.

The text of the book is extremely dense, with extensive references cited in endnotes. Michaels does an admirable job of explaining how the efforts of industry to undermine sound science are made to sound credible, through trade supported "peer-reviewed" journals and think tanks.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, well-written read
Everyone in the US should read this book. Meticulously documented and engagingly written, this book about how industry has managed to influence public policy is a real eye-opener.
Published 13 days ago by pastrygirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Great first-hand account
Every voter should read this book. Michaels exposes every trick of industries who use or produce toxic products in their too-often-successful bids to avoid regulation. Read more
Published 9 months ago by MEL
5.0 out of 5 stars So revealing!
Well-written. Well-documented. Well time for change in how our society protects the public from toxic chemicals. Well worth the price.
Published 11 months ago by Michael T. Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any concerned citizen
This is a must read book for anyone who wants to understand how our society has digressed into a greedy polluting corporate mess. Read more
Published 13 months ago by John Brandenberger
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting
I found this interested me, mostly as I read about the big corporations who knew what they were producing was dangerous or deadly, but greedily didn't say or hid it, and forged... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Rutledge
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read
This book shows how doubt is raised against sound science by those whose only motive is greed. Anyone interested in understanding the problems of today's society should read this.
Published 14 months ago by M. Scott
2.0 out of 5 stars Micheals presents a far left polical justification for regulation
David Michaels PhD, MPH has written an interesting book in Doubt is Their Product. It is interesting if you want to understand the portion of society that stretches and twists... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Gerald
5.0 out of 5 stars Doubt is their product
The scariest thing about this book is its exposure for how long "industry" has been duping the general public and government with misinformation. Read more
Published 22 months ago by ginstonic
5.0 out of 5 stars don't read at bedtime
This is a coherent and articulate explanation of how different industries have manipulated science and reality to suit their own purposes. Read more
Published on November 22, 2010 by E. Tobias
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but needs a lot of editing
The book became repetitive (as if the author had to reach a certain number of pages) and again, what is with this trend where publishers don't edit any more? Read more
Published on August 26, 2010 by Brian G. Ruschel
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